Tall Grass & Weeds: It Is About Getting Results!

If you see a yard in your neighborhood with grass or weeds over 12 inches in height covering most of a lot call 703-792-7018. This issue needs to be resolved as quickly as possible to protect health and safety. 
 
Overgrown yards are not only an eyesore but a community safety issue: Weeded lots give an impression no one cares for the neighborhood. This attracts crime and vandalism, eroding community safety and value.  Tall grass and weeds also harbor rodents and other vermin that are unsafe and unpleasant in residential communities. In many cases one uncared for lot slowly leads to a cluster of neglected properties.
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Prince William County Property Codes protect neighborhoods by demanding a basic level of property care. This includes regular attention to grass and other vegetation around homes. Most neighbors want to do the right thing. If a Property Code Inspector informs a resident that their yard has been reported as a neighborhood tall grass or weeds nuisance, often the issue is taken care of quickly. But in other more complex cases, it can take up to three weeks to go through the various processes and procedures necessary to force a property owner's compliance and get an overgrown lot taken care of. These processes and procedures exist to protect the rights of property owners and all residents. Due process allows no short cuts.
 
So what should you do if a neighbor, for whatever reason, has let their property become an overgrown safety hazard? One option is to call in a Tall Grass & Weeds complaint to Neighborhood Services at 703-792-7018 or nsd@pwcgov.org; or you can let us know about it on the Online Property Code Complaint Form
 
The box on the right describes the steps we will take to produce results using this process. Sometimes produces quick results.  At other times it can take up to three weeks to get the property mowed.
 
Another option that sometimes produces quicker and more neighbor-friendly results is for the concerned resident to try and find out why a lot has become overgrown in the first place.  See if you or other neighborhood volunteers can help remedy the situation proactively.  
  1. If you don't know, find out who the property owner is.  If you are willing to help your neighbor, you will need the property owner's explicit permission to take action -- even if acting as a Good Samaritan.  You can use the PWC County Mapper Program on the County's website to figure out who the property owner is, or call Neighborhood Services at 703-792-7018 and we can help. 

  2. Then, find out more about the situation to see if volunteering to help your neighbor makes better sense than filing a complaint with the County. In cases where Neighborhood Services has become involved in, a number of events can lead to Property Code concerns. Examples we see every year include:

    • A health issue has made the resident incapable of caring for their property; 

    • the resident was deployed overseas in the military;

    • the head of the household or usual home keeper is away on a special assignment for work or is at a family event and was unaware of the issue;

    • sometimes even the best yard care tools break down and a normally diligent resident gets overwhelmed trying to catch up;

    • in other cases the property has become abandoned for a variety of reasons, and the responsible party is unable to provide regular care.

  3. Often the quickest and most positive solutions in complex cases like these occur when neighbors get together, determine the causes of the property code nuisance and offer to help. 

  4. The positive results that come from neighbors helping neighbors (such as pitching in to take care of a neglected or abandoned property) are many.  

The bottom line is that we are all responsible for the condition of the residential lots we live in, which is why the County will use legal action if necessary to force compliance to Property Codes if a resident simply refuses to help. If the County is forced to take care of a property when an owner is uncooperative, it is no small thing. It will be very costly for the violator compared to what voluntary compliance would cost.  This could result in legal action against the property owner. 

Lastly, Property Code Enforcement is indeed proven to be effective for communities and taking care of unreasonably tall grass and weeds is no exception. Neighborhood Services is always eager to help to the extent that we are able.

But sometimes the result the neighborhood needs can be achieved much more quickly through neighbor-to-neighbor help. 

 


  
 

What's the Big Deal About Weeds? 

 
When the code refers to "Tall Grass & Weeds" it is defined as: grass, weeds, bushes, vines, poison ivy, poison oak, or any other foreign growth, other than trees, ornamental shrubbery, flowers and garden vegetables. When any of these types of vegetation are allowed to remain tall, there are possible negative consequences. Tall weeds detract from the appearance of the neighborhood. Undesirable wildlife, like rats and mice, use the unmowed lawn for hiding places and habitat.  These animals may carry disease. Lastly, unmowed grass tells passers by that no one cares about the property.  This may invite criminal activity.
 

Filing a Weed Complaint

Any citizen may file a complaint for a weed case violation by using the Complaint Form for Property Code Violations or by calling Neighborhood Services at 703-792-7018. When the weed complaint is received, Property Code Enforcement Inspectors must visit the property, determine its zoning requirements and measure the height of grass and weeds. If the property is found to be in violation of the Code, Neighborhood Services must give notice of the violation to the owner and occupant by regular mail and allow two weeks for compliance. If the property is still in violation after re-inspection, the County will authorize mowing to be done at the owner’s expense. A complainant should expect that several weeks will pass before tall grass and weeds will be mowed because Neighborhood Services must follow due process.
 

Don't Get Cited for Tall Grass & Weeds! The Cost to the Owner is Significant

Because the expense can be significant, violators should not think that this is an easy way to have their grass mowed for them. The County's contractor charges a minimum of $30 for an initial visit to prepare an estimate, and this charge is applied to the property owner even if the grass and weeds have been mowed before the contractor arrives to do the mowing. The fee for mowing is substantially more than what the neighborhood mowers would charge. Fees are more than $150 for a town home and have gone as high as $600 for larger properties.
  
Remember
 
  • Neighborhood Services is tasked with investigating citizens' complaints of tall grass and weeds.
  • On residential and commercial properties with two acres or less, grass and weeds of more than 12 inches in height are not permitted. 
  • If the residential property is more than two acres, weeds more than 12 inches in height are not permitted within 150 feet of the edge of state-maintained road pavement or within 200 feet of another property's dwelling. (This does not apply to land zoned for, and in, active farming operation.)
  • Any citizen may file a complaint for a weed case violation by using the Complaint Form for Property Code Violations or by calling Neighborhood Services at 703-792-7018.