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Residents Win the Day: “We Are the Landlord”

May 1st, 2017 Comments off
ResidentsWintheDayWeAretheLandlordcreditWickedKingston-postedtothedailybusinessnewsmhpronewsmhlivingnews

Credit: Wicked Kingston.

South of Boston in Kingston, Massachusetts, residents of the Town & Country Estates had a busy day last week.

They bought their community.

According to Wicked Kingston, the residents, with help from (ROC USA) and its affiliate Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), residents of the community were able to realize a dream 10 years in the making, as members of the board for the Town & Country Mobile Home Estates Tenants Association finally signed the papers.

We don’t have to look for a landlord, we are the landlord, so that being a co-op and a nonprofit we’re not out to make any money so the only rent that we’re going to be charging ourselves is that which is enough to sustain the place,” said association President Joe Mauriello.

Mauriello says it was resident Joe Bruno that made the purchase possible, as he initially heard about ROC USA and CDI, the part of ROC USA that helped the association get organized, and contacted CDI’s Andy Danforth. ROC USA has been working with them for the last three years, he said, including the last year of actively working on the purchase.

Without ROC or CDI, we would not be owning this park [sic] today,” said Mauriello.

As Daily Business News readers are aware, ROC USA recently helped residents of the Kayadeross Acres Manufactured Home Cooperative in Ballston Spa, New York, to purchase their community, with papers being signed last Christmas. That story is linked here.

An offer to purchase the community from the previous owner provided Town & Country Estates residents the opening they needed to buy the property for $6.2 million. While there will be an increase in rents, residents say that the stability factor is huge.

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Credit: Wicked Kingston.

At a celebration, two cakes were decorated with the words “We own it!” and a sign that reads “Hooray! Tis the day, to ourselves we now will pay. Congrats family!”

For more on ROC USA, including a recent study on rent rates, click here. ##

(Image credits are as shown above, and when provided by third parties, are shared under fair use guidelines.)

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RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

City tells Community Owner, Stop Lying – called a “Slumlord”

October 24th, 2016 Comments off
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Cleanup at Oak Hollow. Credit: San Antonio Current.

On the northwest side of San Antonio, a literally smelly controversy has been brewing.

According to multiple news sources, including the San Antonio Current, the owner of Oak Hollow Mobile Home Park has been served a cease and desist by the city.

The order tells him to stop lying to his “tenants.”

The story begins with complaints to the city of San Antonio by residents of the community regarding a strong sewage smell.

I’ve lived there four years, and then my sisters lived there for at least 15 years before that. It’s always smelled like this, I just never knew where it came from,” said one of the residents, who asked the Current to keep his identity anonymous for fear of retribution. “I mostly keep [my daughters] indoors now.

Upon investigation, the city found raw sewage leaking from decrepit septic tanks and directly into the park’s soil, including one leak directly underneath a tenant’s home. The resident was forced to avoid one of the rooms due to the smell.

The city determined that 12 of the homes were in such bad shape that the health department was legally bound to alert those living in Oak Hollow that they would need to move out of their home and into hotel rooms, paid for by the city, until the landlord addressed the problem.

What happened next was unexpected by some.

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Oak Hollow Community. Credit: San Antonio Express.

Joe Mangione, the owner of Oak Hollow, sent out a letter to residents with the following message, “The City of San Antonio has condemned the Mobile Home Park and will be giving out notices to vacate.”

According to city officials, they have done no such thing.

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Ron Nirenberg. Credit: San Antonio Express.

We have families that feel as if they are being uprooted by the city,” said Councilman Ron Nirenberg, whose district includes the Oak Hollow property.

Really, this is about a mobile home [sic] millionaire that has let property go into decay to the point that government has to force compliance.

According to Nirenberg, he contacted Mangione after hearing about the sewage leaks over two weeks ago. When Nirenberg and city staff demanded an explanation for the situation, Mangione offered an unexpected response.

