Law experts pore over mobile home deals

Mar. 23—Law experts are poring over new lease agreements that Moscow mobile home communities are being asked to sign to see if any of the policies are illegal.

On Wednesday, residents from Abiel Community, Appaloosa Community, Palouse Hills Community and Woodland Heights Community were invited to attend a presentation from these experts regarding their rights under federal and state housing laws.

These mobile home communities were recently purchased by Hurst & Son LLC, a privately owned investment, property management and construction company. If they sign the new lease, residents face lot rent increases of more than 50% that could drive them from their homes. Residents are also concerned rules in their new leases may be illegal.

"If you think you're being discriminated against, you probably are," said attorney Ken Nagy, who spoke to the residents Wednesday night at the University of Idaho.

He was joined by Peg Richards, education project director with Boise-based nonprofit Intermountain Fair Housing Council, who told the residents to document every new development with their lease and every interaction with their landlord so they have a record in the event of a future legal case.

Residents shared concerns about issues like water limits, rules in their new leases regarding how they can sell their homes, and what kind of notice they are required to get from their landlord.

Nagy and Richards explained their rights under the federal Fair Housing Act and Idaho's Manufactured Home Residency Act.

These acts lay out laws that prevent discrimination based on disabilities, sex, race, religion and other protected statuses. They also make it illegal for landowners to retaliate against residents, intimidate or harass them.

"You have the right to enjoy your home," Richards said.

The Manufactured Home Residency Act, for example, states owners cannot create obstacles for selling homes, must give residents at least 90 days' notice to raise rent if a lease expires, and must keep the park in working order.

The Fair Housing Act states that people with disabilities can be granted reasonable accommodations. For example, if the landlord gives a three-day notice for residents to clean up their lawn, people with disabilities can ask for more time. Landlords cannot ask the resident for proof of disability.

The residents were asked to send the IFHC copies of their new lease from Hurst and Son so experts can review them. In the meantime, Moscow City Councilor Maureen Laflin told the residents not to sign these new leases. If they have signed the new leases, they need to pay their new rent amount, she said.

Rent increases must be uniform across the mobile home park, but Nagy said Idaho does not have rent control that regulates how much landlords can charge.

Richards said if tenants suspect discrimination, they can file complaints with Housing and Urban Development within one year of the date of discrimination. Private attorneys can file a suit within two years of the alleged violation.

Nagy said residents are also legally allowed to form a type of union without retaliation from the owner. University of Idaho sociology professor Leontina Hormel and housing program ROC Northwest is working with the residents to form a cooperative.

Victoria O'Banion of ROC Northwest informed the residents earlier this month that a cooperative can put them in a better position to develop a relationship with the owner, negotiate with the owner, and defend itself in case the owner retaliates. In the future, this cooperative can also purchase the park from the owner. A cooperative can be formed if 51% of the residents vote in favor of it.

Residents with legal questions can contact IFHC at (208) 383-0695 or

Kuipers can be reached at