86°F
weather icon Clear

Las Vegas mobile home park resident: ‘Your seniors out here are mistreated’

Updated May 23, 2024 - 6:03 am

Older residents in an east Las Vegas mobile home park say that new management has lowered standards there while increasing rents and that government agencies have largely ignored their concerns.

Palm Grove Senior Mobile Home Park, which advertises as a retirement community for those 55 and older, is now also home to younger adults and families with children, some residents complain.

Illinois-based Lakeshore Management, which purchased the park in 2017, closed the clubhouse where residents used to meet for coffee and play bingo, said Risa Sykes, who since 2008 has lived at Palm Grove, which is off of east Charleston Boulevard. Park management has selectively enforced its rules, resulting in the eviction of at least one tenant, residents claim.

Sykes has complained to her county commissioner, the attorney general’s office and the state Manufactured Housing Division, but problems continue, she said.

“Your seniors out here are mistreated,” said Sykes, who is 71. “And nobody even wants to look at it.”

Palm Grove and Lakeshore, which was investigated in Minnesota over “arbitrary” rules, did not respond to requests for comment despite a representative initially saying the newspaper would get a callback.

Sykes provided what she said was a copy of a March 2022 petition signed by 162 residents and addressed to Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom complaining about a loss of park amenities and increases in rent. It complains about a $45 increase in rent that was scheduled for that June and followed a $30 increase during the pandemic. Segerblom said he and his staff found no record of receiving the petition but provided his number so Sykes could call him.

Last July, Sykes filed a complaint with Manufactured Housing alleging that park management refuses to meet with tenants, allows dangerous dogs that have gotten loose and killed other tenants’ pets and fails to apply rules and rent increases equitably. She also complained that families with children have been allowed to rent in the senior park when the lease agreements say the park is for people 55 and older.

In December, Sykes said she filed a complaint with the Nevada attorney general’s office about the park renting to families and noting concerns about water fees and increases in rent. The office referred her to the state’s Manufactured Housing Division, attorney general spokesman John Sadler said.

A representative of Manufactured Housing said she could not comment on specific complaints but could speak generally to the complaint process. The division, responsible for the administration and enforcement of manufactured housing laws and regulations, is charged with resolving landlord/tenant disputes.

“In cases where the complainant fails to cooperate, does not respond to outreach from the division, or is unwilling to accept a proposed resolution the case may be closed without further action,” spokeswoman Teri Williams wrote in an email.

Sykes and neighbor Wendy Nelson said the agency started to investigate after the Review-Journal asked about the residents’ concerns.

The state Housing Division has two manufactured housing compliance investigators covering the entire state, Williams said.

“Complaints that involve an imminent threat to resident health and safety are given priority,” she wrote in an email exchange.

Minnesota AG takes action

Clark County property records show Lakeshore Management, a large, privately held owner/operator of manufactured home communities across the country, purchased Palm Grove in 2017 for about $20 million.

In 2022, the Minnesota attorney general’s office stepped in when residents there complained following Lakeshore’s purchase of the Viking Terrace community in Northfield, Minnesota.

Lakeshore had implemented new rules at Viking Terrace that were “substantial, arbitrary and sometimes cruel,” according to the Minnesota attorney general’s office. The new rules prohibited growing vegetable gardens without permission, banned “leisurely” nighttime walks and empowered management to remove any guest at any time, among other things.

Lakeshore agreed to revert to the rules in effect before it purchased the park.

Lakeshore is also named as a defendant in several class-action lawsuits filed last year in federal court in Illinois alleging price fixing among large corporate owners of mobile home parks in setting rents.

Lakeshore’s 2018 lease said one person in each household to be 55 or older and all other residents to be at least 18, but some residents complain that hasn’t been enforced.

There isn’t an easy remedy for residents who say a park isn’t following its own age restrictions, said Ryan McConnell, an attorney with the Consumer Rights Project of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada.

Filing a breach of contract lawsuit is costly. Moving a mobile home can cost upward of $10,000. “It’s beyond their means,” McConnell said.

A Manufactured Housing investigator in general will attempt to get specific information, such as lot numbers with suspected age-related violations, from a complaining resident, Williams said. “We will not go door to door checking ages,” she said.

‘Comfort zone’ in owning own home

Karen Clausen lost her mobile home after she was evicted from Park Grove in 2022. Her violations included a prohibited vegetable garden, clutter in her yard such as gardening tools and wooden pallets, and arguing with neighbors, according to the complaint filed by park management in Las Vegas Justice Court.

Those living in mobile home parks often own their mobile home but pay rent on the space where their home sits. If they are evicted for failing to pay rent or rule violations, a judge may allow the mobile home park to take possession of the home.

Clausen bought the home in the park in 2020 during the pandemic.

“I was just trying to find a place where I could grow my garden and have some peace with my animals,” said Clausen, now 73, who had two Huskies and a cat.

Clausen said she cleaned up her yard, including removing a fence she’d made out of wooden pallets.

“I thought there was a comfort zone, a safety, in owning my own home,” said Clausen, who lost her eviction case when she unsuccessfully sought a continuance in her case and did not show up for the bench trial. She did not prevail upon appeal, and the judgment in the case required her to pay Palm Grove’s attorney’s fees, which constitutes a lien on the home.

McConnell said the parks may enforce the rules on some and not others.

“The power that the law gives the mobile home park owners and the recourse for the residents … is really lopsided,” he said. “We always tell these mobile homeowners: You’re living within these parks. You have to follow these mobile home park rules, regardless of whether they’re enforcing them on you and may not be enforcing them on someone else. If they tell you you have to clean up your yard within 40 days, you have to do that.”

‘Who’s protecting the seniors?’

Nelson has had her own troubles after purchasing in 2021 from the park a new mobile home for $70,000 in cash following her divorce.

After Nelson moved in, cracks began to appear in the walls and ceiling, and shingles started coming off the roof, she said.

“This is not just regular settling,” she said.

Sykes and other neighbors had observed that the home had to be re-set on the property, causing stands underneath it to be knocked down. Sykes said she informed park management

She also told Nelson, who complained about structural problems to Manufactured Housing, which initially took no action, Nelson said. The division works to ensure that mobile homes are safely constructed and properly installed, according to its website.

In March, the agency conducted an inspection and found missing and misplaced stands under the home beneath the skirting. The installation contractor agreed to place the stands, level the home and fix drywall cracking, according to a letter from Manufactured Housing.

But Nelson worries about ongoing structural problems, including problems with the roof.

“Who’s protecting the seniors?” Sykes asked. “Nobody.”

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or at 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on X. Hynes is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Who makes $100K at CSN?

A handful of administrators earned $100,000 at College of Southern Nevada in 2022, but the average pay was less than half that.