Posts Tagged ‘rent to own’

State AG Files Suit Against, Manufactured Home Community, Rent to Own, Lease Purchase Option Warning

January 14th, 2019 Comments off



The Town of Fallsburg organized a forum in response to growing complaints about FoxCroft Village, where Paula Frumkin, president of the community’s homeowners association, was one of the residents who spoke on Jan. 23, 2018.


The situation deteriorated since then, she said, per the Record Online.

We have more empty homes than we’ve ever had,” Frumkin said earlier this month. “None of them are being fixed up. Nothing is being done.”



In mid-December 2018, then-New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the owners of FoxCroft Village.  The legal action aims “to compel them to fix the water system; properly dispose of garbage; fix septic systems; repair roads and public lights; abate outstanding Town of Fallsburg and state Health Department violations; and secure a valid permit to operate from the state Health Department,” said the Record Online.

FoxCroft Village reportedly has some 321 home sites.  About 200 are resident-owned homes, with the balance rented to the residents via rent-to-own contracts, according to the NY AG’s lawsuit.




The community’s operating permit expired in December 2017.  It has been unable to obtain a new one due to the conditions there, the AG’s lawsuit states.

The lawsuit sets a deadline of Feb. 15, 2019 to achieve compliance, plus seeks restitution for all the aggrieved residents.

George Levin and Gayla Sue Levin of the state of Florida are defendants, along with L & F Enterprises, Inc., and Foxcroft Village, LLC.

FoxCroft Property Manager Mike Mergendahl declined to comment on the pending legal matter.

It is evident that respondents are unwilling to perform the maintenance, repairs, and system replacements necessary to address Foxcroft’s failing water and septic systems and other dangerous conditions throughout the park,” the state’s legal complaint says.

George Levin reportedly denounced the lawsuit in an email, saying it relies on misinformation. Levin criticized Assistant Attorney General Stephen Barry, who has been representing the state in the case.




No one from the State’s AG Office has ever visited Foxcroft to verify what has been done or is being done on a daily basis,” Levin wrote in the message.

Levin said that Barry’s basis for the lawsuit is Fallsburg’s meeting from last year, which was “called for the sole purpose of disparaging Foxcroft” because of a “running vendetta” by Town Supervisor Steven Vegliante against park management.

There was no water service on Dec. 26, as of the report dated Jan 6th.  It is the second year in a row that the community lost water service around Christmas, according to Lisa Stephens-Hotalen, a 16-year resident. Hotalen lives across the street from Frumkin.

There’s so much water leaking near their homes that it reportedly pools up in one portion of her lawn when Hotalen presses her foot into the grass. It was the only part of her yard that wasn’t covered in snow.

The lawsuit claims that FoxCroft has experienced “park-wide intermittently functioning water distribution and failing septic systems” since the summer of 2017 and that residents reported brown water coming from their taps.

Residents have also been under a boil-water order since Dec. 23, 2017. The Town of Fallsburg cited FoxCroft for a code violation for the water system on Jan. 14, 2018. Since then, the community has faced a maximum fine of $1,500 per day it remains in violation, according to the NY AG’s lawsuit.

Levin said a new water system has been installed and Sullivan County’s health department approved of the installation.

Vegliante confirmed that FoxCroft’s owners have begun to replace the water system.

It’s been unbelievably frustrating,” he said of the past year. “People deserve a safe place to live, and finally they’re [the owners] starting to resolve some of the issues.”

Officials noted that noted that “We’re doing everything we can not to condemn it,” meaning the community, and hope that the state AG’s suit will spur completion of the pending work.

Code Enforcement Officer Mollie Messenger declined comment on alleged violations, citing active litigation, referring questions to the town of Fallsburg’s attorney, Bruce Perlmutter. Fallsburg is set to go to trial with FoxCroft in town court near the end of January.  The parties could not agree on the total amount that should be paid in fines for the code violations.


‘Rent To Own’ Woes…


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The New York attorney general’s lawsuit also takes aim at the approximately 100 rent-to-own contracts FoxCroft has with some residents, calling the agreements “deceptive” and in violation of state law, which are subject to fines per contract.

