San Francisco Bay Area Vol. 2 No. 6 June 2014
From the Staff of Mobilehome Magazine
Serving the Mobile/Manufactured Home Community in California
Welcome back to Mobilehome Magazine. This is an interesting issue, both with very good and very bad news. Everyone should read each article, word by word to understand what’s happening today with advocacy in California.
P.O. Box 3774 Chatsworth, CA 91313
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The residents at California Hawiian in San Jose won their lawsuit against the Sam Zell Corporation, Equity LifeStyle. Although we reported it last month, we feel it is important enough to publish another article this month. Congratulations Joan Malone, Gila DePutter and others. This inspires all of us to stand up to our landlords if and when there is failure to maintain or other issues in our park. See page 4.
Lloyd Rochambeau offers up an article on his views about GSMOL’s failure to enforce the laws that were written to protect us. In fact we feel enforcement is the key to park owner obeying the laws or not. For example, just think how many traffic laws would be broken every day if there were no enforcement. Or how many people wouldn’t pay their taxes if their were no IRS. Law breakers would include all of us! So how can we expect that at least some park owners and managers wouldn’t break the law? We need enforcement. See page A.
MHMag is not responsible for content contained in advertising
We at MHMag take no pleasure in the article: Has GSMOL Failed Mobilehome Owners? GSMOL, after all, has been the go-to organization for all of us. Please send us your comments, criticisms and suggestions. We will respond to them all. Also if you need documentation on what we have presented, just let us know. See pages B-D. Also note that GSMOL’s corporation status has been suspended. This could be serious. See page D. The face of advocacy in California is changing. And so is Mobilehome Magazine. Read what’s happening on page E. Many of us have experienced psychological abuse in our parks. Read a new twist where folks in Nevada are suing their HOA for abuse. Mind you, this is a HOA; however it is not in a mobilehome park. See pages F & G. MHMag, local editions, are now one year old. San Diego, North San Diego County, and North Bay first received the magazine in July 2013. That’s about 180,000 magazines, all for free! Recently we’ve had trouble getting and keeping advertisers, the life blood of the magazine. So we ask you to at least give the advertisers who support us a call and say thanks. Also donations are down. Finally, the residents of Royal Western in Gardena are suing Kort & Scott / Sierra Management for failure to maintain. See page 13. Our friend, Myron Hughes of Hughs Westbrook Insurance write an article on Earthquake Insurance. See page 14.
PUBLISHER & EDITOR Frank A. Wodley
ADVERTISING SALES Rose Rosales
ARTICLE CONTRIBUTORS Donna Matthews Chuck Zenisek Bill Schlegel Lloyd Rochambeau
SPANISH TRANSLATOR Ruben Ibanez
PROOFREADER Barbara Kelly
Thank you for reading Mobilehome Magazine. We are here to serve you. Have a terrific June and see you in July.
TheMobilehome Magazine Staff
Mobilehome Magazine - Greater San Francisco Bay Area
Volume 2 Number 6. June 2014
T A B L E
CONTENTS From The Staff of Mobilehome Magazine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 2 Table of Contents. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 3 Jury Awards Record $111 Milllion to Trailer Park Residents. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 4 GSMOLâ€™s Failure to Enforce the MRL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page A Have GSMOL Leaders Failed Mobilehome Owners?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pages B-D GSMOLâ€™s Corporation Status Suspended. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page D The Future of Mobilehome Magazine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page E Psychological Abuse in Mobile/Manufactured-Home Parks. . . . . . . . . . . Pages F-G Mobilehome Magazine This & That. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page G Living in a Mobilehome Park. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page H Donation & FAQ Handbook Order Form. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page H Lawsuit at Royal Western Mobilehome Park in Gardena . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 13 Earthquake Insurance - Do I Need It?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 14
Mobilehome Magazine - San Francisco Bay Area
Volume 2 Number 6. June 2014
Jury awards record $111 million to trailer park residents tenants said, after ELS took over. It had already been converted to a family park by then.
SAN JOSE -- With a fancy name like “California Hawaiian Mobile Estates,” the trailer park on Snell Avenue should have been top-notch.
