The owner’s license to operate the Madrone Mobile Estates mobile home park is under suspension, and the landlord cannot collect rent from the nearly 200 households until the noted violations of state code are corrected, according to authorities.
A spokesman from the California Housing and Community Development declined to identify the specific violation that ultimately led to the suspension, but noted that the park has been the subject of a series of other violations and has attempted to collect rent from the tenants anyway.
That leaves residents of the park on Burnett Avenue worrying about how they’re going to keep their water running and the lights on, and who to pay their utility payments to. The homeowners are planning a meeting at the park Friday afternoon to discuss their options.
The license has been suspended since July 3, and in fact, that’s the second time this summer the permit has been suspended. It was suspended on June 13 and reinstated on June 20.
The park’s license to operate was suspended due to a series of issues at the park, some ongoing and all unrelated to each other, that are not notably egregious or hazardous in and of themselves, but which were never responded to or taken seriously by the park’s owner, according to spokesman Dennis Dougan of the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
A notice from the California Department of Housing and Community Development – the department that issues licenses to mobile home parks – is posted throughout the park, including on the front door of the main office and one on the laundry building, stating that the license is suspended and the owner cannot legally collect rent from the residents.
Above that notice is the older letter from the state office from June 20 saying the permit was reinstated.
Based on other reported actions by the landlord toward the residents, the June 20 letter might have been posted in an effort to hoodwink the residents and convince them to pay their rent, according to Dougan.
Dougan “was not there,” but he heard from residents that someone associated with the park, which is owned by Madrone Estates LLC, had removed previous public notifications that the license had been suspended, which is a misdemeanor. Dougan said this time he personally posted the notification and added another notice stating that its removal is a crime.
An employee of the park who was working in the front office Thursday afternoon pointed at the June 20 letter, posted on a large window between the main lobby and the office, when asked how the owner will be able to maintain the property and keep utilities running without residents’ monthly payments.
The employee, Ramon Agustin, said the park can still collect rent for July.
However, when a Times reporter pointed to the sign on the outside front window dated July 3, stating the permit was suspended again, Agustin said he would give the Times’ phone number to the owner and ask her to call. No one from the office returned phone calls Thursday.
Authorities have also heard from residents who have said the property management has repeatedly told them they still have to pay rent even while the license is suspended, Dougan said.
Dougan’s voicemail greeting on Thursday afternoon said to residents calling from Madrone Mobile Estates that they do not have to pay rent for July, until the permit suspension is lifted.
“A notice will be posted when the park’s permit has been reinstated,” Dougan’s recording said. “The notice on the door (from June 20) is void. It does not count.”
He also suggested that residents call the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office for further advice or assistance.
One resident, Eric Gould, 58, said he’s “scared” about the possibility of not being able to pay his utilities, which he said are all under the owner’s account.
“If you don’t pay your utilities you normally get tossed out,” said Gould, who helped organize the Friday afternoon meeting with residents and the Golden State Manufactured Homeowners League.
Gould has lived in the park since 1989. His rent-only payment last month was about $562. Adding water, gas and electricity costs he paid about $716 for the month.
The city of Morgan Hill provides water to the park, and City Manager Ed Tewes said the water account is under a “master meter” that is paid monthly – and usually on time – by the owner of the mobile home park.
Next month’s water bill goes out next week, and city staff expect a timely payment from Madrone.
“The city is prepared to work with the tenants, but we anticipate the property manager will want to do the same as well,” Tewes said.
PG&E, the park’s likely electricity provider, could not be contacted before press time.
Dougan added that the state law regulating mobile home parks states that the owner of the park is “ultimately responsible” for the maintenance and safe operation of the facility, regardless of payments from tenants.
The first issue has to do with a periodic safety inspection at Madrone Mobile Estates that started about six months ago, Dougan said. The state conducted the inspections and found several minor violations, both on the part of the owner and some of the individual residents.
The inspectors notified the offenders of their violations, and planned to go back for a re-inspection to ensure all the violations were corrected after 60 days. Dougan said that part of the process has not been finished.
The second problem has to do with routine paperwork that all mobile home parks are required to submit to the state in order to maintain their permit to operate, Dougan said. The owner of the Madrone facility did not turn in the paperwork on time. And even though the state is “very lenient” with such deadlines, “They just weren’t doing it,” Dougan said.
That’s what prompted the first suspension of the permit this summer on June 13. The owner was able to comply less than seven days later and the suspension was lifted June 20.
“Very few, if any” of the tenants of the park knew about that suspension, as that’s when the owner or property manager removed the notice posted on the property by Housing and Community Development.
Finally, an anonymous complaint in November prompted the July 3 suspension. That complaint tipped authorities to a violation that the owner gave “minimal response” to the state regulator after a state investigation. Dougan declined to state the specific violation, but he said it did not pose a serious danger to residents.
Madrone Mobile Estates resident Bob Webster, 70, has lived in the community since 1988 and he pays about $580 per month, not including utilities. The current owner, he said, acquired the property “three or four years ago.”
He’s worried about his lights staying on too.
“Who’s going to read the meters and let us know what we owe for utilities?” Webster wondered.