FoxCroft’s documents reportedly tag rent-to-own payments as ‘loan payments’ pursuant to a mortgage.  But L & F Enterprises, Inc., is not a lender.  They hold the title to each home until it’s completely paid for by the resident. Those residents are subject to summary eviction for non-payment at any time before that time, the AG’s lawsuit states.

This is a noteworthy issue to every community in the nation that is doing, or is considering doing, rent to own, lease purchase options, or other contracts of this kind.

Some industry professionals, such as George F. (F?) Allen, Spencer Roane, and the so-called SECO conference have promoted this kind of ‘seller financing’ for years.  They claim it is legal, purportedly checked out by an attorney who advised Roane.

But if the New York AG believes they are problematic, and since it seems to violate the notion of a “disguised credit transaction” – which can be problematic under Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guidance – do Allen, Roane and SECO leaders really think they can successfully defend a similar state or federal claim against their process?  Do their ‘students’ and followers want to take these types of risks?



Back in New York, Levin denies that FoxCroft has such contracts. But he said that FoxCroft does internally finance the sale of its homes to residents.




The Daily Business News on MHProNews will continue to monitor such cases.  While we are not attorneys, and don’t give legal advice, it is prudent to consider legal actions like this case in New York as the most recent in a string of warnings to those who literally buy the advice of those – like Allen, Roane, and SECO – who sell such apparently problematic, and potentially risky “education.”




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Spencer Roane w/Southeast Community Owners (SECO), Praises Tom Lackey, Accused of Rent-to-Own Manufactured Home Sales Improprieties

May 15th, 2018 Comments off


 We bought a trailer [1] that wasn’t really ours. I mean, it really hurt me.
My nerves have been tore up. I’ve been crying

Tonya Evans, a customer of Tom Lackey’s Stoney Pointe MH Community business.


Spencer Roane is an RV MH Hall of Fame Inductee, and is one of a group of manufactured home land-lease community owners who has organized the Southeast Community Owners (SECO) symposium. 

Among the features of the annual SECO gathering? 

Talks by Roane on a controversial use of a lease-to-own (rent-to-own) program that he has previously said can be used to “finance” the sale of manufactured homes.

Roane was asked by the Daily Business News about Tom Lackey, who stands accused of ‘selling’ pre-owned manufactured homes rent-to-own. More on Roane’s reaction and comments to the troubling accusations, later below.

But first, what exactly is creating such a troubling mainstream media stir? 


1) Terminology used is in the original, and isn’t the legally correct term. The homes in this sad story appear to be HUD Code manufactured homes, based upon photos, perhaps dating to the 1980s or 1990s.



Charges of “Selling” Homes “Rent to Own,” Without Titles

According to accusations reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Lackey and his business did not own the homes that he “sold” rent-to-own.

18 residents learned their homes would be auctioned off for back taxes.

Tonya Evans and her family had a jolt when “…about five weeks ago, county workers showed up and taped a yellow seizure notice to their house. They did the same with 17 other mobiles homes [1]  at Stoney Pointe and Blue Ridge Estates, located around the block on Schmitt Road. Nobody had paid property taxes for years,” per Times Free Press staff writer Tyler Jett.

Lackey reportedly did not return calls and messages from the Times Free Press.

Nor did Tom Lackey reply to a number of direct and indirect queries from the Daily Business News, that invited him to share his version of the highly-emotionally – and legally charged – allegations.  But oblique comments about Lackey were offered by a colleague, Spencer Roane.


Spencer Roane’s Comments on Tom Lackey


A SECO attendee who said they’re aware of the dynamics involved in this matter told MHProNews that ‘Spencer Roane has gone out of his way to protect Tom Lackey.’ 

Tom has been a member of our SECO planning group for several years. I couldn’t ask for a more professional, conscientious, or capable member of our team,” Roane said in a message to the Daily Business News.

Roane was asked about Lackey.  Roane was also asked about their often publicized to industry members ‘rent to own’ or ‘lease purchase option’ process.

I am somewhat familiar w/this situation [i.e; Lackey/Stoney Pointe] but am not comfortable commenting on it, except to say that lease-option contracts are [a] complicated, legally enforceable means of transferring ownership of MHs in some states,” Roane said.  

Roane added, “I’ve bcc’ed Tom on this msg. He will contact you if he wants to discuss it.” 

