The state has ordered a Branford mobile home park to clean up its act — or face the possibility of losing its operating license, after an investigation revealed the property has numerous ongoing health and safety violations.
The Department of Consumer Protection has issued a legal decision and order against Shoreline Trailer Court, at 525 East Main Street, for "violations of laws pertaining to mobile manufactured home parks and the Unfair Trade Practices Act."
Wild Animal, Vermin Infestation
According to the department, the decision follows numerous resident complaints starting in 2012, which led to an agency investigation and a formal administrative hearing this summer.
The department found that between Jan. 1 through July 31 of this year — and possibly before — the park was infested with feral cats, skunks, rodents and other wild animals or vermin.
Park ownership, however, "used insufficient remedies to address the infestation, which was ongoing," according state investigators.
Overflowing Trash, Overgrown Grounds
"Overflowing trash receptacles also contributed to the problem, but while some efforts were made to remedy this, garbage remained an issue," Claudette Carveth, communications director for the state consumer protection department, reported in a press release Tuesday morning.
She added that some outdoor areas of the park were overgrown, which contributed to the infestation problem and inhibited maintenance of the park’s roads, which are now in disrepair.
"Overgrowth also slowed down emergency electrical repairs within the park," Carveth stated.
Stagnant Standing Water
Additionally, the department found that the park is subject to pooling of water and particularly susceptible to stagnation.
"While certain areas of the park have been re-graded, issues remain with regard to flooding and pooling," Carveth stated.
Bad Lighting, Abandoned Trailers
The Department also found inadequacy in the park’s lighting, and an unmarked electrical distribution box which could cause a safety issue.
The agency maintains that abandoned buildings and trailers in the park are ultimately the park’s responsibility for maintenance or removal; at least four abandoned trailers currently contribute to the poor conditions in the park.
'Systemic Disinterest and Inattention'
Finally, rules for residents of the park have not been strictly enforced, further contributing to the park’s poor state.
“While Shoreline Trailer Court made some attempts to comply with the law, those attempts often came after our intervention, or after involvement of local building officials, health officials, and other parties,” Commissioner Rubenstein stated in the department's release. “Thus far, the efforts appear to be reactive and have only addressed the symptoms, rather than the root cause of the problem, which appears to be systemic disinterest and inattention.”
“This case warrants strong action, not only due to the range of offenses, but also the totality of the circumstances,” Rubenstein said. “However, for the long-term benefit of all stakeholders, including the park’s residents and the entire Branford community, my order in this case is intended to be remedial, rather than punitive in nature. We are offering Shoreline Trailer Park the opportunity to avoid financial disincentives and license suspension if the necessary full-scale changes are taken to come into full and complete compliance and to prevent future problems.”
Shoreline Trailer Court management and/or ownership was unable to be immediately reached for comment by Branford Patch.
Cease and Desist Orders
The state has ordered Shoreline Trailer Park to immediately cease and desist from:
- Failing to be responsible for the extermination of rodents, vermin and other pests dangerous to the health of residents and shall take all necessary action to eliminate or mitigate such infestation;
- Failing to keep exterior areas of the park free weed or plant growth which are noxious or detrimental to the health of the residents and shall take all necessary action to eliminate all overgrowth that is hazardous or contributing to any hazard;
- Failing to maintain the roads within the park in good condition and shall immediately repair all roads to good condition;
- Failing to make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the portion of the mobile manufactured home park that is not the responsibility each resident in a fit and habitable condition; and
- Failing to insure that each resident observed the rules of the park in order to keep the park in a clean, orderly and sanitary condition.
Penalties and Fines
The park is ordered to pay $40,000 in civil penalties, with $20,000 held in abeyance until July 1, 2014 and $20,000 held in abeyance until Oct. 1, 2014.
The park will receive a waiver of $10,000 each in civil penalties for complete removal of up to two abandoned trailers before July 1, 2014 and additional waivers of $10,000 each for removal of the other two by Oct. 1, 2014.
The Department of Consumer Protection can void the abeyances and waivers if rents in the mobile home park are increased, or if reasonable and prompt right of entry to local building officials is denied.
Remediation Plan, On-Site Manager Mandated
Finally, to avoid license suspension, the Park is ordered to develop and implement a complete remediation plan with input from the Department of Consumer Protection, park residents and Branford town officials. The first draft of the plan is due to the Department within 30 days of the order.
Also within 30 days, the park must add to its staff an onsite manager, whose hours and contact information is provided to residents and owners, to provide a centralized point of contact for residents.
“In the long run, investments in the park will likely prevent costs in the future and allow Shoreline Trailer Park to remain profitable,” Rubenstein said. “In addition, residents will not only have safe and healthy homes, but may also have an incentive to become more involved in the park community. And ultimately, Branford local officials can provide guidance proactively, rather than be forced to take enforcement action.”