Mobile home park occupants take fight to the state

FLINT TWP. — Residents of South Valley Estates have taken their fight with the mobile home park’s owner to state legislators and the Michigan Attorney General’s office.

State Rep. John Cherry said he and other state legislators have found that Havenpark Management of Orem, Utah, owns nine mobile home parks in the state of Michigan, and residents at those parks have similar complaints about their absentee landlord. Havenpark owns 25 mobile home communities throughout the United States. Attorneys general in Iowa, Indiana and Ohio also have fielded complaints about the company’s business practices.

“We reached out to some of the legislators’ offices and it has come to our attention that parks in other counties are owned by the same out-of-state company,” Cherry said. “We’ve provided the residents with potential legal resources in the attorney general’s office, and we’re also mailing out information on where they can make a complaint with the Michigan Manufactured Housing Commission. We’re also trying to see if there’s something legislatively that we can do to curtail this practice.”

Several South Valley Estates residents attended the July 1 Flint Township Board of Trustees meeting to air complaints about Havenpark Management and its practices, including raising the rent three times in a year, excessive fees and unreasonable requirements. Flint Township Supervisor Karyn Miller met with residents July 3 and put them in touch with Cherry.

Jack Cannon, a resident of the mobile home park, said immediately after meeting with Cherry, Havenpark raised the rent another $25.

“I don’t know if it was in retaliation,” Cannon said. “I just want to know if we can stop it. This is outrageous, they’re killing everybody, buying up parks and raising rents. I thought maybe there was a law to protect seniors, but I guess not. The legislators say their hands are tied right now, and the only way to stop it is through legislation, but that’s not moving fast enough.”

In response to a request for comment, a public relations representative addressed the residents’ concerns on Havenpark’s behalf in an email. Josh Weiss, president of 10 to 1 Public Relations, said Havenpark Management bought South Valley Estates in July 2018, and the average site rent at that time was $325. During the first year, the rent increased to $375, and in July this year, Havenpark announced an increase to $400 for the next year.

“It’s important to note that South Valley is still among the best values in the market as most upscale communities similar in quality and amenities to South Valley are charging between $475-$525 per month,” Weiss wrote.

Cannon pointed out that other parks have clubhouses, swimming pools and tornado shelters, while South Valley has none of those amenities.

He said all tenants must have a signed lease and that they all should have their lease paperwork. He said anyone who does not have their paperwork should contact the site manager immediately. He said all the residents know the site manager and should have her phone number. South Valley shares a site manager with Swartz Creek Estates, and the site manager’s office is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Weiss said Havenpark does charge an additional $25 for corner lots because they are more desirable and/ or occupy more space. He said this charge is standard among professional management companies. If grass is higher than 4 inches, residents are issued a notice to have the grass cut within 48 hours. If it is not cut, a crew will mow, trim and bag the grass for a one-time total charge of $50, not $50 for each at a total of $150. The only pet fees charged are for dogs and cats. He said a rusted or badly worn satellite dish is an eyesore, which violates the lease and devalues everyone’s property. Instead of replacing the dish, an alternative may be decorating or painting the dish.

Weiss said the residents are billed for their water and sewer usage at the same billing rate as the Township. Because the community is privately owned, it receives one single master water bill monthly, which consists of the cumulative use of all the collective residents. He said that because Havenpark pays the master bill each month, it must bill the residents directly. He said in most instances, cities and townships decline requests to directly meter each resident in a manufactured home community.

Cannon said water and sewer was included in the rent until Havenpark bought the park and started billing residents $75 to $100 a month in addition to the rent.

“We’ve been told that they’re expanding and growing rapidly, and they promise a quick return to their investors so that’s why they’re raising everything,” Cannon said.