This newsletter is devoted to the subject termed “park management problems” by the Senate Select Committee on Mobile and Manufactured Homes (Senator Joseph Dunn, Chairman).
Actually the “problems” include actions park managers and owners take against residents. These include violations of the MRL, harassment, intimidation, and others. These are often the focus of residents complaints, (see page 2) yet we are still waiting for some assistance from state and local government.
Those of us who have experienced such problems quickly realize that the Housing and Community Development (HCD) has little or no power to enforce the Civil Codes found in the Mobilehome Residency Law and continues to have budget problems. Don’t write to the Ombudsman for help with MRL issues.
A small portion of the public hearing of October 19, 2004 before Senator Dunn is published here on pages 3-5. This testimony should only strengthen our feeling that these types of problems occur across the state, they are not isolated incidents as the park owners would have us believe, and they have occurred, without any real action, for over 20 years. Shouldn’t we TAKE A STAND NOW? Or are we willing to endure another 20 years under the oppression of those managers who feel they are above the law and park owners who are motivated to break the law for financial gain and greed. You and I, our friends and neighbors living in mobilehome parks need to UNITE TOGETHER!
Last year on October 19th Senator Dunn heard testimony from about 22 witnesses, most of whom are mobilehome owners. CoMO-LAC feels this subject is very important to our members and provides excerpts from the hearing below. Copies of the full transcript of the hearing (Senate Publication #1306-S) may be purchased from Senate Publications, 1020 N Street, Room B-53, Sacramento, Ca. 95814 for $7.75 plus current California sales tax. Make checks payable to Senate Rules Committee.
SENATOR DUNN HEARING—OCTOBER 19, 2004
MOBILEHOME PARK MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS
Background (by Senator Dunn’s Staff)
There are approximately 4,850 mobilehome parks and manufactured housing communities in California providing spaces for an estimated 675,000 residents. A mobilehome park is an area or tract of land where two or more mobilehome sites are rented, or held out for rent, to accommodate mobilehomes used for human habitation.
Mobilehome park owners hire managers to perform various functions in the operation of the park, such as collecting the rent, reading utility meters, providing security in the park, arranging for the use of the clubhouse or recreational facilities, if any, enforcing the park rules, providing various notices required by law to the residents, maintaining or overseeing the maintenance of the park, managing the office and books, and dealing with homeowner/resident complaints, among other duties.
Some parks are operated by professional property management companies that select and train site managers. The Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA) has their own management training program available to member parks. Other parks, usually smaller older parks, hire whomever they can find, sometimes even a long-term resident, to collect the rent, oversee maintenance, and run the office. Sometimes these individuals may be more akin to caretakers than managers. The Health and Safety Code requires a responsible person to be available in emergencies who has knowledge of the common area facilities and the utility systems, and in parks of 50 or more spaces that person must reside in the park. The person must be reachable by phone, cell phone, answering service, or pager to respond in case of emergencies. This person is not specifically required by law to be the site manager, but any person so designated by the park to fulfill that responsibility.
Manager Problems (by Senator Dunn’s Staff)
The number of complaints to the Committee about manager problems has increased in the last few years. Testimony that the Committee will hear will illustrate the management problems, which some residents contend necessitate reform. In summary, these often involve disputes between the manager and a resident or residents regarding enforcement of the park rules, unwillingness of the management to approve the resale of a mobilehome in the park, utility billing and meter reading or a number of other issues. Sometimes this tension between the residents and the site manager is the result of a lack of communication on both sides or it may involve the attitude of the resident or the manager. Not infrequently residents perceive that the manager is harassing or otherwise mistreating them, particularly if the manager threatens them. In other cases it is simply a matter of alleged neglect or incompetence on the part of the manager. Residents contend that the lack of information or knowledge on the part of managers, particularly of the Mobilehome Residency Law, leads to the management’s refusal to recognize certain resident rights. This in turn leads to confrontation and bitterness between the park resident(s) and the manager. A common complaint to the Select Committee is that some parks deal with residents in a heavy-handed fashion, intimidating
them through threats of reprisal or eviction if they complain about park health and safety violations or the enforcement or lack of enforcement of park rules. On the other hand, the park industry argues that in many cases a dispute is just as much the fault of the homeowner as the manager. Moreover, they point out that the major state park association already has a training program and that the costs of administering and enforcing legislatively mandated manager licensing and training program will drive up the cost of housing in mobilehome parks without guaranteeing that manager-homeowner disputes will or can be resolved, notwithstanding such licensing.
Excerpt from Milt Burdick, VP GSMOL
- Park Owners often hire or own management types such as Sierra Management Corporation who in turn hire on-site managers. When Homeowners have problems with on-site managers, and the management company that hired them, the Park owner is insulated from the problem. The MRL 798.28 requires management to give the Homeowner the name and business address of owner, often times the business address and phone number is the park address and phone number. MRL 798.28 should be changed to read that this information should reflect where the Homeowner can contact the Park Owner in person.
