How to Handle City Inspectors Regarding Mobile Home Parks

Nobody can own a mobile home park without having at least one run-in with the city inspector. They normally come out of nowhere, and often when you think you are doing a great job with your park. There is no reason for embarrassment – everyone has been there.

Normally what triggers an inspector showing up at your park is a complaint from a tenant or a neighbor. Often the tenant complaint has been made by someone trying to block their eviction for non-payment of rent (similar to pulling the fire alarm to try and get out of your calculus test). It has nothing to do with your management of the park, or any defect in the park. The neighbor normally complains due to loud music, or a park tenant creating havoc, and again has nothing do with your management faults. Yet, to cause the park trouble, he builds it up into some huge complaint and embellishes it with a pile of made up stories. So you should never take it personally when an inspector shows up – it is not a condemnation of your work.

The correct way to deal with an inspector has two parts: 1) be as nice as you can and, if that fails, then 2) be as mean as you can.

First, the nice part. You can often get rid of the inspector by agreeing to everything he asks, and brown nosing him like crazy. Tell him that it is your goal to make this the nicest park in town, and will accept nothing less. Look like you are on his team. Let him blow off any steam and then accept complete guilt and plead for forgiveness. Whatever it takes to make the guy happy, within reason, do. It is a lot cheaper than the next option that we are going to discuss. So fix that sign, trim that tree — whatever the inspector wants you to do, no matter how much you dislike the guy. Most of the time, this plan works, and you won’t see the inspector again for a long time.

If the nice act doesn’t work, then it’s time to get mean. You cannot complain that the inspector is being too hard on you – nobody is going to accept the idea that your mobile home park is a dreamland. However, the inspector must work within legal means, and that is his weak spot. By being mean, I am not advocating slashing his car tires. Instead, I am advocating that you take a moral indignation position that you have done a great job with the park and you are not going to sit back and let some inspector criticize your property with no basis in fact. And you back up your position with the help of a hard-nosed lawyer who knows landlord case law, and is not afraid of a little confrontation.

Often times, in your mean stage, the best solution is to have your attorney call the city attorney, and threaten him with a litany of legal actions. This often works because the city attorney does not want to mess with such a trivial item and time-waster. Although the inspector may not know how to spell G-R-A-N-D-F-A-T-H-E-R-E-D, the city attorney does. And the city attorney can sometimes shake up the inspector with a simple phone call telling him to back off. In fact, going over his head is often the best way to emasculate the inspector and put him back in his place. Although a bully, he cannot take much pressure himself, and may run and hide and never bother you again.

If that does not work, here’s a real solution that I have used that has nearly lethal success in stopping an inspector cold. Remember that the ticket that a inspector gives you is just the same as a traffic ticket, and must be dealt with in municipal court. And cases in court have the right to a jury trial. So file for a jury trial on your ticket. Why? It puts a lot of pressure on the court system to hold a jury trial, and won’t be heard for a long time. And the city knows as well as anyone that the average jury hates city officials and always sides with the common man, being beaten up by the heartless bureaucracy. In other words, you are probably going to win. And the city knows that.

I once had a park where an over-zealous inspector gave me over 20 tickets for code violations. So I filed for 20 jury trials. The judge dismissed all of the tickets, rather than tie his court up for months with jury trials. He even called the inspector and told him never to mess with me again, and he never did.

So there’s the system. It’s simple, and it has the best chance of success that I know of. Remember that, when dealing with an inspector, be as nice as your can and, if that fails, be as mean as you can. One without the other greatly reduces your odds of success.

Frank Rolfe

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