BETTY LOVEL COMENTARY
In an atmosphere of ever expanding business opportunities, corporations gobbling up one another, deregulation running rampant, all in the pursuit of obscene profits, questions need to be asked. At what point does legitimate pursuit of wealth become an illegal pursuit of greed?
I am speaking specifically of the highly lucrative, profit driven Mobilehome Park Industry, a monopoly of gigantic proportions.
A proliferation of mobilehome park “takeovers” which began in the ‘70’s, by investors and developers, ended an era of “Mom and Pop” owned parks. Mom and Pop were honest, hard working, morally responsible, and shared a mutual respect with the people (Homeowners) who provided their livelihood. All of that ended when the takeovers began. While providing a decent living to Mom and Pop, Big Business began to take opportunistic advantage of Homeowners vulnerability. To this very day, the assaults continue as the means to justify the ends – increased profits.
Year after year, the assaults have intensified. The Mobilehome Park Industry has become more and more aggressive in its efforts to destroy mobilehome living as we have known it. Mobilehome Owners are invited, enticed, and lured by park owners to buy and live on their properties, often owning and operating the sales office, which leads prospective buyers to believe they will get a “better deal:. “Ripped off” is closer to reality. Cash bonds are required if a prospective homeowner wishes to purchase from an outside dealer, thereby assuring the park owner will get the sale. Quite a racket. Unfair business practice?
Throughout the years, space rents continually escalated, with no indication of tapering off. In fact, just the opposite occurred. With guidance from GSMOL, Homeowners in over 100 locations were able to petition their local governments to adopt rent stabilization ordinances. No longer could park owners raise space rents without proper justification. This angered the mighty giant, Industry.
Unconscionable leases have been an ongoing threat to the stability of rent control and affordable housing, i.e. mobilehomes/manufactured housing. The Wma is implementing multi-year leases in a statewide endeavor to eliminate rent control. The vulnerability of Homeowners has never been greater. Deceit is at an all time high. Park Owners rely on the trusting, unsuspecting innocence of uninformed Homeowners and prospective buyers. Many Homeowners unable to sell their homes due to the outrageous space rents, are forced to sell to the “caring” park owner who rents out the home and the space, thereby greatly increasing his profits and leaving the renter without any protections afforded under the MRL or any Rent Stabilization Ordinance. The WMA is an advocate of this practice. Another end-run around mobilehome laws. Collusion? Fraud?
Failure to maintain their parks has over the years increased park owner profits, thereby they are enjoying undue enrichments. When, and if they finally instigate repairs, etc., they “need” to increase the space rent. Large-scale items such as decades old trees whose roots are uplifting streets, sidewalks, mobilehomes, yards, carports, or have been dead for years and put Homeowners in danger are, by P.O. definition, “the responsibility of the Homeowners”! The same illogical thinking encompasses driveways as well. The Wma is fostering this absurd scheme. Conspiracy? Thousands of dollars have been paid out by Homeowners for three removal and driveway replacement to protect their home and space from further damage. At the expense of the Homeowner the PO enjoys the enhancement of his park, as well as value, and a bonus of a larger profit. Many Homeowners are afraid not to do the Pos bidding – the inference is EVICTION. Intimidation?
The list goes on. And, on and on. Go back ten, fifteen, twenty years. The “ Californian” paints a factual picture, year by year, of the Industry’s deliberate, progressive practices in order to gain unfair advantage and control of every mobilehome owner in the state.
The power of the Industry knows no bounds. The WMA, Park Owners, et al, tried in 1996 with Prop 199, to prohibit mobilehome rent control in every locality of the state. Through the guidance of GSMOL, HOs brought the issue to the attention of the voters, by speaking before clubs and organizations, letters to the editors, fliers, getting the truth to them, and defeated Prop 199.
The wounded giant Industry has retaliated in almost unbelievable ways, more vicious than ever, in its quest to eliminate the protections of rent stabilization and a systematic assault on the Mobilehome Residency Law. The intent being to dismantle it, bit by bit. Lawlessness?
The WMA is aggressively making rounds of cities and counties, their spokesman and attorneys insinuating themselves into the good favor of local officials. If there is a rent ordinance in place, they attempt to dismantle it, and if they can’t the threaten court action. Small cities cave in. Homeowners lose. When a city or county proposes to adopt an ordinance, the spokesman and attorneys show up, make threats of court action and, once again Homeowners lose. Local officials have become subservient to the Industry, and no longer serve the mobilehome owners electorate of their community. Through the Wma and WMA-PAC, the Industry is able to gain access to candidates, elected officials and their staffs, building relations with those who are in the position to do them the most good. Intimidation? Conspiracy? Bribery?
Has the Industry ‘morphed into an untouchable venue for corruption? Are there similarities between the Industry and organized crime?
The Industry has a stranglehold on the availability of mobilehomes as a source of affordable housing. Local governments depend on mobilehome parks as a major part of their affordable housing supply. They are in jeopardy of losing state and federal affordable housing grants, while the Industry dictates policy of eliminating affordable housing in mobilehome parks. The state with all of its resources, should be investigating this, one of the largest, virtually uncontrolled monopolies in the state of California. Where is the Attorney General?
It would be a monumental, but not impossible task to document the systematic efforts of the Industry to obstruct local governments control, as well as state legislation, threats and intimidation of mobilehome owners, fraud, unfair business practices, conspiracy, denial of constitutional rights and much more.
It is time to stand up to the “untouchable’ Industry before it is too late. In these United States of America, the very embodiment of freedom, monopolistic control over any citizen’s life is unthinkable. My freedoms are not for sale. The Industry has declared war – we cannot surrender. We must join forces with our allies, whoever they may be, and take the fight directly to the Industry. Enough is enough.
Editors Note: WMA is Western Manuractured Communities Association, the park owners group
GSMOL is Golden State Mobilehome Owners League, a mobile home owners advocacy group.
Betty Lovel belongs to GSMOL and CoMO-CAL and resides in Orcutt, California We thank Betty for her contribution, which was written in 2001.