He agreed his property was contaminated and uninhabitable – and that he’d sell it.

The property owner is using this opportunity to further his ultimate goal to sell the property, said Maria Cesar, communications director for Nirenberg’s office.

(Editor’s Note: as Richard Nodel’s comments below suggest, 
most MH Community owners do not operate in this fashion.
For an example of a different experience, click here.)

The Daily Business News has attempted to reach Mangione for comment, and has not received a response.

The Current reports that after reaching the staff at Oak Hollow, they were told that Mangione would not return calls until he got a lawyer.

According to Victoria Mather, a professor at St. Mary’s School of Law with a background in landlord and tenant law, the use of city intervention as an “easy out” isn’t unusual.

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Victoria Mather. Credit: St. Mary’s School of Law.

When it becomes too expensive for a landlord to fix a problem like this, they sell,” said Mather.

This used to be really common in the 60’s, especially with apartment buildings. But it still happens all over the country. 

Mather also told the Current that the only way residents could legally fight back is if Mangione broke a rental contract that promised maintenance upkeep or specific eviction rules. “You can’t force a landlord to stay in business,” said Mather.

Rumors, and the nationality of the tenants, provide an additional twist to this story.

We are not taking your home away from you and we are not going to take our eyes off this situation,” Nirenberg told a meeting of the residents.

Rumors were circulating that the city was going to evict all of the tenants and that they were being punished for reporting the sewage leaks. Nirenberg had to speak slowly enough for a staff member to translate.

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Sewage Line at Oak Hollow. Credit: KABB.

Many of the park’s residents are Hispanics, and only understand Spanish. Several claimed that the threat of being reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was a common threat used by Mangione to keep them quiet.

MH Industry Voices Sound Off on the Issue

Karl Radde, General Manager of Southern Comfort Homes and a long-time board member of the Texas Manufactured Housing Association, said, “My very basic initial take at this point is that it seems to be a situation where a city is wanting an owner to repair infrastructure and for reasons unknown from this [local news] article, the owner isn’t or hasn’t,” said Radde.

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Karl Radde, Southern Comfort Homes, Chairman, National Retailers Council, MHI. Radde’s complete thoughts on this issue are linked here.

However, as what is many times missing from these kinds of [local news] articles is the degree of failure and what the remedy would be,” Radde stated.

Certainly, like the Austin gardening plots conundrum, some things at first glance reading seem to be very good and simple ideas or solutions,” Radde, who has worked with manufactured home communties, said.  “In this case however, IF, the city is saying the repair is to dig up the old system, have hazmat crews remove the contaminated soil within three feet around the distressed area, pay exorbitant fees to have it disposed of at a recognized contaminated soil disposal site, and then install On-Site Sewage Facilities (TCEQ’s hundred-dollar word for septic system) that may not physically be possible in the space allowed; then they may as well be condemning it, just not going through the condemnation process.

An MH Community Owner with Texas Properties Views

I doubt that my reaction is different from anybody else reading this,” said Richard Nodel. “It is just another classic example of a slum landlord taking advantage of people that because of their position are either afraid to speak up or can’t afford to move.

Nodel also spoke to the perceptions that hurt the manufactured housing industry.

People on the bottom rung of our economic ladder in effect become hostages to the place they live, no matter how miserable it might be,” said Nodel.

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All of Richard Nodel’s observations on this issue are at this link here.

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It’s very easy to take advantage of people like this. We have several properties that are blue collar, family parks. We believe that they are entitled to the same safe, healthy environment as those residents in our fancy resort properties.

The Daily Business News will continue to follow this story, and will provide an update if Mangione and/or his attorney provide comments. ##

(Editor’s Note: as stated on the complete commentary from Karl Radde, linked here, were provided prior to additional information and sources on this developing story came to light. His qualified comments above still apply to this or similar situations.)

(Image credits are as shown above.)

