Neighbor seems to run a boarding house. What can be done?

By From page C2 | January 12, 2013

Q:  Dear Mr. Jones:  I own a home in a single-family neighborhood on the west side of Fairfield.  Last year a new family moved next door; a man, woman and pre-teen little girl.  They had two cars.  Their house has a three car garage, at least a three car driveway and room for two cars in front of their home.  A few months after they moved in, more cars started to turn up daily.  There are now at least five visible cars parked in front of the house. It appears that they are running a boarding house. I know this is of interest to others who are also encountering this issue – the takeover of street parking of their neighbors. This is especially annoying when they park in front of the mail box making access difficult.  I know street parking is public.  My question is: Can more than one family live in a single family home? This is causing a negative change to the character of our nice neighborhood. Can anything be done?
A:  This type of problem is one of the myriad reasons why, for the past 20 years, new developments have adopted CC&R’s;  rules homeowners must abide by.
It only takes one guy who paints his house yellow, red and purple to make a neighborhood unsightly, and wall-to-wall parked cars on the curbs to make it unnavigable.
In your case, the simple answer to your question regarding asking if there’s anything you can do is “probably not.”  But maybe.
First off, you’re right about the streets. Public streets are open to the public, regardless of whether it’s a homeowner or a stranger. As long as they are legally parked there’s not much you can do.
There are local ordinances regarding how long a car can be parked without moving, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem.
So let’s break down the issues.
Street parking we talked about.  Not much you can do.
If the house is being operated as a boarding house, there are laws that come into play. First, if it’s a commercial enterprise the city can get involved. Commercial lodging is a regulated business with zoning, as well as health and safety laws that come into play.
Generally, a homeowner can have a boarder or two without a problem. More than that and there are permits that are required and which this homeowner would likely not qualify for. To do so they would have to get a zoning variance. That would require notice to the neighbors. Your objection to the variance would all but kill it. So check with the city’s code enforcement office to get the specifics.
The building code also comes into play, at least potentially. Houses have occupancy limits, just like the signs you see on the wall in commercial buildings. The occupancy depends, at least in part, on the number and size of bedrooms and bathrooms.
However, and this is a big however, before you do anything you need to know if these people are all related, especially to the first degree.  Like parents, grandkids, etc.
Every lawyer studied cases in law school where ma and pa lived in a two bedroom house they bought as a young couple and eventually had nine kids. The city came in and declared that the living conditions were unsafe and unsanitary and the folks had to decide if they were going to move or get rid of some of the kids. Shockingly the courts have ruled that the city can’t make you get rid of your kids. Or, for that matter, move because you had them.
There is dispute about how close the relatives have to be to qualify to avoid all the codes, but the city is unlikely to get involved when everyone is related.
However, the biggest problem you face is enforcing any laws that do apply. A homeowner can have as many guests as they want. The problem is trying to determine when a “guest” becomes a “resident.” There may be ordinances that limit guests to 30 days. But try to prove they’ve been there, consecutively, for more than 30 days.
To reiterate; if this is a commercial enterprise a call to code enforcement may be enough to get the ball rolling. Or at least they can refer you to the proper city office. But if they’re related or deny that they actually live there, you may be stuck.
In newer subdivisions, with giant sets of CC&R’s, parking on the street after a certain time of night is prohibited and cars can be towed.
If this continues to be an issue the only solution may be to contact your favorite Realtor.

Tim Jones


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  • Frustrated As WellFebruary 28, 2013 - 12:21 am

    The situation seems to be happening as economic difficulties continue. Two neighbors violate homeowners association rules to place tent trailers on their driveways. Both also decorate the driveway with multi colored garbage cans which are not placed behind their side yard fencing. Though nobody likes it, everyone sits quietly. One has a broken garage door, which is not repaired. They go on vacation. They asked the other to take care of the house. The other's friend parks a large truck and a very large utility trailer for three days on the small, quiet, otherwise well kept court, in front of the driveway. After three days, the truck didn't leave. Frustrated, one neighbor called Vacaville Police Department who responded, but when hearing the truck and trailer was illegally parked in front of the driveway for "security purposes," the officer called the owner of the property, who states she doesn't mind the vehicle being there and speaks to the person who violated the law--finally determining it was okay to violate the law for "security purposes." Now, what would happen if everybody determined to illegally park large trucks with large trailers hitched to them in front of their homes and driveways for security purposes--for long periods of time? How about parking motorhomes---maybe a semi? How about putting up a fence all around the property for security purposes? Neighbors again called and police responded. The violator of law tried to intimidate the neighbor who called by glaring at her, while the police issued a citation. However, the car was not removed. Nor is it believed the police issued a citation, but merely a 48 hour removal notice instead. Who benefited? The police department who finally ended up possibly getting revenue from the citation (if it wasn't a 48 hour removal ticket, the violator who wanted to park the vehicle there, despite the annoyance and nuisance to the other neighbors and the person who didn't fix their garage. Certainly not the homeowners in the area who had to look at the unsightly truck and trailer for almost a week. You see, when people can't afford to fix their garages or store their camping trailers, neighborhoods decline as we are seeing in Solano County...and police simply ignore the law, which further encourages its violation. And good people lose trust in their laws, societal rules and in their police.

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