The SECO website shows Lackey on their planning team.


Editorially, MHProNews believes that the majority of the industry’s professionals are honorable people. Every industry or profession has so-called ‘bad actors.’ Manufactured housing is no exception. But unlike many other industries, manufactured housing is routinely portrayed in a negative fashion in media reports. When allegations are false, they should be disputed. When allegations are true, ignoring them doesn’t help the industry, its home owners and leaves a problematic impression for potential buyers. An industry that policies itself may more often avoid such problems, and thus could avoid onerous legislation or regulations that can result from the ‘bad actions’ of a few. About the case of Tom Lackey and Stoney Pointe, all that is known at this time is as shown and linked. Lackey would not accept the Daily Business News’ offer to have him and/or his attorney explain their version of the events described in the Times Free Press.  To learn more about our view of the industry, its professional and overall happy home owners, click the related report below.” We Provide, You Decide.” ©

Happy MH Owners? Good Professional Actors? Overlooked, “Honorable People”

Apparently, Lackey did not want to explain his view on what took place with Tonya Evans, her family, and 17 other households that live in his community. Should he and/or his attorney offer a comment, we can update this report.



George Allen, photo credit,

Blogger, COBA7 owner, and RV MH Hall of Famer retired Col. George Allen – who has been played a role in the SECO program – declined comment on the troubling story.   

I’m somewhat familiar with the matter. No comment from here,”  Allen said to the Daily Business News via email.  

As Allen’s COBA7 followers and others know, Allen has promoted Roane’s rent-to-own program and SECO for several years.  


What Local Authorities Said

Dealer rules and regulations are very clear,” said Danny Sane, the tax commissioner of Whitfield County. “You’re not supposed to be able to sell a car or a mobile home without the title in your name.”

Sane called the bill of sale ‘worthless,’ per the Times Free Press.

Walker County Tax Commissioner Carolyn Walker said, Mr. Lackey must go through the proper proceedings before he can legally rent, or sell the mobile home [1],” Walker said in an email to the Times Free Press. Their report indicated that Lackey never obtained those titles to the manufactured homes they were ‘selling’ when he purchased the community in 2014.


Evans Paid Cash 

While most of Lackey’s customers were presumably ‘buying’ rent-to-own, Evans and her husband reportedly paid cash for their home.

Now, they’ve packed up and moved on, saying they had been defeated. 

What impact, if any, this has on Stoney Pointe, Lackey, SECO, COBA7 attendees and their followers is not easy to predict.  But some consequences wouldn’t be surprising.  And what will those various residents who thought they would become owners do?

The Times Free Press has signaled that this is going to be an ongoing investigation by their publication.


Will the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) step in and comment on this troubling case? On rent-to-own a.k.a. ‘lease purchase option’ so-called ‘sales’?


A source familiar with the matter from Georgia had this off-the-record comment, “…this is common among Community Owner’s because states don’t have appropriate abandoned housing laws, these guys buy a community and can’t move a home because it has ten years back taxes to pay for because customer died 8 years ago and family want moved the home. Doesn’t mean it’s right though. Georgia has a new Abandoned housing law that goes in effect July 1st that will help avoid this in the future.”

In the era of Google and internet-driven news searches, this is likely to be an ongoing image issue for many other community operators, and arguably the industry at large.  

It is part of what MHI award-winner Marty Lavin, JD,  has called tongue-in-cheek the industry’s “other image campaign.”

Lavin was travelling, and was not able to comment on the specific concerns in this case.  But he has previously noted the principles that people should pay more attention to what people do than what they say, and to follow the money.

  • Will the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) weigh in on the troubling issue?
  • Will MHI defend the reputation of those who strive day-by-day to serve their customers properly? 
  • Will Lackey respond to our numerous attempts to get him to comment on his version of these incidents? 
  • The Chattanooga Times Free Press news report is linked here. ## (News, analysis, and commentary)

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[1] The terminology shown is in the original, and isn’t the proper legal name for the kind of home being described. To learn more about terminology and general industry facts, click here. MHProNews encourages mainstream media, and all others too, to use the proper terminology for each type of home. 

