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Can code enforcement make me move


(Sequim, washington, clallam county)

Visitor Question: I live in a good size travel trailer outside of the city limits at the end of a privately owned dirt road, out of sight from any type of main public used road. Code enforcement is telling me I have to move.

I also have yet to see any type of paper work at all from them; they are just them telling me I have to move. I can't afford to move again at all and would not even know where I would move to. Can they really make me move?

Editors Reply: We suspect that they are telling you that you must move because the travel trailer is not a permitted use under the zoning ordinance of your county or township where you live. If you were being cited for some type of nuisance violence, such as trash and debris, logically they would not be suggesting to you that moving would be your first or most obvious option. So zoning violation is the only option that makes sense to us as the reason they would say you have to move.

You ask if they can make you move, and if indeed this is a zoning violation or any other type of code violation, the answer is no. However, they can make it so expensive and inconvenient for you to choose to stay that you would decide to move.

Here is how that usually works. After you receive some sort of written paperwork documenting what the alleged violation is, you have a certain amount of time that will be specified on the paperwork to comply with the local ordinance. Usually this is a short amount of time, often with the longest amount of time ever granted being 15 days. After that, typically the code enforcement officer will inspect again to see if the violation has been corrected, and if so, that is the end of the matter.

If, as seems very likely in your case, the violation in the mind of the code enforcement folks still exists after the period of time granted has expired, you would be sent a summons to court. There the code enforcement officer would present a written or oral testimony about the allegation, and the judge would then typically ask you for your assessment of the situation. You would be able to state that you have no financial ability to move and wouldn't know where to move. The judge then would either possibly dismiss the case, although that would be unlikely, continue the case to give you more time, or hand down a fine, often a daily fine, and order a repeat appearance in court.

So you see, it is important that you find out exactly what the supposed violation is, and that you begin to make your plans to comply with the law. Daily fines can become prohibitive quite soon, and in many places, if you don't pay the fines, you are subject to an arrest warrant. You don't want to be worrying about being arrested after the warrant is discovered at a routine traffic stop or at any other time.

Let's hope that we are wrong, and that your travel trailer is not seen as a zoning violation. Perhaps it will turn out to be something that is easily corrected, and you can continue living right where you are. But if you find out it is a zoning matter, don't lose any time in asking friends and acquaintances for ideas about where you might be able to move your travel trailer legally.



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