GRAYS CREEK — North Carolina ranks second in the nation in the number of mobile homes, and new and slightly used manufactured houses are home sweet home to many families.
For those who live near run-down, abandoned mobile homes, however, the picture is less than perfect, and George Hatcher knows all about that.
Hatcher is a Cumberland County code inspector, one of three who answer complaints about abandoned mobile homes. He tracks down the owners of abandoned mobile homes and puts a lien on the property for the amount it costs to remove and demolish the dwellings, he said Monday.
Eventually, he said, he locates all the owners, though the process can take a long time – sometimes a year or more.
One example is 6124 Canadian Ave. Nobody's been home there for years, and what greeted Hatcher when he went there were a shattered TV set, spattered paint and tattered insulation.
“Probably within this neighborhood, there's 10 to 12 homes just like this right here," Hatcher said.
Clarence Freeman is a neighbor.
"Somebody needs to do something about them, to keep the kids from getting hurt, young kids going in and the windows getting knocked out of them," Freeman said.
But inspectors in other counties say sometimes it’s impossible to pin down the owners, and the county must pay for removal and demolition – which can run from $1,500 to $2,000.
Hatcher says the empty boxes are a public safety hazard.
“It reduces your property value. It’s creating an unsafe environment,” Hatcher said.
Inspectors across the state say sometimes it's impossible to locate owners, leaving the county to pay for removal, which can run $2,000.
Cumberland County budgeted $25,000 this year for removing abandoned mobile homes, but officials say they could use a lot more.
State Rep. Joe P. Tolson, D-Edgecombe, has proposed a $300 tax on the sale of new manufactured homes, with the money to go into an account that counties can use for hauling away abandoned trailers.
Some home dealers have expressed concern about the tax, but Tolson wants to hear an alternative.
“Our comment to them is, sit down, talk with us, let us know what they would suggest, and we can work out a bill that is workable,’" Tolson said.
Operators of The Home Center in Fayetteville welcome the idea.
"To me, in my opinion, it would be a small price to pay when you've got loans going out for at least $100,000," said the center’s Brett Milligan.
As for the number of mobile homes, North Carolina is second in the country only to South Carolina, where more than 18 percent of homes are mobile. In North Carolina, the number is 16.8 percent, just above the No. 3 state, New Mexico, with 16.6 percent.