Mobile home parks, at their best, offer community, safety and freedom for people who can't afford to be tied down in a regular house but don't want to be fleeced by a slumlord running a crumbling apartment complex.
A Dallas commercial real estate company called Harvest Partners Ltd is doing its small part to change that.
In August, a Dallas manager that identified itself only as Alegre TKO LLC took over a mobile home park in Irving. Not long after, the company asked residents to sign what may be the cruelest lease agreement ever, making HOA-level demands of its low-income residents.
No longer can residents wash their own cars in front of their own homes, have too many plants or have any trampolines. "Immoral" behavior is also included in a section banning illegal drugs and public intoxication, as if that's the same thing. Here is a sampling of some of the new mobile home park rules:
--"Trampolines and swing sets are not permitted in the community"
-- "Washing of any vehicle (car, truck, boat, trailer etc,) within the community"
--"Repairs of automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, boats or trailers"
-- "No more than three (3) potted plants will be permitted; all must be uniform in size, shape and color."
-- "Nothing shall be propped up against the home which includes but is not limited to ladders"
Also, if you're late on rent for three days and the landlord can't find you, then it's considered abandonment and the landlord gets to enter your home and take all your stuff: "In order to clear such abandoned premises, Lessor may enter the premises, including the manufactured home to remove and store all property of every kind found therein."
Cynthia Cardenas lived at the Oak Creek Ranch park in Irving without any problems for three years, she says. Her rent was a cheap $395, her utilities were about another $50 and she could easily drop off her money in the front office.
In August, she learned a new company was taking over by a notice left on her door step, informing residents that they could no longer pay their rent in-person.
"We don't know exactly who the managers are," Cardenas says. It went downhill from there.
Shortly after the mysterious new company took over, Cardenas saw her water bill shoot up to $200, about four times her normal rate. She agreed to pay it after she got ahold of an agent who promised that her bill would return back to normal in the following months, which Cardenas says it did. But then the fines came trickling in.
First, Cardenas says, there was a written demand that she get rid of her brother's broken-down car that she had been keeping parked in front of her home. So she did. But shortly after the broken car was gone, Cardenas says she got another notice, this one threatening her with a $150 fine unless she got rid of her perfectly-functioning RV, also parked in front of her home. Not feeling like she had much choice, she promptly sold it.
Documents passed along by the Texas Tenant's Union advocacy group show that the management company has also been distributing "Immediate Fine" fine forms to Oak Creek dwellers, listing things that will get people immediate fines. Included in the list is a $75 fine for "Mow high grass and weeds." One resident received a $50 "immediate fine" for "playhouse & trampoline."
Sending in money has also been problematic. When a resident named Iris Jarquin recently mailed a money order for her rent, she says the company claimed it never received it and she had to pay double her rent that month to avoid eviction. "There are five people, including myself, that had to end up paying twice," she says.
Alegre TKO appears to disguise its identify by directing residents to call an 800-number or to a website called Communities Info. "Welcome To Your Community Information Site" is how the site vaguely greets people.
Alegre TKO's Bizapedia profile lists for its mailing address someone named Eliot Barnett, a man who also co-founded Harvest Partners Ltd, a Dallas real estate company.
"We have no comment," Barnett said when reached by phone at his Harvest office.
The lease is below:
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.
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