This afternoon, the Council once again took up the Mayor’s bill prohibiting “RV Ranching” of dilapidated vehicles. But it rewrote the bill to change the focus from cracking down on the predatory ranchers to protecting and providing assistance to the victims.
- streamlines the process of making assistancce available to victims of RV ranchers (whom the city is now calling “vanlords.”) Rather than requiring victims to take the landlord to court to get restitution, the bill now establishes a Predatory Vehicle Landlord Victim’s Assistance Program. Violators are required to pay into the program fund the fines assessed against them, as well as any rent collected and required relocation assistance. The program and fund will be managed by the Human Services Department, which can reimburse victims for rent paid and provide relocation assistance.
- Ensures an opportunity for victims to retrieve their possessions from an RV that has been towed or that the landlord has kicked them out of.
- Provides that investigations will not occur if the occupant/victim explicitly objects because it “would increase the occupant’s vulnerability or exposure to unsafe living conditions” — except when there is reasonable suspicion that the occupant of the vehicle is being coerced.
One of issues with earlier versions of the bill was the definition of a predatory landlord, which included anyone who “allowed” another person to occupy an extensively damaged vehicle. The concern is that it could also apply to someone who owns and lives in such a vehicle but allows a partner or friend to co-habitate with them. In the new bill that definition is left unchanged, but the city now argues that with the above provision wherein occupants can object to enforcement, it is unlikely that someone would ever be prosecuted for sharing their damaged RV.
The bill was not voted out of committee today; Council member Bagshaw, the sponsor of the bill and chair of the committee where it is being heard, said that they would vote on it at her committee meeting next Tuesday.
Missing from the bill are the earlier provisions to prevent extensively damaged RVs from cycling back out onto the street after being towed. In an interview after the committee meeting, Bagshaw said that she recognized that those provisions were still needed but said that she wanted to “move something that is passable.” In other words, based on feedback from her colleagues on the Council a bill that focused on enforcement would have difficulty gaining five votes. She suggested that enforcement provisions that took damaged RVs out of circulation might end up in a separate bill.
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