- HCD WEB page which has Mobilehome Park and RV Listings is in bad need of updating. Wrong park names, wrong owner, many owners or operators only list park address or PO Boxes. The list with this misinformation is unreliable to use.
Gang Style Management” A number of Mobilehome Parks operate with this style of management. Some Mobilehome park management companies (and in some cases Park Owners) off-site and on-site management is the GANG leaders, Corporate Lawyers, are the GANG members. Homeowners and Residents are the neighborhood residents. The threat is put out by management, real or imaginary that if you challenge park management we’ll get you one way or the other, such as Rules and Regulation violations (most of the time drummed up charges), unfair rent increases, threat of eviction, harassment by management until you move. At least in a GANG infested neighborhood residents have the police if necessary—-Mobilehome owners and residents have little or nothing at all if they do not have a homeowners association or a GSMOL Chapter in their park to fight for their rights.
MRL, leads to the management’s refusal to recognize certain resident rights. This in turn leads to confrontation and bitterness between the park residents and the manager. A common complaint ot the Select Committee is that some parks deal with residents in a heavy-handed fashion, intimidating them through threats of reprisal or eviction if they complain about park health and safety violations or the enforcement or lack of enforcement of park rules.
Rules and Regulations (798. Article 3) (by Milt Burdick)
Selective enforcement of rules and regulations, allow one Homeowner to do something and deny the next Homeowner.
Some Park Owners change the R&R at will. They refuse to comply with MRL Section 798.25(a) which requires a meeting with Homeowners and providing a 10 day notice of said meeting,
Park management and or its employees or other representatives refusal to follow R&R as required by 798.23(a) in some parks.
Homeowner has park management approval for a project such as shed location, landscaping, paint color of home, number of cars…the existing manager is replaced, the new manager changes these items previously agreed to.
I am sure if you were to audit HCD records state wide on complaints filed on form HCD-OL-419 you would be shocked at some of the complaints filed plus HCD only has the power to suggest and the Park Owners know it.
Homeowners in some parks have park managers removing personal mail (non US postal mail) from resident’s mail tubes, such as GSMOL information bulletins and meeting notices. Also telling GSMOL Chapters they can’t use the tubes to communicate with Homeowners.
Mobilehome Residency Law (MRL) (by Milt Burdick )
Park Owners/Managers and employees fail to comply with the Mobilehome Residency Law Regulations with little or no repercussions, because Homeowners are told these are civil matters and require court action. Most Homeowners are seniors or low income citizens and can not afford to hire legal help, so violations go unheeded and Park Owners keep collecting our space rents to fight the Homeowners who dare to take legal action to protect their rights. Homeowners pay Park Owners space rent, and Park Owners turn around and use our money to fight us in court.
Listed below are items that seem special to park managers to ignore or not follow.
- Rent statements are not delivered (in most Parks) as stated in 798.14. Statements are placed in resident’s personal mail tube, not in person or by U.S. Mail.
- 798.15. Some parks do not give written rental or lease agreements to Homeowners. Also, residents are not being offered a 12 months or less type agreement.
- 798.24. Need to add language that Park Management or their representative will not enter on a resident’s lot except for emergency or planned maintenance. Park managers are entering resident’s lot to be nosy and for harassment purposes or just to tell Homeowners you have no right to privacy as long as I am the manager.
- 798.28. Will not give out park owner’s business address and phone number.
- 798.29.5. Management is failing to give 72 hour notice of utility interruptions for non-emergency planned maintenance.
- 798.33. Some park management are allowing Homeowners to have large dogs that may be a threat to park residents.
- 798.34. Fees being charged when not required, numerous problems in this area.
- 798.37.5. Trees and driveways – this item is being totally abused by park management and HCD lacks personnel to do their part as stated in 798(a)
- 798.38. Some parks are not posting rate schedules or they are posting the wrong one. Some parks are not posting information on low income gas discounts. Also water, trash and sewer rates should be added to this section. Some Park owners are over charging Homeowners on these items.
- When a park goes to Sub-metering of its utilities, Park Owner it is not reducing rents accordingly.
- 798.51. Some park owners will not allow Homeowners to use the clubhouse for GSMOL meetings or they want to charge a fee.
798.73, 798.73.5 and 798.82. Some park owners or managers are interfering in the sale of older homes and demanding that they be removed from the park based on age only, so they can bring newer Mobilehomes into the park.
STAFF SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Approximately 20 witnesses testified, almost all of whom were mobilehome park residents or former residents. Representatives of the park industry did not attend due to a western states park owners’ convention held at the same time in Reno, Nevada, of which the committee was not aware at the time the October 19th hearing was scheduled
The committee heard numerous complaints about management problems in various parks, from specific cases to general accusations. A couple witnesses testified that they did not have specific problems in their parks but “knew” of problems in neighboring parks from friends. A few, alluding to a 1982 San Diego hearing of this committee addressing management problems, were critical of the fact that nothing had been done in the 22 years since the first hearing. The chair requested that, in addition to a litany of complaints, speakers focus on constructive suggestions to remedy those complaints. Additional testimony and information may also be found in the Appendix in the form of letters or statements to the committee by residents, resident organizations or park associations forwarded to the committee since the hearing or prior to this printing.
