Could mobile homes be an answer to the affordable housing crisis? Recent developments in Oceanside suggest not. In fact, it’s only getting worse for those who invested their lifesavings on their prefab homes. The corporations that own the land underneath their homes have figured out a way to wrest control of the homes from fixed income seniors and their families.
Realtor Susan Noyes says corporate park owners are increasingly using a simple tactic: When a mobile home owner needs to move into assisted living or in with family due to health reasons, or if the owner dies, all park owners have the right to approve or deny any prospective buyers. If the park owner denies all applicants, “…even if they have perfect credit and are good people,” says Noyes, chances are the owner cannot afford to move their home which is then taken over by the park. “I’ve heard from many people this is going on.”
“There’s a ton of money in it for them,” explains Noyes. “Let’s say they were getting $400 a month in rent just to have the home sit on their dirt. Now that they own the home, they can then rent it out for $2500 to $3000 a month.”
A recent sale suggests mobile home park values are outpacing increases in regular land values. The Rancho San Luis Rey mobile home park in the San Luis Rey Valley near Mission Avenue has 433 spaces. It was most recently appraised at $19.5-million but was just purchased two months ago by a Delaware corporation called Luis Rey, LLC for $33-million.
Realtor Susan Noyes explains what recently happened when the owner of a doublewide coach in the Cavalier Mobile Estates on Oceanside Boulevard was forced to accept $5,000 for a home that typically would sell for $135,000. That coach was towed out of Cavalier last week.
Noyes explains that the coach was owned by a lady who died. The coach was then solely inhabited by her son who Noyes admitted was reasonably being evicted. “He is now incarcerated for drug charges.” But the problems occurred when a brother of the deceased lady who lived in Texas and had legal ownership in the home was not allowed to sell. “We really wanted to sell it so this little old man in Texas could get his money.” The price was reduced to $75,000 for a speedy sale.
One buyer was denied because he was already a resident of Cavalier, Noyes explains. “Then they denied a gentleman with perfectly good credit but because he was applying for citizenship and didn’t yet have a social security number they denied him. That is against the law by the way. Then another brother [of the deceased lady] who has a 800 credit score and lives in Oceanside offered to buy it. By law they have 15 days to respond in writing why they are denying a sale and they just didn’t do it.”
Noyes says the family offered to pay all the back rent that was due but Cavalier management refused to accept it and instead served the seller with a bill for $6,000 in storage fees and back rent.
Dunex, Inc. of Orange, California owns Cavalier. A call to get a comment from President Brian Alex was not returned. A lady who answered the phone said she would not provide Alex’s email address so that questions for an article could be submitted to him.
“Our only recourse was to have the trailer removed from the park so they wouldn’t win,” says Noyes. “We sold it to a salvager who paid $5,000 and who then took it to Mexico. There is nobody to stand up for these people. It’s pure greed on the part of these corporations. I don’t know how they sleep at night. It’s sad this is what our world has come to.”
Linda Walshaw, chair of the Oceanside Mobilehome Advisory Committee says that park owners have figured a way around the Oceanside rent protections approved by voters in 2012.
"These aggressive tactics are becoming more and more common in Oceanside mobile home parks,” says Walshaw. “Park owners are now allegedly failing to approve qualified buyers for the home, effectively blocking a homeowner's ability to sell.” She says once park owners take over the home, rent control no longer applies. “Homeowners who believe his or her home sale is being unfairly prevented are urged to contact Oceanside [Mobilehome Advisory Committee] for referral to appropriate attorneys, and/or law enforcement to pursue financial elder abuse issues."
“If we were presented with evidence that a crime was going on, then we absolutely would be interested in looking into this further,” says Deputy District Attorney Scott Pirrello who specializes in elder abuse cases. “I know from several conversations I've had over the years that these mobile home parks present a complicated web of legal issues. From many of the mobile home situations I have learned of, it is ‘abuse’ by wealthy owners, but the remedies available for the elders living there are better suited for civil litigation dealing with real property rights, landlord/tenant law, etc.”
Only problem, says Noyes, is that park owners know these senior mobile home owners on fixed incomes often can’t afford to fight back in civil court. “In order to fight this, it would cost more than $75,000,” says Noyes. “Unfortunately, you’re dealing with lower income people who not only can’t afford to fight and who are also afraid to speak up. They think they just can’t stand up to the big corporation. These park owners are using intimidation to get rid of these people who do not have resources to fight back.”
Noyes says the city of Oceanside can only do so much. “Margery Pierce who is with the city of Oceanside [Director of Housing and Neighborhood Services] said that the city cannot intervene on individual cases. She said the only way the city would get involved was if the entire park was to participate. I’ve attended Cavalier homeowner meetings where only 12 people showed up. Nobody seems to want to participate because they think that if they stand up, they may lose their homes. I heard about a little old lady in Cavalier who was served an eviction notice because her grass was too long. She stopped it because she got an attorney to fight it from the beginning.”