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Code enforcement singling me out

by John
(West Sacramento ca usa)

Visitor Question: What if anything can I do if code enforcement is sending me letters for violations and not to anybody else I know? They come because my neighbor calls continually about the stupidest things.

For example in our little neighborhood, parking is a big issue and my neighbor doesn't want anybody parking in front of his house. So they leave their garbage cans in the street all week long and put them so close to the back of my car I can't get out without moving the cans. And if you touch his can, he will call the cops. Then when I leave and come back, he will either have put his can or car just close enough so my car won't fit, knowing there is no other spot anywhere close. So I don't say anything and just pull on my lawn, and he immediately calls and reports me for parking on the lawn. Code enforcement sends my landlord and me a warning and never do anything about the cans.

They told us we couldn't have anything on our porch--no kids' bikes, no toys, no table, no chairs, no bbq--and now a year later they tell me and I quote "THEY HAVE ONE NOW SO IT IS OK IF YOU DO." Also you can stand on my porch and clearly see the same violations in almost every house but I'm the only one getting visits and letters from code enforcement.

Editors Respond: Yes, from what you say, it does sound as if you are getting singled out by code enforcement.

Often when this happens, it is because someone has earned a bad reputation with code enforcement, argued with them one too many times, or is behaving in one of the ways that matches their pet peeve. Or maybe the person or family being singled out is of a minority ethnicity or lifestyle.

At other times, it really does seem kind of odd and random. In your case, maybe the code inspector or the administrator in charge of code inspection just is afraid of or intimidated by your neighbor, so they are trying extra hard to please that person. Or maybe some elected official has said something that has caused the code inspector to wrongly conclude that it is important to be tough on you.

You don't say whether you have had to pay any fines or go to municipal court. If you have to go to court, be sure to tell the municipal judge the complete story as factually as possible. If you get emotional as you claim you are being singled out, you will lose impact. But if you can cite examples and remain calm, you might get some leniency.

In fact, you should start writing down each thing that happens. If you have a camera on your phone, or a standalone camera, take photos of his garbage can right up against your vehicle. Write down what happened at what time on what date. Take photos of other houses in the neighborhood that have the same violation.

The other thing that you really must try to do, and probably won't want to do, is to have a good talk with your neighbor and find out what is really bothering him. These ways he is behaving might be just acting out some grievance that he is a lot more reluctant to bring up with you.

There is no real excuse for blocking your parking space, and his behavior in that regard is juvenile. Of course you have to take responsibility for your own code violations too. So all in all, try to find ways to reduce the tension in your neighborhood, and don't worry about what someone else is getting away with.


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