Update, on the record comments from GMHA (5.15.2018 at 11:43 AM ET):


Jay Hamilton, Executive Director, Georgia Manufactured Housing Association (GMHA).

We [GMHA] recognized the state had an issue and so we utilized the legislative process to rectify the problem. We know this [new] law is sound. We used the Alabama law for precedence and invited the states magistrate judges, tax commissioners, and bankers to the table. We worked together for two years until we had 100% agreement,” said Jay Hamilton, Georgia Manufactured Housing Association (GMHA) to MHProNews.

The Daily Business News pressed the GMHA, in a follow up, about Tom Lackey, Stoney Pointe, and the details of this specific matter.  In their follow up reply, Hamilton said via a text message the following.

The GMHA can’t comment on the specifics of such matters,” the GMHA executive director said.

But in general, when a potentially problematic issue exists with a member, there is a code of conduct and process the GMHA follows.”

The association is always focused on resolving underlying issues, and doing so in a manner that respects consumers and members alike,” Hamilton said to MHProNews.

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NYT – Rent to Own Houses Blur Lines, can harm Tenants Seeking Ownership

August 24th, 2016 Comments off

OwnerRenter-creditRealEstateSyracuse-postedDailyBusinessNews-MHProNews-The purported road-to-home ownership cloaked as “Rent to Own” is often found to be harmful and misleading, reports The New York Times.

Although housing prices have recovered from the financial collapse of 2008, borrowers with less than stellar credit reports and those seeking to finance lower priced properties are left to their own measures, the NYTimes says in a recent article.

Unfortunately numbers of tenants are falling victim to the blurred lines between home ownership and reworded rental contracts.

Vision Property Management, the Columbia, S.C. company targeted by the NYT investigation is an example, one of many throughout the nation.

By operating within legal loop holes and gray areas of the law, they are able to take advantage of what are described as unsuspecting tenants through their seller financed ‘Rent to Own’ deals.

These cases often end on a bad note, the NYTimes argues.  Families hoping for a chance at ownership may opt to live in non-inspected, ‘as-is’ houses in need of major repairs.

Since homes are eventually required to abide by the building code, the violations become the responsibility of the tenants, who are threatened with eviction notices if they fail to comply.

The NYTimes report stands in stark contrast with the manufactured housing industry’s affordable new home option, which in many markets, offers a viable alternative to the same demographic group that thinks they want rent to own, when in fact what the desire is ownership; their name on a mortgage, title or owning a home that is free and clear of debt.

The reason some non-profit organizations such as CFED initially find a lot of appeal with manufactured housing, is precisely because low-income households are able to obtain good homes at reasonable prices.

While rent-to-own in housing – and lending to lower credit scores – has been made more challenging by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act, one of the unintended consequences is the loss of potentially viable options to many housing seekers who desire ownership, not rent receipts.

Examples of this was reported in depth last year in Renters Nation – The Dark Side of Dodd-Frank and its Impact on Affordable Housing.  ##

(Image Credit: realestate.syracuse)


Frank Griffin, Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Article submitted by Fank Griffin to Daily Business News – MHProNews.

Finnish Modular Apartments are Rent to Own

April 2nd, 2015 Comments off

finland_modulars_credit_mikko_auerniitty__arch_dailyThe first section of a solid wood, eight-story modular apartment building has been completed in Puukuokka, Finland, offering affordable eco-friendly housing with some extruded balconies and some recessed, and windows stretching from floor to ceiling, giving a sense of openness and light to the units.

Made of larch wood, the cross laminated timber (CLT) is lightweight but strong, provides a vapor barrier and some Finland_modular--mikko_auernity__in_arch_daily__creditheat insulation, and requires fewer joints and less material than in conventional wood building. As archdaily tells MHProNews, on the side facing the street the wood is painted, but left untreated on the courtyard side.

Before occupancy, the sales price is agreed upon, and the future owner pays a seven percent down payment. The remainder is covered by a state-guaranteed bank loan. After renting the apartment for 20 years, the occupant becomes the owner. When completed, the complex will have 150 modular apartments. ##

(Photo credit: archdaily/Mikko Auerniitty–modular apartments in Finland)

matthew-silver-daily-business-news-mhpronews-comArticle submitted by Matthew J. Silver to Daily Business News-MHProNews.