Joan Malone and Gary Stutzman chat in front of Malone’s mobile home at California Hawaiian Mobile Estates in San Jose, Calif. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. For years, residents of the mobile home park put up with electrical blackouts, overgrown trees that damaged homes, and a failure by the owner to maintain the park. This week, 61 residents of the park were awarded $111 million in a class action lawsuit brought against the owner of the mobile home park. Malone and Stutzman helped lead the efforts to file the lawsuit. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group) ( Gary Reyes )
But residents say that for years it was anything but -- marred by sewage backups, potholes, electrical blackouts and a swimming pool filled with geese feces. Fed up with having their complaints ignored, a small group sued five years ago, risking the possibility that if they lost, they’d be on the hook for the park owner’s substantial legal fees. Last week, a San Jose civil jury awarded the residents $111 million, the largest such award for a failure-to-maintain lawsuit against a mobile home park in California. Previous awards in other California cases topped out around $12 million. If the verdict stands, 61 tenants out of 1,500 people who live in the park could reap an average of $100,000 each in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages of $1.57 million apiece.
The tenants’ suit described a litany of troubles: The once-scenic artificial lakes became slick with slime. Sewers backed up into people’s homes. Brownouts and blackouts were common. Street lighting was inadequate, making it dangerous to go out at night. Homeless people camped out under the clubhouse stage and roamed the streets. Once, in 2012, Malone said, the large black iron gate at the front entrance even fell over -- and lay there for about two weeks.
California Hawaiian Mobile Estates residents, Gela DePutter and Carol Johnson, right, walk through their neighborhood in San Jose, Calif. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. For years, residents of the mobile home park put up with electrical blackouts, overgrown trees that damaged homes, and a failure by the owner to maintain the park. This week, 61 residents of the park, including Johnson and DePutter, were awarded $111 million in a class action lawsuit brought against the owner of the mobile home park. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group) ( Gary Reyes )
One of the worst problems was that the water for the entire park of 420 households would frequently be turned off -without notice -- for up to 20 hours at a time, they said. Russ Montalbo shows the vandalism his fishing boat sustained while in the unsecured storage area at California Hawaiian Mobile Estates in San Jose, Calif. on Thursday, April 17, 2014. Montalbo pays $40 per month to keep it there since he is not allowed to store it on his driveway. For years, residents of the mobile home park put up with electrical blackouts, overgrown trees that damaged homes, and a failure by the owner to maintain the park. This week, 61 residents of the park were awarded $111 million in a class action lawsuit brought against the owner of the mobile home park. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group) ( Gary Reyes )
The money would be quite a windfall for the tenants, many of whom live on limited incomes and say they cannot sell their mobile homes because the park has such a bad reputation. “We always knew it was a David and Goliath thing, going up against a multibillion-dollar corporation,” said resident Joan Malone, 66, who helped spearhead the effort. “Now, people are coming up to me with their faces shining. We finally have justice.”
The residents, who own their own trailers but pay space rents of at least $800 a month plus utilities, property taxes and mortgage payments, complained -- to a series of short-term managers -- but said it was to no avail.
The unprecedented verdict has sent shock waves through the industry, even as the park’s owner vows to try to get it overturned. Equity Lifestyle Properties, a publicly traded company chaired by billionaire Sam Zell, is the largest mobile home park owner in the nation, with 140,333 home sites in 379 properties in 32 states and Canada. The award represents about 10 percent of its assets.
Residents formed a homeowners association in 2007 and sued in 2009. Gela DePutter, 59, a semiretired former Hitachi analyst, remembers getting “threatening” letters from management after the suit was filed. About half the tenants who originally joined the suit bailed out, leaving a core group of determined people.
“We could not disagree more strongly with the jury’s verdicts,” said Equity Lifestyle CEO Marguerite Nader, referring to the damage awards, which were handed down in two separate phases of trial. “This property is a well-located, 100 percent-occupied, institutional quality asset that received the Manufactured Housing Institute’s Community of the Year award in 2012.”
“I had to follow through with this,” DePutter said. “I knew we were going to win but I’m floored at how much.” Gary Stutzman said when the owners did make repairs, the work was shoddy. After he complained for years about the lakewater lapping right up against his house, one corner of the house crumpled and the driveway (Continued on Page 13)
California Hawaiian was once a pristine seniors-only park. But conditions began to go downhill in 1997, some longtime Mobilehome Magazine - Greater San Francisco Bay Area
Volume 2 Number 6. June 2014
(Continued from Page 4) wound up being laced with cracks. A crew came and chopped up the driveway, he said in an interview, but instead of hauling the pieces away, they dumped them at the edge of the lake, leaving a still-unsightly mess. Lawyers for the tenants said the jury was aghast at the “deplorable conditions,” finding after a nearly three-month-long trial that even though ELS had made some significant improvements after the lawsuit was filed, the company was negligent, in breach of contract and had created a public nuisance by failing to maintain the park and provide sufficient security. Some serious problems remain to be fixed, including the substandard electrical system.
award. Others said the case could set a dangerous precedent. “If verdicts like these are held up,” said Phil Woog, an Orange County lawyer who defends park owners, “there won’t be a mobile home park industry.” Allen said the jury was won over in part because of the testimony of the residents, including Heather and Dion Berry, a clean-cut young couple in their early 30s with three young children. Among other problems, they described how difficult it was for the family to safely shower, go to the bathroom or use the tap water because of the sewer backups. Now, they’re excited about the possibility of netting more than $2 million, after attorneys’ fees. They have their first move already planned.
