Mobile home park residents speak out about absentee landlord

FLINT TWP. — About 20 residents of South Valley Estates mobile home park in Flint Township have asked the Board of Trustees’ help in dealing with what they say are unreasonable demands from an absentee landlord.

The park has been owned by Havenpark Management of Orem, Utah, for about a year, according to the residents. They say the company owns several other mobile home parks in Genesee County.

Residents said issues with the park owners range from rent increases of up to $100 a month to measuring lawns and charging $50 each for mowing, trimming and bagging if the grass is higher than 4 inches to requiring a monthly $15 pet fee for keeping a goldfish. Some of the residents said they are being “nickeled and dimed” to the point they may not be able to afford to continue living there.

Diana O’Connell has lived at South Valley Estates for 33 years and said the new owners raised her rent $75 a month. She said the residents were told they all have to sign new leases by July 31, even if they own their homes, but about half the residents still haven’t received their paperwork.

“We don’t have an onsite manager,” she said. “A lot of us are older and on fixed incomes. Now we’re told to sign the lease by the 31st, and half of us haven’t gotten a lease. They want 30 days’ notice when we leave. Why can’t we have 30 days’ notice? They’ve raised the rent three times in a year. Even if we sign the lease, they can raise the rent again.”

Cathi David said her rent was $335 a year ago, but it’s now $431 and going up another $25 in August. David and her daughter, Amanda David, share the home.

“I’m one who’s going to have to sell my home because I can’t afford to live there anymore,” she said.

Jackie Perry has lived in South Valley Estates for 28 years and is now paying an additional $25 a month because she lives on a corner lot. She said the owners charge $50 for speeding and parking violations, but there is no one onsite to enforce that. She said the lease states the owners can come in and inspect the homes, even if the home is owned by the resident. The residents also have been told that they must decorate television satellite dishes so they aren’t noticeable from the street.

“How are we supposed to get any reception with decorations hanging off of them?” she asked.

Mary Hunt has lived in the mobile home park for 28 years. She said new water meters were installed on everyone’s home, but everyone is billed the same amount for water and sewer.

“We’re paying an administrative fee for them to print out our bill,” Hunt said. “Why are we getting a water bill from them and not the township? The meter sends the information to a satellite, and they tell us what we owe. Everyone’s bill is the same. You could have 10 kids, and we’d still be paying the same. It’s a very hostile environment. It’s going to be harder if the rent keeps going up like this.”

Vicki Brill said she was paying $750 a month rent, and now she’s paying almost $1,000 rent on a fixed income.

“They’re taking advantage of all of us,” she said. “Other people can’t afford to just pick up and move.”

The group said at Monday’s meeting they have tried to contact the owners with their concerns, but they said their calls are never answered or returned, and they don’t know who to turn to. They said the woman who works in the South Valley Estates office tells them that she is not able to contact the owners either.

Township Supervisor Karyn Miller asked the residents to talk with her after the meeting and give her their contact information so they could make a plan going forward. On Tuesday, Miller said she had contacted the township’s attorney, and she plans to meet with two representatives of the group today (Thursday) to share his advice. She said she also contacted state Rep. John Cherry, who will be speaking with the Michigan Manufactured Home Association to see what assistance they can give the residents.

Havenpark Management did not respond to a request for comment.