District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco won permission to evict tenant Casey McCoy in Unlawful Detainer court hearing on March 22. Judge Stephen B.R. Keller also ordered McCoy to pay the supervisor $1,563.33 for back rent and filing fees.
The victory came with the revelation that Mikulaco was renting two unpermitted apartments attached to the home in a rural portion of District 1 zoned for one dwelling, two with proper permits, per 5 acres.
El Dorado County Code Enforcement Officer Judy Hickenlooper found “two detached carports converted to studio apartments without permits,” and a “travel trailer set up for occupancy without permits” in early January, according to case notes in the county’s Land Management Information System.
Mikulaco declined to say what, if any, part he had in building out the apartments, referring the Mountain Democrat to his attorney Stephen Valentine, who likewise declined to comment on the alleged building code and zoning infractions. “This was an unlawful detainer, an eviction proceeding, that’s all,” he said after court.
McCoy is the last tenant on site. He has two automotive restoration projects and a boat under tarps on the rural parcel. He argued in court that the apartment was never a legal rental, and requested another 60 days to find a place to live and store his vehicles.
“If we accept your argument, you are trespassing,” said Keller.
McCoy rented the apartment for $700 a month in October of 2011. Rent included electricity, water and an Internet connection, he said. There was no written lease, although McCoy argued in court that he and Mikulaco had a “12-month verbal agreement.”
Keller ruled the rental agreement was month-to-month and terminated it.
Outside of court McCoy spoke with the Mountain Democrat and outlined a litany of problems that began when he moved in: The apartment had no heat, kitchen stove or cabinets. The roof leaked in the bedroom and when it rained hard the runoff flowed into the kitchen, the result of an improperly sealed foundation, he said.
Mikulaco rectified the stove and cabinet deficiencies within the first three months but the other problems remained outstanding for the duration of his tenancy, said McCoy.
The Code Enforcement investigation was triggered by a complaint from a neighbor, according to Valentine.
Mikulaco received a Notice to Correct from the county on Jan. 15, 2013. The following week he told McCoy about the investigation and informed him that he’d have to vacate.
In court McCoy defended his subsequent decision to stop paying rent as a reaction to the unsafe living conditions and Mikulaco’s alleged unresponsiveness. He started to argue that the apartment didn’t meet habitability standards defined in California state law, but was stopped short by Judge Keller, who informed him that he had relinquished tenant rights when he stopped paying rent in February.
Valentine filed for a three-day notice to pay rent or quit against McCoy in early February. It was delivered on or about Feb. 15.
“We were going to give him 60 days, but then he stopped paying rent,” said Valentine.
McCoy told the Mountain Democrat that the other apartment had similar problems and was occupied by a series of short-term tenants. An old travel trailer on the rural site was also occupied until recently, he said; none were heated. “You could see your breath in there,” said McCoy.
An eviction notice will be posted on McCoy’s door this week, said Valentine. Sherriff’s deputies will return the following Tuesday or Thursday to either remove the door or install a new lock, he added.
Earlier last week Mikulaco spoke with the Mountain Democrat and defended his actions. “I’m following the rules. I got a notice to correct. I’m fixing it,” he said.
A notice to correct is not a violation, he said. “I’m not asking for special treatment.”
He conceded that until recently he had a homeless vet camping in a travel trailer on his property, and said the trailer was scheduled to be hauled off.
Valentine played down the case’s significance.
“Things like this happen all the time,” he said. “They tell you to get a permit … or they tell you the zoning isn’t right.”
In many cases the structure was built before the code or zoning was in place, he added.
In this case, “The minute he’s out of there we’re compliant,” said Valentine.
After the hearing McCoy said he was “floored” that he was being asked to pay Mikulaco $1,563.33 and vowed to fight the judgment. “I’m a Marine, that’s what we do.”
The former Marine called Mikulaco a “slumlord” during and after the hearing. “He knew this was never a legal place to rent.”
Development Services Director Roger Trout was adamant that Mikulaco’s case was handled like any other. “We have over 1,000 code enforcement cases open at any time,” he said. “Any structure with someone living in it gets priority.”
Provisions in the County Zoning Ordinance section 7.12.030 make zoning violations a misdemeanor offense, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 fine and/or six month jail time.
“We’d have to send it to the DA, and that would only happen if they fail to comply after we investigate,” said Trout.
Similar enforcement provisions exist in current building codes, he said.