Florida company retaliates against renters featured in AP story

Taking advantage of hurricane victims is as low as you can get:

Two mobile home residents in North Carolina were hit with eviction notices Thursday, shortly after complaining to The Associated Press about spikes in their monthly lot rental. The notices from Florida-based company Time Out Communities were delivered two days after the residents were prominently featured in an AP story on those living in hurricane-ravaged Robeson County.

Time Out said it had begun working on the paperwork for both eviction notices prior to the article's publication. They also said many other eviction notices were filed on the same day.

Just one more group of people crucified on the altar of the Free Market. Affordable housing will never be properly addressed until municipal governments crack down and pass rent control ordinances. That goes for county governments as well as town/city ones. These folks saw their lot rents tripled in less than two years, and that should be a crime. Instead, they are the ones headed to court:

Nicole Mueller is a lawyer with the Legal Aid of North Carolina who is representing both clients. She said her first impression is that the timing of the action seems to be suspicious. "I interpret it as just way too coincidental that they would be doing that," she said. "To me it seems retaliatory that they were giving these clients more time to pay or to figure out other situations ... until they saw this news story."

Pittman and Lesane both have court hearings scheduled for July 24. If either resident loses the case, Mueller said he or she will have 10 days to vacate their property before being forcibly evicted, unless they appeal the decision.

Time Out says they have to raise the rents to make "improvements" to the mobile home park, but that reasoning falls apart quickly after a little research. They are doing the same thing in other states, including Illinois:

Ron Hoffstadt and his wife are 17 year residents at the Prairie Knolls mobile and manufactured home park just east of Jacksonville. Danny Davidson, a retired paramedic and disabled Vietnam veteran, has lived at his home in Rolling Acres since 1995. Both may be forced to find new residences on August 1st when their lot rent payments will go up by at least 40% or more.

These two cases are indicative of several retirees, disabled people, and former veterans who live on Jacksonville’s eastern edge. The reason the lot rents are rising are due to a purchase of the two parcels of land by out-of-state investors Time Out Communities, LLC. The company is a little over a year old and already has an annual revenue of over $12 million spread across at least 3 states. Time Out has also purchased other courts in both Springfield and Woodson and Cedarbrook Estates off Brooklyn Avenue in Jacksonville.

Hoffstadt has said that he has petitioned the company and has tried to work with them to make lot rent increase at least more palatable to residents. “What we’re proposing is a 10 percent increase for a two-year lease and then add another 10 percent every two years,” Hoffstadt explained, “It seems they are not willing to do that.” Hoffstadt read a reply to reporter Greg Olson of the Jacksonville Journal-Courier asking about why the company was raising the rent exponentially. “In these economic times, it’s good business to ensure that investments are properly made,” the email read. The email went on to threaten residents that if the demands weren’t met that consequences would soon follow.

Mobile home parks can be found in virtually every community in the country, but what you can't find are elected officials who give two shits about them. And of course they won't get any support from their neighbors living in standard single-family homes or townhomes, so they are ripe to be exploited.

Regardless of your opinion about the wisdom of purchasing a mobile home, they are (in fact) a critical resource for those who need affordable housing. As such, those who champion affordable housing should be concerned with this sector.



And yes, I've lived in one

For about 8 years, in fact, and it wasn't just a place to crash, it was my family's home. The mobile home park we lived in had both young families and retired folks, and it was more of a "community" than many of the upper-middle class neighborhoods I've seen.