The case highlights what the tenants’ lawyers contend is a common problem statewide -- the failure by some owners to maintain their mobile home parks, which can be cash cows.
Said Heather Berry, “To get out of here, into a safe home.”
For instance, ELS was spending between $101,000 and $273,000 on upkeep annually at California Hawaiian and taking in more than $4.5 million, according to the San Diego lawyers who represented the residents, James C. Allen and David Semelsberger. The lawyers will reap 40 percent of the
Article by Tracey Kaplan San Jose Mercury News. http:// www.mercurynews.com/crime-courts/ci_25604664/juryawards-record-111-million-trailer-park-residents Contact Tracy at 408-278-3482.
Lawsuit at Royal Western Mobilehome Park in Gardena It has been one and a half years since we first wrote about advocate Paul Masminster (photo) and his group Save Our Souls (SOS)(Mobilehome Magazine Volume 2 Number 6 November / December 2012). In that issue we wrote:
Sierra Management has made an offer to settle, but residents didn’t accept it. This is not the first time residents have sued Kort and Scott. In the first lawsuit in 2006, again led by Masminster, residents won a $1.4 million award.
Paul Masminster, a resident of Royal Western Mobile Home Park and former COMO-CAL Vice President, has been fighting his park’s management company, Sierra Management & Kort and Scott, for over 10 years. He organized a resident’s group called Save Our Soles (SOS)and has been documenting park issues for several years- taking over 3,000 photos, keeping a time log, and having a paper trail of years of correspondence with his park management and owner.
The following was recently posted on YELP. We have edited it slightly to make it more understandable. The park is nice as far as quiet and near a nice residential area. The pool area is decent. What is outrageous is the SPACE RENT! If you purchase a mobile home directly from the park, the space rent begins low. If you purchase from an individual seller then you take over their space rent and the park goes up, up, and up.
Now he has recruited the attorney group Endemen, Lincoln, Turek and Heater of San Diego and they have filed a lawsuit to be heard in a Los Angeles Superior Court. They are in the interrogatory phase today.
The owners of mobile homes cannot sell their homes because no one in their right mind would take over such a huge space rent. In effect, the park tries to squeeze the owners of the home out. When the owners can no longer afford space rent, they move out and give the home to the park. I smell a rat here, don’t you?
Among the issues contained in the lawsuit are: a) management not following park rules and regulations b) failure to maintain affecting park appearance c) inability to sell homes d) electrical problems e) sewer problems f) fear tactics and intimidation and several more.
My kids are currently paying $1600 per month after living here two years! They live in a single wide 1960 mobile home that they gutted and remodeled inside. They own it free and clear but now the park is choking them rent-wise. The park has increased their rents almost $300 in two years. Their friend bought a double wide mobile home directly from the park and pays $800 per month space rent! Doesn’t a double-wide take more space than a single-wide? These owners need to be sued until they have no room to squirm!!!! Karla A., TORRANCE
So what does SOS want? They want control of the settle ment, they want Sierra Management out, they want 50% of their rent over the last 4-5 years returned to them, they want rents rolled back to $800/month, they want all items mentioned in the lawsuit repaired, no more RV’s, and a management company that complies to all state and federal laws. You can contact Mr. Masminster through MHMag Finally SOS has a court date of June 11, 2014 in Torrance. Mobilehome Magazine - San Francisco Bay Area
Volume 2 Number 6. June 2014
Earthquake Insurance, Do I need it? How do you decide to whether to buy earthquake insurance or to take your chances without it? For many it’s a matter of money. Many simply can’t afford it, while others are afraid of the consequences to be caught without it.
owners. Another critical point I would like to make involves Additional Living Expense coverage (aka: Loss of Use coverage). Unless you have friends or family you can stay with after a devastating earthquake, you will need funds to pay for food and lodging while you’re out of your home. Basic quake policies only allow $1500 for this coverage. If you’re out of your home, you can bet that most of your neighbors are out of theirs too and places to stay will be extremely sparse. I recommend the purchase of a higher limit for this coverage. The length of time required to repair or replace a manufactured home is, at the very best, 3 to 6 months and, that’s a lot of rent to pay.
