County Looks to Clarify Onus on Derelict Mobile Homes

FAIRFIELD – As Fairfield County code enforcement officers continue their sweep across the county, implementing the County’s tougher property maintenance codes, County Council is considering legislation that will make it easier to determine who, exactly, is responsible for one aspect of that code – hauling away abandoned or derelict mobile homes.

During their May 13 meeting, Council heard from consultant Dan Vismore and his recommendations to revise Ordinance 541, which in its current state, he said, places the onus for removing an abandoned or derelict mobile home on either the land owner or the “local official;” i.e., the County.

“It was not the intent of the County when they adopted this ordinance to get into the removal business of derelict mobile homes,” Vismore said. “What we are proposing to do is to strike reference to the ‘local official,’ so we will place the sole responsibility with the land owner.”

Vismore said that in many cases, the County has found that the owner of such a mobile home has abandoned not only the home, but the county as well, making it difficult to pin down responsibility for removing the home.

“And that has left us in a Catch-22,” he said. “That means that either the County is going to have to remove that mobile home, or we’ve got to place full and sole responsibility on the land owner that is housing that derelict mobile home.”

All costs associated with removing the home will, if the amendment to Ordinance 541 passes, become the responsibility of the landowner and can only be waived by an order from the Magistrate’s Court.

“That makes it simpler for us to administer, simpler for everybody to understand, there’s no contradiction as to who’s responsible and who’s not responsible, and it makes everybody’s job a whole lot easier,” Vismore said.

Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said there may be some difficulty in implementing the amendment, particularly when it comes to searching out and locating a legal title for abandoned mobile homes. And a legal title, she said, was required before any such home could be moved or even torn down.

“If it is abandoned and it is derelict and it’s impossible to get a title, based on your scenario, we either have to let it stand there because our hands are tied, or we exercise this revised ordinance and place the responsibility on the land owner to get that mobile home off of his property,” Vismore answered. “He (the land owner) was, in fact, the person responsible for allowing it to go on his property, so all we’ve done is to put the responsibility back on him to get it off of his property.”

If a legal title is required, Vismore made clear, it will be the property owner’s problem, and not the County’s.

John James, the County’s attorney, said it was his understanding that once a home was demolished, a title was not required to remove the remains, but agreed to research the law upon the request of Chairman David Ferguson. Council will take up Vismore’s recommendations again at their next regular meeting, June 10.