Featured News 2012 Building Codes and Property Rights and the High Desert

Building Codes and Property Rights and the High Desert

In the Los Angeles High Desert, hoarders tend to stuff their yards with debris and junked vehicles. Illegal construction projects and the left over supplies from those endeavors often clutter the landscape, creating an eyesore. A lot of the people responsible for the messy and misplaced properties like to call themselves “desert rats.” They move from the suburbs nearer to the City of Angels out into the desert where they can have open space and seclusion. Many of these property owners use solar panels and wind turbines for power and use large storage tanks for water. They also tend to use trailers and vehicles as outdoor respites from the beating sun, and these parked vehicles are normally dispersed all over the property.

According to the LA Times, the county is not so happy about the seemingly sloppy lifestyle that these “desert rats” sustain. Because of this, the Los Angeles County has appointed Nuisance Abatement Teams (NAT) to drop on and perform surprise inspections on these High Desert citizens. These abatement teams were created in 2006. Their goal is to have violators of the real estate codes comply to the statutes voluntarily. They hope that by letting these people know that they are violating the codes that they will take their own initiate to fix any problems on their property.

In addition, the Nuisance Abatement Teams will clear properties of all illegal shelters that were erected without a building permit, and get rid of any unnecessary junk or animal pens. Many of the High Desert people violate these rules and will suffer the consequences of lacking permits and accumulating trash. Some violators have already been forced to pay fees and fines for their illegal actions, while others have had to tear down their dwelling because they were not up to code. In other situations, the desert rats have faced trial and a few have even ended up in jail.

The residents say that their property rights are being violated by the Nuisance Abatement Teams but the county argues back that these people’s way of living is depreciating the quality of life in that area. Some people believe that owners of property should not be allowed to create eyesores and annoy the men and women that live nearby because they “own” the property. Others say that it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money to go to people’s homes if they’re not actively causing trouble.

The most common violations that NAT discovers when they visit these homes are conversions of garages or turning barns and other non-livable structures into homes or guest houses. Also, the High Desert residences tend to place immovable vehicles as a fixture to the property. The NAT officials tend to visit the properties more than once to make sure that all rules are being followed. One man named Joey Gallo told the LA Times that he feels they have visited too often and wants to be left alone. Gallo is a disabled veteran who was first called out for having too many illegal sheds on his property.

After he got rid of those sheds, the team came back and demanded that he eliminate a parked motorhome that was on the property. Eventually, the teams returned again, and this time they wanted to see a camper shell and a carport demolished. Next was Gallo’s actual home. First they picked on aspects of his home, such as his hot water heater and his propane tank. They said that these fixtures weren’t legal because the building wasn’t legal. Another resident in the High Desert says that he is currently on trial for living in an RV and having about 10 storage containers on his land. He has been evicted from his property because of the county restrictions. If you are in a similar situation, hire a real estate attorney to fight for you and work hard to secure your property rights.

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