Mobile home parks’ residents seek answers, accountability
Nearly a year after Homes of America, LLC began buying mobile home parks in Minot, the issues and complaints being raised by residents remain the same. Communication remains a problem, with some waiting weeks or months for a response to their queries and requests.
These managerial lapses are further compounded by lot rent hikes, which have only been applied to residents who own their trailers. The lot rent hikes ultimately motivated many trailer owners in these parks to take advantage of a deal offered by JRB Communities that covered the costs to move them into one of their parks. For those that remain behind, owner or renter, the options available to them are limited.
“What scares me is what are they going to do to the renters that are still here. What’s the next thing after they’ve gotten rid of almost every owner in here? In the past two weeks 10 trailers have been moved out,” said Parkview resident Kris Jonkey.
This rising discontent led Jonkey to start a Facebook page called Parkview in Review, to facilitate communication between the residents of Parkview, Holiday Park, and Western Village, as they contend with what some of them consider to be an absentee landlord. In the lot rent increase notice sent to residents, HOA claimed that the additional payments would be used to improve and maintain the parks, none of which have materialized as of yet.
“The whole reason I opened up the forum was because there was no communication going on. I thought, well, I’ll just put it out there,” Jonkey said, “I get some people that see the page but they don’t want to be on the page. They private message me instead. They want something done, but they’re afraid to put themselves out there.”
The users of the page generally use it to try to resolve issues and clear up confusion created by HOA’s opaque business practices, exacerbated by the constant turnover of local managers.
“My daughter said, ‘you know mom, they’ll probably try to evict you. Well, they haven’t yet,” Jonkey said, “I try not to put a negative spin on everything. I just kind of put it out there as, ‘hey, this is what happened.’ But lately, it’s just been getting worse and worse.”
Parkview has slowly fallen into neglect over the summer, making it easy to determine which lots are vacant or occupied. The weeds have grown high in the shared spaces between lots, with some vacant trailers strewn with abandoned furniture, garbage, and other refuse.
Large tree branches that were recently felled by high winds damaged the roof of Jonkey’s daughter’s home in a nearby lot. The request for maintenance was answered, but the workers were not paid to remove the offending limbs, which still lay in the yard next to her trailer. Another lot next to Jonkey’s sits vacant, with a van and other abandoned property littering the yard.
“I can count nine houses around mine that are vacant. Before when a trailer would empty out, they’d be cleaned the same day someone moved out and they would do all the maintenance. That’s how quickly they filled these places up,” Jonkey said, “That’s the way Meadowlark ran things. If a tree fell, they would clean it up. If people moved out and left a stack of furniture, they’d clear it out. That’s not happening anymore.”
Recently, a resident of one of the parks received an eviction notice from Homes of America for unpaid rent that gave them three days’ notice to vacate. Based on bank receipts provided to The Minot Daily News, the resident had in fact made payments for the months in question, contradicting the statement provided to them with the eviction documents.
As issues continue to manifest, members of the group have begun communicating with Kent French, director of governmental affairs at the North Dakota Manufactured Housing Association, and filing complaints with the First District Health Unit. French has been working with legislators to craft a new bill in the next session, and attempting to aid the HOA residents in finding some way to hold their landlord accountable.
“I have had three calls from Minot, with good people that have paid their payments on time, but because of the lack of bookkeeping from a corporation that is taking advantage of the residents in the community. They will lose their homes unless they pay to a corporation they can’t even communicate with,” French said, “Where does a soul go that’s being cheated? Who do you go to in the state of North Dakota? This needs to be stopped now.”
Despite making contact with past and present employees of Homes of America, none were willing to speak on the record. Further attempts to contact Homes of America leadership directly were not responded to.
While Homes of America LLC was formed in Delaware, its filings with the North Dakota Secretary of State lists a New Jersey address that it shares with the firm Smith Management LLC, the parent company of the hedge fund Alden Global Capital. The COO of HOA is a man named Bryon Fields Jr. of Charlotte, North Carolina, according to Fields’ Linkedin page. Based on public records scraped by the website corporatewiki.com, Fields is also an officer of three other mobile home park LLCs located in Florida. His fellow officers include Alden President Heath Freeman, Smith Management Executive Vice President and CFO Tom Del Bosco, and Alden CFO Joshua P. Kleban.
A call to Alden Global Capital’s New York City office was answered, with the receptionist offering to direct the call to those overseeing Homes of America. After being transferred, no speaker announced themselves, and promptly hung up.