City of Huntington Files Lawsuit Against Lifehouse Sober Living Facilities

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Following several unsuccessful requests and attempts to inspect Lifehouse sober living homes, the City of Huntington has filed a lawsuit.

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

Court documents say the city has received occasional complaints about the conditions of the Lifehouse homes.

According to documents filed with 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 in the state of West Virginia and has specific statutory jurisdiction over matters such as zoning and building and fire codes. .

Huntington zoning codes limit the number of unrelated people in a family/household unit to no more than five unrelated people; however, Lifehouse characterized at least one property as single-family residential and said it “would not be rational to classify the property as anything other than single-family use”.

Lifehouse asked the city to waive any limitations on the number of unrelated disabled people who can reside together in a single-family area and to suspend any enforcement or inspection efforts.

According to the city, Lifehouse’s request was “devoid of any factual information and language” and alluded to the fact that Lifehouse homes 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 homes fall within the scope of this ordinance which requires landlords or landlords to allow unit inspections either “periodically or with cause to comply with” state laws relating to construction, fire, health, safety or zoning.”

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

The city has repeatedly requested the ability to inspect properties, but inspections have not been allowed. Lifehouse staff only offered tours of pre-designated properties chosen by them, documents show.

“Based on information and beliefs, Lifehouse does not intend to comply with the WVARR certification requirement or the City Rental Registry inspection requirement pursuant to the HRC,” reads the pursuit.

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