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RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

MH Community Owners Class Action suit seeks damages from state agency

January 6th, 2015 Comments off

delawer-home-wikipedia=credit-mhpronews-comA class-action lawsuit filed by the owners of a Delaware manufactured home community may bring quite a sum of money not only to the group that filed the lawsuit, but to all manufactured home community owners in the state.

The Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority (DMHRA) was created by the Delaware Legislature in 2004.  The purpose of creating the fund was to help homeowners who live in a land lease community defray the cost of moving if their parks are sold for redevelopment.

From the very beginning, the DMHRA was allowed to impose a $3 fee on each manufactured home lot in the state. The Authority’s establishing statute ordered its board to “adopt an adjusted assessment on or before Jan. 31, 2006.” If the board didn’t do that, the statute said, “The board shall eliminate the fee in its entirety.”

The quick “secret” vote on this matter has been declared illegal and the action created by the vote is also considered illegal.

Ridgewood Manor, a manufactured home community, filed a suit in May 2013, making the case that the Relocation Authority had been collecting a $3 fee from community owners without proper legal authority for years.

As plaintiff, Ridgewood Manor alleged that the decision-making process was so flawed – in violation of open-meetings laws, and done without any “meaningful analysis” of whether charging $3 made sense – that the fees the Authority collected from it after 2006 were “continuing, unlawful collections.”

As the lawsuit shows, the DMHRA’s secretary emailed the board members on the afternoon of Jan. 31, 2006, asking them to “respond as a vote on whether you approve the reinstatement of the $3 fee.”

The nine unpaid members of the government-appointed board, without holding a public meeting and without public notice that they would take action on the statewide fee, one by one, sent in “yes” replies.

As a result, the Relocation Authority carried on charging the $3-a-lot fee.

The News Journal tells MHProNews  that Vice Chancellor John W. Noble raised the possibility of the refund in a Dec. 31 opinion on the lawsuit filed by Ridgewood Manor, against the DMHRA.

If the company wins class-action status for its complaint, Noble’s ruling means as much as $400,000 of the $6.5 million in the DMHRA trust fund might be ordered given back as refunds, said Mitch Crane, chairman of the DMHRA board. He was not a member of the board in 2006.

“There was no meaningful opportunity for the members of the Board to exchange opinions on the specific topic of whether each ‘approved the reinstatement of the fee’ prior to the individual votes,” Noble wrote.

Noble’s ruling, though, said the plaintiffs can’t ask for refunds of fees they paid before they filed their lawsuit on May 6, 2013. Only the fees collected between that date and April 2014 are potentially recoverable.

“The court recognized what our client has claimed all along: The Authority has been unlawfully collecting millions in dollars in fees,” said John Paradee, the attorney representing Ridgewood Manor. “The remedy is still in question.”

Some key questions in the lawsuit are still unresolved. While Ridgewood Manor is seeking to get class-action status for its suit – potentially making it apply to every manufactured home landlord in the state – both sides agreed to ask the judge to put that question aside for now.

Noble’s ruling said he wanted to hear more from Ridgewood Manor and DMHRA on whether the Authority’s limited immunity from lawsuits, written into its charter by the General Assembly, would protect it from this complaint. ##

(Photo Credit: Wilmington News Journal)

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New Device Aids Tenants and Landlords

April 2nd, 2014 Comments off

A new automation project for the rental industry allows tenants to unlock/lock their doors, set thermostats and lights and control appliances from anywhere with their smartphone. As 9news.com informs MHProNews.com, Denver-based Rentbits’ program, called Remotely, can also pay rent and arrange maintenance work. From the landlords’ perspective, the technology can eliminate expensive lock replacements and better protect their properties. ##

(Photo credit: zimbio.com)

Delaware General Assembly Passes Rent Justification for Land Lease Communities

June 21st, 2013 Comments off

Following a story MHProNews last covered June 11, 2013 regarding the rent justification bill in the Delaware General Assembly, lawmakers passed SB 33 but removed the requirement that increases be greater than the average annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the last three years. The Delaware State Housing Authority will still consider the request for a raise in rents if the landlord states it will be used to improve the community. If the residents and owner cannot agree on an increase, the matter will go to non-binding arbitration. Another amendment to the Senate version, as delawarenewszap says, is the arbitrator must submit a written decision within 15 days of the arbitration.

