FRESNO, Calif (KSEE) — A little over a week ago, a deadly fire at Trails End Mobile Home Park near Sierra and Blackstone killed 56-year-old Ronald Richardson.
Since then documents have revealed the state had suspended the park’s permit in January due to health and safety violations.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) oversees mobile home parks across the state.
A spokesperson for the agency says they issued the park a violation in January which suspended its permit to operate.
The spokesperson also confirmed the violation was due to a water line used with no home or connection to a sewer drain on one of the lots. Trash and debris were also noted as well.
The HCD says until the violations are corrected, the landlord cannot legally collect rent from park tenants, and park tenants can remain for the time being. But multiple residents say rent continues to be collected. Fresno city officials say they’re now taking action.
“Within the next several weeks we intend on bringing something forward before the council to address this issue for the mobile home parks throughout the entire city,” said Councilmember Garry Bredefeld.
Bredefeld, whose district includes Trails End, says the state should have handled this situation better.
“Mobile home parks are overseen by the state, and we’re going to look into ways we can bring better accountability through the state,” Bredefeld said.
A lawyer in Fresno who specializes in housing issues says the HCD frequently issues violation notices and will revoke a park’s Permit to Operate (PTO), but isn’t great at enforcement.
“HCD will cite, and can withdraw the PTO but then they kind of go hands off,” said Mariah Thompson, an attorney with the California Rural Legal Assistance.
An HCD spokesperson said in an emailed statement violations they found at trails end mobile home park were not connected to the recent deadly fire.
Fresno fire investigators believe that was started when someone poured gasoline into a generator.
Thompson has represented other mobile home park tenants in legal disputes with landlords. She says the city getting involved could be beneficial.
“Really the best-case scenario would be if the city took this on because a city can also pursue this and a city can seek a receivership.”
In other words, through legal proceedings, the city could be appointed to manage the park and help resolve the problems. Thompson also says residents could get their money back from the landlord for the months when they shouldn’t have been charged rent.
“If they have collected rent in violation of these requirements, the tenants could technically take the landlord to court to demand restitution for what they were charged unlawfully.”
Trails End’s owner and property manager could not be reached for comment.