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Abandoned RVs become homes for some; eyesore for others

If you’ve ever been in the Magnolia, Ballard or Fremont neighborhoods in Seattle, you’ve probably seen beat up and worn down RV’s parked on neighborhood streets. They serve as homes for some — eyesores for others. And for one Seattle man, a legal headache he couldn’t shake for years.

I met up with Rick Davis one Saturday morning at a tow lot in Seattle.  We were there to watch the auction of a motor home, one that represents 26 feet of hell for Davis.  I was bidding on it to get it off the street for good.

“It’s been a nightmare,” declared Davis.  “It’s actually kept me awake a few nights concerned about, particularly my credit.”

Five years ago Davis legally sold this RV but the new owner never registered the vehicle in their name.  As a result, Rick has been getting parking tickets and towing bills for years.

“The burden of proof is on me to prove it’s not my vehicle.  And that I’m accountable for the impound fees and if there’s a loss when they sell it, I’ll be paying that difference as well,” explained Davis.

Davis was even once blamed for a hit and run accident.  When he went to the address of the incident to investigate, he was shocked by what he found.

“My RV was parked in this neighborhood, nice neighborhood.  They had curtains and sheets and towels in the windows and there was a generator underneath the vehicle,” recalled Davis.  “They were living there.  I was shocked to see it.  What really shocked me was that this was encumbering a neighborhood and also it was in my name.”

Andrew McConaghy lived above Davis’ RV. It may be gone now but a new one has taken its place.

“To have people who are camping on the side of the street, who have their trash just thrown out the side of their RV onto the sidewalk,” explained McConaghy.  “I think that’s really what’s at the core of what’s really destroying and diminishing the neighborhood.”

We found there are thousands of RV’s not properly registered statewide, some 20,000 at last count.  The City of Seattle believes more than 30% of its unsheltered population lives in cars or RV’s.  Fixing homelessness is just a part of repairing the divide between RV’s and the neighbors where they park.

City response Catherine Laster/Director Human Services, Seattle

“I think we’ve seen significant impact in being able to connect people to permanent housing so that you know, they have some place other than their vehicles to live in,” said Catherine Lester, Director of Human Services for the City of Seattle.   “We also recognize that for some people, living in their vehicle is a choice and it’s something that they’ve articulated that they want, they consider that their home.”

RVs at the auction can sell for as little as $1, no towing fees included.  Davis’ nightmare is going for more and eventually I win with a $200 bid.   Now with the help of Lincoln Towing, we’re going to have the RV destroyed.

The city told me it’s trying to fix this issue.  I plan to stay on it and will update you.  If you have more information on this subject, drop me a note.

Do you have a story you want me to check out? Call 1-844-77-JESSE (53773) or send me a message here. I’ll be part of KIRO 7 Eyewitness News most weekdays at 5:15 p.m. You can also check out my Facebook page and click here to follow me on Twitter.

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