(Photo credit: capegazette/Ron MacArthur–land lease community near Rehoboth Shores, Long Neck, DE)

Rent Justification Bill in Delaware Legislature again

May 2nd, 2013 Comments off

DelawareNewszap reports state Sen. Bruce Ennis has sponsored a rent justification bill, SB 33, for manufactured home communities that will mandate MHC owners seek approval from the Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority if they try to raise rents beyond the Consumer Price Index (CPI) annual increase. The authority will allow the increase only if the landlord can prove it will benefit the community directly. In last year’s General Assembly a similar bill passed the Senate but not the House. As MHProNews reported April 12, 2013 a state initiative was set to begin April 15 to assist manufactured home owners with site rent and house payments up to $5,000.

(Image credit: Wikipedia–Delaware state flag)

Association Deals with Wide-Ranging Issues

April 25th, 2013 Comments off

The Indiana Manufactured Housing Association Recreational Vehicle Indiana Council (IMHA/RVIC) reports as the state legislature prepares to conclude its session for the year, the association continues to work on a manufactured housing tax issue that will limit impact on the industry. As MHProNews has been informed, other issues dealt with this year include property assessments, mortgages, rental purchase agreements, regulation of residential leases, abandoned property, building codes, landlord regulations, and property liens. Following the conclusion of the session, the impact of the legislation will be more clear.

(Photo credit: Richard Cummins/CORBIS–Indiana State Capitol building)

Residents Seek State Protection from Landlord

March 27th, 2013 Comments off

According to lehighvalleylive residents of Greenbriar Valley manufactured housing community (MHC) in east-central Penn. allege owner Equity LifeStyle Properties, Inc. (ELS) is unjustly raising their rents and they are seeking protection, as they approach April 18 when rents for the 319 site community will rise again. One residents says his site rent has increased from $374 to $539 a month in ten years. At a Greenbriar homeowners association meeting State Rep. Robert Freeman says he sponsored legislation last year that gives manufactured home owners more rights if their community is sold, and will work with residents to seek more protection. He favors rents being tied to the consumer price index and intends to meet with the attorney general regarding protection for homeowners under the state’s Consumer Protection Act. As MHProNews knows, ELS is the largest owner of MHCs in North America with some 380 communities comprised of over 141,000 homesites.

(Photo credit: Bill Wechter/nctimes)

Senate Bill Likely to Fail

February 7th, 2013 Comments off

Joe Kelly of the Iowa Manufactured Housing Association (IMHA) tells MHProNews state Senate Study Bill 1076 that tightens regulations on the MH business is opposed by the IMHA board of directors and the industry as a whole. Proposed by state Attorney General Tom Miller, the proposed legislation deals with the relationship between the landlord and residents, and resulted from an investigation by the Des Moines Register into land lease community regulations. Similar bills have failed to be approved in the past, and there continues to be strong industry opposition to the measure.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia–Iowa Legislative Chamber))

Court Rules in MHC Owner’s Favor

July 3rd, 2012 Comments off

DaytonaBizLaw reports the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Florida, in the case of Hanrahan vs. Hometown America, LLC, involving a property owner’s responsibility to protect a tenant from insects, ruled in favor of Hometown America. A resident was attacked by a swarm of red ants that evidently led to his death a few days later. MHProNews.com has learned the court’s ruling was based upon the idea of “ferae natura,” a common law doctrine which means “animals of a wild nature or disposition.” Florida law says a land owner is not required to protect an invitee from wild animals (or, in this case, wild insects) unless said landlord is harboring or possessing “ferae natura,” or has brought wild animals to his property that are not indigenous to the locale.

(Photo credit: PhotographersDirect)