I want to give you some ideas to help you decide what’s best for YOUR situation. Please consider two things. Number one is the geology under your park and the second is how well you home is braces for such an event. Here in Orange County, as well as other coastal counties, we have areas which are subject to liquefaction. That’s a condition where high water table areas can turn into a sort of muddy jello when violently shaken by an earthquake. In an extreme earthquake, it will be hard to avoid damage as the mobile home and the pad that it’s on can sink into the muck. Homes in these areas are much more expensive to insure. Earthquake insurance is certainly recommended in these areas.
If you have questions, be sure to call your agent or, feel free to call us at Hughes West-Brook Insurance Agency 800-6600204. We are in our 41st year serving the manufactured housing community only!
In the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge quake, the State of California passed legislation requiring all manufactured homes built in 1996 and later to have an earthquake safety bracing system installed as a part of set up. Also, all homes relocated after 1996 had to have a bracing system installed as part of the move.
Myron Hughes, owner/broker See Myron’s Ad on page 15. Myron is very knowledgable and even knows much of the history of advocacy here in California. Give him a call at 800-6600204 and tell him you appreciate his support of Mobilehome Magazine. Let him know that when your insurance is due, you will give him a chance to write your policy.
These bracing systems work! The primary cause of severe damage happens when the home comes off the piers that support it. When this happens all utility services are severed; electricity, phone/internet, water, sewerage & gas. The piers will poke up through the floor destroying the subflooring and floor coverings. The worst of it will that Red Tag placed on your door by ‘the powers that be’ which prohibits your occupancy.
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Unless it’s the “really big one”, manufactured homes with a qualified support system will remain on the piers. There may be broken dishes and TVs. There may be a separation in the roof and there might be other cosmetic damage. However, you will likely be allowed to sleep in your bed without interruption, while your neighbors may have to seek shelter elsewhere. This is a big deal. With that in mind, please think of earthquake insurance as a resource only for “The Big One”. Quake deductibles range from 10% to 15% of your home’s insured amount. That’s $10,000 to 15,000 on a $100,000 policy. So, for those who sustain cosmetic damage only, there may be nothing paid by your earthquake policy. However, if your home leaves the foundation, you will stand to collect 10s of thousands from your insurance to get you back into your home. In 1994 FEMA was very helpful those unable to handle their deductibles. In fact, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) installed and paid for 38,000 EQ bracing systems in Orange, Ventura and Los Angeles counties to mitigate future earthquake damage for manufactured home Mobilehome Magazine - Greater San Francisco Bay Area
Volume 2 Number 6. June 2014
Volunteer and Live Longer In helping others, Americans are also helping themselves. A recent report links volunteering to health and longevity. It does pay to be a good neighbor and actively participate in community projects.
and despair, two serious factors in heart disease management and survival. Volunteers over age 65 were less depressed than non-volunteers. Volunteers over 70 years of age who volunteered 100 hours annually experienced less decline in health and functioning levels, increased longevity and less depression.
The Corporation for National and Community Service released the report. Better functioning ability, increased longevity, less risk of heart disease and decreased levels of depression were among the benefits of volunteering.
Baby Boomers who are retiring or cutting back on working hours can volunteer and receive while giving. Even two hours of volunteer work weekly result in physical and mental health benefits.
Those who volunteer 100 hours annually and are older adults reap the most benefits. The Health Benefits of Volunteering reveals findings from over 30 studies reviewing the relationship between volunteering and health.
Study results show that volunteers who provide social support to others have lower mortality rates. This applies even when controls are applied for age, gender, marital status, education and ethnicity and socioeconomic status â€œItâ€™s good to do good,â€? says Dr. Stephen Post.
Two studies concluded that volunteering 100 hours of service annually (approximately 2 hours weekly) increased benefits although donating more than 100 hours did not additionally benefit.
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/237231/ volunteers_live_longer_and_better.html Published May 10, 2007 by: PJ Richards
Heart attack victims who volunteer experience less depression
Mobilehome Magazine - San Francisco Bay Area
Volume 2 Number 6. June 2014
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Published on May 19, 2014
Published for owners of mobile/manufactured homes in California, we advocate to protect their rights, their lifestyle, and their investment.