California mobile home parks have lax oversight and few inspections, state audit warns
California’s state housing agency did not conduct full inspections at more than half of the state’s mobile home parks between 2010 and 2019 and should improve oversight to protect residents, a state audit said Thursday.
Although the state Department of Housing and Community Development met its statutory goal of conducting park inspections at 5% of parks annually, 55% of the 3,640 active parks did not receive a full park inspection in the 10-year period reviewed, according to state Auditor Elaine Howle.
“Long gaps between inspectors’ visits to a park increase the risk that health and safety violations remain undetected and unreported,” Howle said in a letter to the governor and Legislature. “By improving its selection process for annual park inspections to include some parks that it has not visited in recent years and implementing guidance for informal visits, HCD could reduce the risks posed by health and safety violations at parks.”
In addition to finding inadequate rates for full park inspections, the auditors also said some parks were not even visited by inspectors to follow up on complaints involving individual units.
The agency’s data indicated that it did not visit 9% of parks, or 330 parks representing 5,700 mobile home units, for any reason during the decade reviewed, the audit said.
Infrequent inspections can allow mobile home parks to fall into disrepair, housing advocates have warned.
Auditors also found inconsistency in its inspection process and said that the agency closed three of the 54 inspection files reviewed by auditors before park owners and residents had corrected some violations.
Some mobile home parks have been severely damaged in wildfires in recent years, and the report noted inspectors are tasked with making sure parks abide by fire safety rules. In one case, a Los Angeles County Fire Department station submitted a complaint with multiple allegations, including concerns about the location of gas meters that blocked access to the lanes emergency vehicles need in order to drive through the park, the audit said. “However, the inspector failed to address this allegation in her inspection report,” the report said.
The state agency often did not share important information, including identified violations, with park residents or it provided the information late, the audit found. The agency also sometimes failed to tell residents about their rights and resources available to them.
“As a result, some residents may have missed opportunities to obtain help in correcting violations before the park owners initiated steps to evict them,” the audit concluded.
Howle’s office also recommended the state agency do a better job of making sure inspectors don’t have conflicts of interest by making sure they all report their financial interests as required by law. The audit looked at records for 77 inspectors and found three had financial interests related to mobile home parks, including one who owned property near a park.
The housing agency responded to the audit by saying it agrees improvements to the inspection program are needed.
“We concur with the recommendations and have already completed and implemented many of the recommendations provided in the report that illustrate areas of improvement to better protect the health and safety of California mobile home park residents, park owners, and help secure the sustainability of property,” said Zack Olmstead, the housing agency’s chief deputy director.
The audit was requested by state Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) as chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Manufactured Home Communities after she heard complaints from mobile home owners about lax state oversight.
On Thursday, Leyva called the findings “disturbing” and “unacceptable” and said her committee will provide its oversight to make sure there is follow-up action.
“As mobile homes are a vital option for affordable housing in California, it is clear that the state must improve both the quality and frequency of these inspections so that we can keep the approximately 2 million mobile home residents living at nearly 5,000 mobile home parks healthy and safe,” Leyva said.
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