Residents stand up to landlord - Morgan Hill Times: City Local Government

Residents stand up to landlord

Madrone Mobile Estates residents worry utilities will shut off because of state violations against owner

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Posted: Monday, July 16, 2012 5:29 pm

Residents of Madrone Mobile Estates resurrected the community’s dormant homeowners’ association last week in response to the landlord’s loss of the permit to run the park, in hopes of gaining some control over the provision of electricity and water service to their homes.

Representing about 200 homes in the mobile home park, the residents are primarily worried about the utilities being shut off after the state suspended the park owner’s permit. During the permit suspension the park’s owner, Madrone Estates, LLC, cannot collect payments from the tenants.  

But they also listed a history of unscrupulous and irresponsible actions on the part of the owner toward the tenants in recent years, ranging from what some think is a prolonged effort to keep new residents from moving in, to recent incidents of “intimidation” and “harassment” to force existing residents to pay rent anyway.

No one answered phone calls to a number for the landlord, provided to the Times by park staff last week. A profile page on the website lists Joni Yohanan as an associate of Madrone Estates, LLC, which is based in San Francisco.

The California Department of Housing and Community Development suspended the operator’s permit as of July 3 due to unspecified violations of the state health and safety code.

The owner has failed to remedy the violations, according to department of housing spokesman Dennis Dougan, who has refused thus far to detail the violations that prompted the suspension.

The current suspension follows an unrelated suspension of the permit in June, after which residents reported they never saw a notice informing them of the violation which is required to be posted on the property by law.

The residents also said since July 3, the owner and park staff have continued to attempt to collect rent even though such an action would be unlawful.

On Friday, the park’s homeowners’ association gathered for their first meeting in about five years, according to resident Eric Gould, 58, who has lived in the park for more than 20 years.

The residents elected a new board of directors and scheduled another meeting for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

“What I’m worried about is my electricity, gas and water. There’s no way to pay,” Gould said. “People have disabilities here. If the power did go off, a lot of people could be hurt, and I’m one of them.”

The landlord has always been responsible for collecting utility payments from the tenants, and then paying the monthly utilities which are all under the owner’s name.

The residents might not have to fear much longer. Even though the next monthly bills are not due yet, in the event that the landlord does not pay the bills the utility providers are willing to work with the individual households to avoid shutoff.

“We’re going to work with the residents to get the utilities into their names on a moving forward basis,” said Jason King, spokesman for PG&E, the community’s electricity and gas provider. “Everything’s going to be taken care of, and the customers don’t have anything to worry about.”

The city of Morgan Hill is the mobile home park’s water provider. While City Manager Ed Tewes expects the landlord to pay next month’s bill on time, he said the city would also work with the residents to avoid cutting off service.

Roger McConnell of the advocacy group Golden State Manufactured Home Owners League, attended Friday’s meeting on behalf of his organization, which offers advice and assistance and lobbying services for residents of mobile homes throughout California.

The first step, McConnell said, is to “get the HOA back in place.” The GSMOL is also in contact with an attorney to seek advice for the residents.

Residents at the meeting noted that they did not know about a previous license suspension in June, from June 13 to June 20 when the owner corrected the violation, and the owner collected rent for that week anyway. In that case, Madrone Estates LLC failed to provide routine paperwork required by the state of all mobile home park operators in California, according to Dougan.

McConnell thinks the current violations are related to a lack of a disaster preparedness plan and inadequate fire hydrants at the park.

A resident who insisted on anonymity said the landlord and staff have been “hassling” the tenants to pay their monthly rent, which hovers around the $500 range for most of the residents.

Other residents said going back at least seven years, the landlord has declined to allow new tenants to move in when others move out. They said there are at least 30 vacant spots throughout the park, and the landlord has refused to approve new buyers when existing residents try to sell their mobile homes.

“About three years ago they started hauling trailers out of here,” said resident Gary Schroeder, 58, who has lived in the park since 1989. “I think they’re trying to limit the number of people to pay off when it’s time to get us out,” in case the owner tries to sell the park.

Schroeder added that he saw park management and staff removing notices of the license suspension when they were distributed throughout the park earlier this month. Unaware of the suspension, Schroeder and other residents paid their rent for July, and he said his check has already been cashed.

“That’s outright fraud,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder listed other examples of past abuse, including attempting to “get rid of” select tenants by trying to cite and fine them for minor aesthetic and maintenance shortcomings on their lots.

The residents added the owner is “inaccessible,” and the park staff refuse to release their contact information or even tell them who is associated with the management company.

“They are very unfriendly toward the residents,” said the resident who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisal. “They are hostile.”

While the specific violations for which the park’s license was suspended are not identified, at least one unit was cited twice by the department of housing this year – once in January and once in April – for “severe long-term moisture” buildup and apparent mold contamination.

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1 comment:

  • larryjohnson posted at 9:19 am on Tue, Jul 17, 2012.

    larryjohnson Posts: 86

    Mobile Home owners are extremely vulnerable to the park owners/management. Mobile Home owners own their home, but rent the land the homes sit on.

    Despite the name, Mobile Homes are not mobile. A large part of the value of the mobile home is just because it sits on land, even if it is rented. Nobody is opening new mobile home parks in the area, so available spaces to place a mobile home on are practically non-existent.

    Also another significant value of the mobile home are things like landscaping, fences, patios, car ports and storage sheds that cannot move. When you figure in the cost to actually disassemble, move and re-assemble the mobile home and reconnect utilities, you'll see the cost to move is prohibitive.

    Many mobile home owners are low income, elderly, disabled or have large families which cannot easily move, nor can they afford to high expensive lawyers.

    That's why it's so reprehensible when companies buy mobile home parks with the intention to drive out the mobile home owners so they can build condos on the land.