City of Huntington files lawsuit against Lifehouse sober living facilities

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 7:29 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Following several failed requests and attempts to inspect Lifehouse sober living homes, the city of Huntington has filed suit.

Lifehouse is a West Virginia corporation that operates at least 14 sober living homes or recovery residences, or apartment buildings, within the city of Huntington.

Court documents state the city has received occasional complaints concerning the conditions of Lifehouse houses.

According to the documents filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, on numerous occasions, the city has requested to inspect Lifehouse properties -- only to be rebuffed by Lifehouse officials.

The city of Huntington argues that it is a municipal corporation of the State of West Virginia and has specific statutory jurisdiction over matters such as zoning and building and fire codes.

Huntington zoning codes limits the number of unrelated persons in a family/household unit to not more than five unrelated people; however, Lifehouse referred to at least one property as a single-family dwelling and stated it “would not be rational to classify the property as something other than a single-family use.”

Lifehouse requested the city waive any limitation on the number of unrelated disabled persons who can reside together in a single-family zone and to hold in abeyance any enforcement or inspection efforts.

According to the city, Lifehouse’s request was “devoid of any factual information and language” and alluded that Lifehouse houses should be exempt from all zoning and safety ordinances and regulations.

Single family residences that are also rental units are subject to the inspection requirements of the rental registry ordinance enacted in 2018.

According to the city of Huntington, sober living homes fall within the scope of that ordinance which requires landlords or owners to permit inspections of units either “periodically or with cause for compliance with ‘state laws related to building, fire, health, safety, or zoning.”

The city also argues non-owner-occupied single-family homes are subject to the rental registry ordinance and the attendant inspection program requirement.

The city has repeatedly requested the opportunity to inspect the properties, but the inspections have not been permitted. Lifehouse personnel have only offered tours of pre-designated properties chosen by them, documents state.

“Upon information and belief, Lifehouse has no intention of complying with the WVARR certification requirement or the City rental registry inspection requirement pursuant to H.R.C,” the suit states.

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