Longmont Officials May Resume Discussions of Authorizing Safety Inspections of Mobile Homes
Longmont City Council’s adoption last week of updates to the Land Development Code opened the door for additional city oversight of mobile home conditions for potential risks to resident safety.
The city has lagged behind other northern Colorado municipalities in strengthening standards mobile homes must meet to be considered sound for human occupancy, according to a 2016 presentation to City Council, but now has the ability to make them more rigid.
By removing language in the Land Development Code that excluded mobile homes from having to meet city building requirements, council allowed for the possibility that updates to the property management and building codes could apply to mobile homes.
Currently, when mobile homes present an “imminent danger” to residents — such as when “fuel-fired equipment is in dangerous condition or there is danger of a complete collapse” — Longmont code enforcement officers only have the authority to deem them uninhabitable, said Dane Hermsen, senior code enforcement and substandard housing inspector.
Other dwelling types must meet a variety of specifications — such as those regarding ventilation, electrical and insulation systems and access to egresses — before they can house people. Those same standards are not applied to mobile homes, he said.
“I can still do inspections and make recommendations if (mobile home) residents request it in some cases ... I just won’t have as much authority to require changes as in cases of properties that have to meet building code,” Hermsen said.
But maintenance and inspection requirements for mobile homes could soon be mandated.
City inspections of mobile homes to ensure safe and sanitary maintenance were performed with some regularity before the 2013 floods. In the aftermath of the disaster that damaged many of the city’s mobile homes, Longmont officials were alerted city code actually precluded such inspections, according to a 2016 study on mobile home regulations performed by a city-hired consultant.
“Given this interpretation, (Longmont) staff is no longer pursuing inspections of mobile and manufactured home units but remains committed to a program that assists residents in having a safe place to live,” the consultant, LSL Planning, wrote in its report to council.
The LSL study found 46 percent of the 772 mobile homes in Longmont in 2016 were manufactured before 1976, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began to inspect mobile homes for compliance with basic standards at the time of manufacture.
Further, the study said the majority of units in four of the city’s nine mobile home parks were in need of rehabilitation of a “a major component of the home such as roofing, broken windows or siding,” while homes in another four parks were labeled in average condition.
“During the flood ... we weren’t even able to condemn the very, very flooded mobile homes” that could have possibly been moved and occupied again, Longmont permit technician Bernadette Tinoco said.
To ensure potential standards for city oversight of mobile home safety would not contradict or overlap with HUD specifications, the consultant recommended Longmont create “a specific list of life safety issues that will be the subject of interior mobile home inspections.”
“We’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. People live in (mobile homes), the city would like to make sure they’re safe, but other than the HUD sticker that was put on them when they came out of the factory, there isn’t anything to go back and say, ‘OK, now this is falling apart.’ How do you make them fix it to a certain standard?” said Shannon Stadler, Longmont Code Enforcement supervisor.
The study recommended the city authorize staff to scrutinize the safety of mobile homes’ landings and stairs, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, electric service, gas piping, furnace installation and operation, minimum egresses and the use of addresses and unit numbers.
Longmont officials can and do inspect the initial hookups made from mobile homes to utility lines, but examine little beyond that.
Jodie Zink, a resident of Evergreen Mobile Home Park at 10 Ninth Ave., questions the safety of several mobile homes in her neighborhood and believes the city authorizing staff to examine mobile homes would be helpful.
“I know that some of them are not up to par. It’s scary,” Zink said.
Brien Schumacher, Longmont principal planner, said the 2016 study recommendations to inspect mobile homes for life safety issues could be considered in updates of the building and property management codes later this year. Stadler, however, said that might not happen because the city’s chief building official position was recently vacated by Jeremy Tamlin and is not yet filled.
“For renters what (the possible code updates) might give them is the ability to ask for a code inspection, and code (enforcement officers) would then tell the landlord they have 10 days or 30 days or however long to fix that. And if you don’t, code’s big stick might be to say, ‘Well then, we might have to board it up as uninhabitable,’” said Susan Spaulding, Longmont community relations specialist.
Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, firstname.lastname@example.org and twitter.com/samlounz .