With building bylaws demanding increasingly strict construction standards, today’s manufactured homes are being built to stand the test of time, much like conventional houses. Unfortunately, neglect and British Columbia’s climatic conditions are turning existing holiday ramblers into ramshackle structures. Since older manufactured homes have tended to decrease in value as they age and fall into disrepair, their abandonment can be an appealing option to owners. The owner simply ceases paying rent on their manufactured home pad to the park landlord, and moves onto greener pastures.
When the landlord of a manufactured home park refuses to deal with abandoned dilapidated manufactured homes situated in their park, the problem falls to the local government. Such structures often attract squatters and are used for undesirable purposes, becoming public nuisances. The structures are, at the very least, offensive to the community. More seriously, the structures can be so dilapidated that they are structurally unsound and open to the elements, so creating hazardous conditions.
Finding an owner who has abandoned a manufactured home can be expensive or impossible, despite the ability to search provincial registries for their whereabouts. Even if they can be located, the legal solutions available are limited in a practical sense. It is often more pragmatic for a local government to address the problem directly with the landlord of the manufactured home park.
Where a manufactured home park landlord is uncooperative, a local government may consider imposing remedial action requirements on the landlord with respect to the abandoned manufactured homes. Regional districts may impose remedial action requirements to manufactured homes that constitute hazardous conditions.
Municipalities may do the same, but they have additional power to impose remedial action requirements on the landlord where the abandoned manufactured homes are declared nuisances, including circumstances where the manufactured homes are so dilapidated or unclean as to be offensive to the community. The procedures to impose remedial action are set out in the Community Charter (the “Charter”) and, in the case of regional districts, also in the Local Government Act (the “Act”).
In the absence of the landlord’s compliance with properly-imposed remedial action requirements, the Charter and Act permit both regional districts and municipalities to enter onto the lands of a manufactured home park and demolish and remove abandoned manufactured homes. The costs incurred may be recovered from the landlord as a debt.
Before a local government considers imposing remedial action requirements on a manufactured home park landlord, the local government must consider whether the landlord would face any obstacles in complying with provincial legislation governing manufactured homes including, most significantly, the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Regulation, B.C. Reg. 481/2003.
The British Columbia Supreme Court recently heard from the landlord of a manufactured home park with a number of abandoned manufactured homes, which either created hazardous conditions or were declared nuisances, in Kurpil v. District of Port Edwards (sic). The manufactured homes raised alarm bells in the District of Port Edward, because they were attracting squatters and drug users. Unable to locate the owners of the homes after taking reasonable steps to do so, Port Edward imposed remedial action requirements on the landlord of the manufactured home park, the late Ms. Kurpil, who unfortunately passed away during the Court proceedings. Before she died, Ms. Kurpil had clearly refused to comply with the remedial action requirements, and so Port Edward carefully made the decision to lawfully enter onto the park and demolish and remove the homes. Port Edward billed Ms. Kurpil for the cost of doing so, and the landlord disputed this charge.
Ms. Kurpil’s estate submitted to the Court that, in addition to not owning the abandoned manufactured homes, she was unable to simultaneously comply with both the legislation governing manufactured homes and the remedial action requirements. Port Edward led evidence that the manufactured homes were worthless and Ms. Kurpil’s estate failed to lead any evidence in this regard. Since the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Regulation expressly permitted the landlord to dispose of worthless abandoned property on her lands, Port Edward argued that there was no barrier to dual compliance, and Madam Justice Dillon agreed. Moreover, Madam Justice Dillon stated: “Notably, [Ms. Kurpil] never asked for more time [to comply with the requirements of the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Regulation] as she could have”.
Remedial action can be an effective tool for local governments to address dilapidated manufactured homes that are hazardous or nuisances. However, it is essential for local governments to follow the proper remedial action procedural steps, in addition to carefully considering how the provincial legislation governing manufactured homes applies to each unique situation. As the Kurpil v. District of Port Edwards (sic) decision confirmed, it was important that Port Edward determined the value of the abandoned manufactured homes in light of the requirements of the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Regulation, and further satisfied itself that Ms. Kurpil agreed the manufactured homes had no value.
In addition to carefully considering how any other legislation may limit a landlord’s ability to comply with remedial action requirements, it is good practice for local governments to communicate in writing to landlords that they will grant reasonable additional time for compliance to accommodate the requirements of any applicable legislation, notably the legislation directly applicable to manufactured homes, including the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Regulation.