Realtor.com quoted me in Family Told They Can’t Live on Their Own Land (and You Won’t Believe Why). It opens,
One of the best perks of owning property—in fact, the main perk—is that you get to live on it. Or so we thought until we learned of a homeowner in Colorado who was told flat-out that her family can’t live on their own land. What’s going on?
Here’s the backstory: In June, an electrical fire left the Lafayette house of 70-year-old Marilyn Minor uninhabitable. Minor began repairs to her home so it would pass city inspections. But lacking the cash for a hotel or other accommodations, she and her home’s other residents—her son Wayne, daughter Charity, and Charity’s two kids—had nowhere to live. So they moved into their van, parked on their own land. It sounds reasonable enough, right?
Their living situation didn’t sit well with some neighbors, who alerted Lafayette city officials, who came back to Minor and told her that vacating her home wasn’t enough. Nope, until her place passed all inspections, the Minor family weren’t allowed to live anywhere on her property at all.
Why? That’s a question Minor is dying to get answered.
“Why can’t I live on the property that I pay taxes for and where I pay the mortgage?” she asked during an interview with Denver7. “I’ll go down fighting. This is my home.”
Although Minor anticipates her house will be fixed up in a few weeks, she’ll be dragged back into housing court next week and could face substantial fines if she remains on her property. And while some of her neighbors clearly disapprove, others are sympathetic.
“They shouldn’t have to be anywhere else,” one neighbor told Denver7. “This is their house.”
True, it’s their house, their land, their home. But according to experts we spoke to, that doesn’t mean they can live there however they please.
“Until the modern era, the common law was based on the understanding that, in many ways, every man’s home was his castle,” says David Reiss, a professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and academic program director at the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship.
“But for well over 100 years now, courts have acknowledged that governments have many legitimate reasons to restrict how property owners use their property. For instance, local governments regulate fire safety and sanitation issues, among other things, for the benefit of property owners themselves as well as their neighbors and the broader community.”