With the new year COMO-CAL formally begins its groundbreaking Free Individual Limited Legal Services (“FILLS”) Program. FILLS empowers mobilehome residents to assert and protect their rights under the Mobilehome Residency Law and the Mobilehome Parks Act. To our knowledge the FILLS program is the first of its kind in California. FILLS is free to all members of COMO-CAl and allows them access to expert legal advice and protect their rights as mobilehome residents without additional cost. FILLS is available only to individual COMO-CAL members.
Here’s how FILLS works. Once a mobilehome resident joins COMO-CAL, he/she becomes part of the FILLS program, and can obtain limited legal services under it by completing a COMO-CAL request form and returning it to COMO-CAL, by mail. FILLS participation entitles the resident up to two attorney letters, one hour of attorney research or consultation time, attorney responses to two legal questions, and, for litigation or other protracted legal matters, a deep discount in hourly attorney fees, in my case from $425 to $150 per hour. Moreover, FILLS legal services are rendered expeditiously. My FILLS agreement with COMO-CAL requires me to respond to member inquiries within 24 hours, render simple legal opinions within 48 hours, and produce letter within 4 days, provided of course that I receive all of the information necessary to accomplish these tasks. Naturally, FILLS cannot be used for legal causes or issues that lack sufficient merit or are clearly impractical to pursue, and those judgments must be made by the FILLS attorney. But with those limitations, the FILLS program offers to you, the mobilehome resident, an almost free path to expert MRL and MHA advice, and the clout to make mobilehome park owners and management sit up and listen.
FILLS replaces, and greatly improves upon, COMO-CAL’s well-received discount legal service program. I participated in that program too. In that program COMO-CAL members paid discounted fees for specific tasks. For mobilehome residents that program was a great improvement over a blind search for legal counsel in the open market, but nonetheless residents could end up with significant legal bills if multiple tasks were necessary. In FILLS, members make a single, modest payment of $25 each year for a variety of services, including common legal tasks, in total more legal services than the typical mobilehome owner needs in five or more years! Even fees for litigation and other long-term legal work are cut by almost two-thirds!
COMO-CAL’s objective for FILLS is to level the playing field between mobilehome residents on the one hand and mobilehome park owners and managers on the other. COMO-CAL is proud to offer this unique empowerment to its members, and I am excited to be a founding attorney in the FILLS program. We hope that you’ll take advantage of FILLS when you really need it, and that you’ll find the program – and the other information and advocacy benefits of COMO-CAL membership – of great assistance in protecting and enhancing your mobilehome lifestyle.
JON STANLEY HEIM, Attorney at Law
4040 Civic Center Drive,
San Rafael, CA 94903
The New Legal Services Program Questions & Answers
We are excited to offer our new “Free Individual Limited Legal Services Program (FILLS).” Eventually every member will have free legal services, covered only by membership dues, without additional cost. No one else is offering this service!
Every member will get up to one hour legal consultation, two letters, and two legal questions per year, without additional cost. Under our present program, the cost would be over $400! If you went to another attorney, it could cost several thousand dollars. We are able to offer this program because the cost is spread among all members. Unity does work and there really is Strength in Numbers. Today we are proving it!
Now you have a tool to deal with many issues that you might encounter in your park. Please use the program and tell your friends and neighbors about it. We want to stop violations of the law by park owners and managers. We want you to be able to live in peace and enjoy your lives in parks here in California. Here are some questions about the program:
Question: When Did the Program Start? Answer: The “Free Individual Limited Legal Services Program” (FILLS) started January 1, 2011. New members must wait 45 days after joining before using the service (or pay an additonal $100 if they need the service immediately). This program is paid through membership dues and is offered by COMO-CAL, in conjunction with Attorney Jon Heim of San Rafael. Jon Heim is well versed in the Mobilehome Residency Law and other laws that were written to protect mobile/manufactured home owners.
Question: What services are offered by FILLS? Answer: All members who have paid the $5 for early coverage or renewed for $25 will receive up to one hour of legal consultation with an attorney, plus two letters and two legal questions per year. Additional services will be available at significantly reduced rates to be determined by the attorney.