Generally speaking, testimony at the hearing included allegations that managers unreasonably interfered with residents’ resale of their homes, managers made arbitrary rule changes or made up rules as they went along, managers enforced park rules unevenly, managers did not attend to maintenance problems in the park, such as sewage leaks or back-up or electrical and lighting problems, managers retaliated against enforcement agencies, managers violated or were ignorant of various provisions of the Mobilehome Residency Law (MRL) relating to resident rights, or that managers generally harassed, intimidated, bullied or yelled at residents in some parks. A few complained that they had no site manager in their park at all and that no one responded or responded only after considerable delay, in the event of a park problem or emergency. Some of the testimony also digressed into other issues.
The most frequently mentioned recommendation was that state set up a process for licensing-or at least certification-of park managers that included an education and testing component, arguing that this kind of process is necessary to raise the overall level of quality of managers over time. Both the Department of Real Estate (DRE) and Housing and Community Development (HCD) were mentioned as possible licensing agencies. Due to the problem of the state cost of a licensing program, some suggested a phased-in-manager certification program would be a less expensive alternative. HCD would establish basic educational standards for certification and testing with homeowner and industry input by a certain future date.
Managers would have an additional year or more after the standards were adopted to become certified through a private educational process, such as that offered by park association training programs. Parks would thereafter, at the time of the renewal of their permit to operate (PTO) have to provide HCD lists of their managers and vouchsafe their certification as a condition of renewal of the PTO.
Other recommendations by witnesses included:
Creation of local mediation boards to resolve manager-resident problems
Creation of penalties or greater responsibility—presumably strict liability—for parks for the misdeeds of their park managers
A state requirement for bonding of park managers
A state requirement for criminal background checks for managers
Creation of a state task force to explore dealing with management problems
A state requirement that parks have on-site managers especially for emergencies
Establishment of model park rules and regulations, presumably in the MRL
The commitment of more state resources to the enforcement of existing mobilehome laws, or local and state prosecutorial enforcement of the MRL
Establishment of some kind of standard of care in the management of parks, particularly with regard to seniors or children
Additional opportunities for homeowners to buy their parks, presumably the right of first refusal or more state loan funding.
More oversight of unreasonable parking and towing practices in parks
A prohibition on “incentives” for parks from buying evicted residents’ homes for a dime on the dollar so the park can resell them, or replace them with new homes, for a park profit—presumably a change in the warehouseman’s lien process;
A state requirement for playgrounds for children in “open” or family parks.
The above is simply a list of the major recommendations made at the hearing, though not an exhaustive one. It is unclear how some of these suggestions would work or how—in a few cases—they relate to the focus of the hearing. At past hearings, park owner representatives have characterized resident complaints as anecdotal or isolated incidents, and with regard to management issues point out that ongoing association training programs and seminars raise the standard of the industry and help to resolve such problems. Given the fact homeowners have a vested interest in their homes in most parks and many of them are a “vulnerable” population (seniors), even if not all the complaints are accurate or simply anecdotal, the call for licensing is understandable.
The committee has taken some heat for not addressing this issue 22 years ago. But the costs of licensing and the bureaucracy required to implement it fly in the face of the direction of state government more today than even in 1982—that is—greater efficiency, fewer costs and less bureaucracy. Moreover, the costs of licensing would have to be weighed against the problems which licensing is supposed to address, at least if they are the kinds of “problems” and “abuses” on which testimony was heard at this hearing. Would licensing really solve these cases or would abusive managers simply be licensed? Granted, potential repercussions for managers might be greater in terms of suspension or permanent loss of a license, but the burden of proof or appeal to the licensing bureaucracy would still be the homeowner’s burden, much as any homeowner case against management in court today. The question is whether there are more effective alternatives.
Certification will have inherent costs for the state as well, depending on how it would be set up. If there was a minimum state oversight, it may be a more realistic long-range goal than licensing if the industry can be persuaded that certification will benefit the park industry. There may be other suggestions that can be addressed as well, such as requiring criminal background checks, a manager standard of care, or possibly manager bonding. Revisiting the issue of on-site managers, who can be available in emergencies, also has merit, as current law in this regard is both confusing and convoluted.
The chair has already agreed to implement one of the recommendations of this hearing—the establishment of a task force of approximately 10 homeowner, industry and other representatives to discuss management “issues” and certification and other suggestions. The task force met for the first time in January (2005) and will continue to meet periodically throughout the year.
(From Senate Publication Number 1306-S—available from Senate Publications, 1020 N Street, Room B-53, Sacramento, Ca. 95814 (916) 327-2155)
AB 1469 ( Negrete-Mcleod) Park Manager Licensing – Assembly Housing & Community Development – This is a 2 year bill.. WE ASK OUR MEMBERS TO SUPPORT THIS IMPORTANT BILL.