“This is a question about property rights,” says family’s lawyer
A Georgia family was kicked off their own plot of land and fined for living in an RV.
Polk County resident Tim Leslie bought a plot of land with his life savings after getting laid off due to the pandemic lockdowns, where he and his family lived in an RV as they developed a permanent home.
“Before I could go to court, they showed up at my property, the building inspector and the code enforcement officer, and told me that I had to be off my land or they were going to seize my vehicles and my assets,” Leslie told WSB-TV last month.
Institute for Justice lawyer Ari Bargil said Leslie’s case brings up questions about property rights and freedom.
“This is a question about property rights,” said Bargil. “Mr. Leslie owns the property on which he situated his camper. And as a result, he has the right to live there, as long as he’s not harming anybody through his use.”
Polk county police had issued Leslie a citation for “living in a camper/RV,” citing several codes, but Bargil argues that none of the ordinances specifically address Leslie’s living situation.
“There is nothing that says that he can or cannot have a camper on his property,” Bargil said. “They’re trying to compile this mishmash of ordinance applications in order to be able to say you can’t do this. But the reality is that this is a unique use of property. It’s one that’s not contemplated by the city’s ordinances. And for that reason alone, it should be allowed, at least temporarily.”
“People are struggling financially. I think it’s important that cities allow people some leeway, so that they can figure out creative ways for them to be able to make ends meet, and to get by until they’re able to get back up on their feet,” Bargil added.
Leslie had chickens, goats, a vegetable garden and plenty of space for his wife and two children.
“We plan on building a forever home here and, you know, growing old and giving it to our kids,” he said.
Leslie lost in municipal court, but in an unusual move, a superior court judge agreed to hear his case. He’s also working on a civil lawsuit against Polk county.