Question: Will membership dues increase? Answer: Yes. As of January 1, 2011 COMO-CAL membership dues shall be $25/year and we will no longer offer multiple year memberships.
Question: Will my renewal date change? Answer: No. Even if you renewal date is in 2011, 2012 or 2013, your renewal date will not change. But remember, all renewals after 1/1/2011 will be $25.
Question: When am I covered by FILLS? Answer: You are covered when you renew ($25); however if you want coverage starting 1/1/2011, please send $5 to COMO-CAL on or prior to 1/1/2011. This will guarantee coverage for 2011. You can send us $5 after 1/1/2011; however you will only be covered between the time we receive it and the end of 2011. If you would rather wait for your renewal date, you will be covered as of the time we receive your $25 renewal.
Question: I paid $25 to join the “reduced fee legal services program.” What will happen to that money? Can I get a refund? Answer: The ”reduced fee services program” will end 12/31/2010. Current members who paid $25 for the “reduced fee legal services program” in 2010 will automatically receive coverage on the FILLS until 12/31/2011.
You may ask for a partial refund (less $5 to be covered in the new FILLS in 2011) if you paid $25 in 2010, especially months later in the year. Remember, this transition period is going to be difficult, especially on our limited office staff. If you do not request a refund, we will apply your refund amount as a most welcome donation.
Question: If I have questions about FILLS, who can I call? Answer: Call COMO-CAL at 1-800-929-6061 or 1-818-886-6479.
How Do I Use FILLS?
It is simple. Complete the form on pages 7 and 8 of this issue. Mail your completed form to COMO-CAL, P.O. Box 4821, Chatsworth, Ca. 91313. We will forward your request to Jon Heim. We will let you know if additional information is required. Please check what you need from the attorney, whether advice, an answer to a legal question, research, and/or a letter in your behalf to your park manager, park owner or…
We ask you not to call Jon Heim directly. If you have any questions about using this service, call Frank at 800-929-6061 or 818-886-6479.
We may send you a follow-up survey asking your opinion of this service. And of course, since the service is just getting off the ground, we expect some glitches, so be patient.
One last thought. The FILLS program does not address all issues. For instance, many feel they are paying too much rent. If the rent being charged is the legal rent, nothing can be done! FILLS is only effective for violations of the law.
And do request brochures for your neighbors and friends…see below for details.
For What Issues Can I Use FILLS?
The program is available only for legal issues involving mobilehome leases, the Mobilehome Residency Law, the Mobilehome Parks Act (Title 25) and other laws specifically governing mobilehome life.
Of course the legal program and counsel’s services under it cannot be used for causes, positions or activities that in counsel’s opinion are unlawful, meritless or tenuous.
Many worthy legal issues of mobilehome residency can be addressed and resolved within the one hour, two letters and two questions the program provides at no charge beyond the annual $25 dues.
Specific issues to use the program for: violations of the MRL, interference of sales, management issues, trees and driveways, etc.
Question: Should I confront my park owner or manager when I suspect they are breaking the law?
Answer: No. We suggest you NOT confront your park owner or manager, but instead use COMO-CAL’s FILLS program and have our attorney handle direct communication with your park.
Question: I’m afraid if I have the attorney write a letter regarding a Civil Code violation, the park will retaliate.
Answer: There is always that chance, but retaliation is again a violation of the Civil Code. Retaliation is much less likely when an attorney is involved!
Question: The park is offering a new lease. Can I have the attorney look at it and make suggestions? Is this covered under FILLS?
Answer: Yes! By all means . Just fill out the Legal Services Action Form and mail it with the lease you want the attorney to review.
Question: We have an HOA and/or recreational group in our park. Should we promote COMO-CAL?
Answer: Of course. We have much to offer all mobilehome owners and what better way to get the word out than through your HOA or rec committee newsletter.
Question: I’m not sure if the park is actually violating the law. Can I ask the attorney?
Answer: Of course. FILLS entitles you to two such questions in one year – ask the attorney and you will know whether a letter is appropriate.