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San Benito County Illegal Residence Controversy Gets Supervisors Attention

By Cassandra Arsenault, Reporter, CassandraArsenault@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Jan 30 2014 08:49:04 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 31 2014 01:07:06 AM CST

Changing Housing Codes in San Benito County

HOLLISTER, Calif.-- What if 911 couldn't track you down, because you're house isn't considered a legal residence? The Central Coast News Center for Investigative Action brought the problem to San Benito County earlier this week, and now one supervisor wants a change.

When one San Benito resident realized the guest house he was renting for the past six years was considered illegal he feared for his safety. This means that emergency crews could show up and go straight to the main house first, not even thinking twice that someone else lived on the property. This problem for one man is raising red flags for current code enforcement procedures.

Ron Rivkin, who lives alone with his dog, Bob, got the disturbing news five months ago.

"She said, "Well you're not in a legal residence, the legal residence is next door," so I said, 'What happens if I call 911 and need help?' and she says 'I don't know,'" said Rivkin.

With a medical history of three aortic aneurisms, he wanted out as soon as possible, but wanted the relocation fees from his landlord that the county promises.

"My landlord can't comply until I leave and I can't leave until he pays me the relocation, and he's not willing to pay a dime until he is forced to," said Rivkin.

According to Code Enforcement regulations the landlord should pay relocation fees, and be fined for renting out an illegal residence, but six months went by and the landlord hasn't paid. Instead he found a loophole in the clause. The landlord legally evicted Rivkin, so that he won't have to pay relocation fees. Supervisor Anthony Botelho is not satisfied with the outcome.

"What I found with Ron's case is that he is a victim and he wasn't aware that the secondary unit he was in wasn't compliant," said Botelho.

According to Botelho, this code enforcement issue goes way beyond Rivkin in San Benito County.

"It has always been a challenge for San Benito County through good times and bad. Our ordinances need to have teeth and incentives for people to understand zoning is the way it is," said Botelho.

According to San Benito County Counsel, Rivkin and his landlord are settling the relocation fee issue in court, and won't have anything to do with it until the Superior Court makes its decision.