Class action filed in mobile home lot rent increase case

Nov. 28—PRINCETON — A civil action has been filed on behalf of mobile home residents facing big increases in their lot rents with little hope of finding new locations or raising the money needed to move their homes.

In October, the non-profit law firms Mountain State Justice, Inc. and Legal Aid of West Virginia held a public meeting about what might be done about dramatic rent hikes that could force some mobile home owners to face the expensive option of moving their homes. In some cases, the monthly rent for a mobile home lot is increasing from $225 to $525.

One person attending the meeting, Larry Brinkley of Gardner Estates, said that his parents passed away less than a year ago and he was trying to keep their doublewide home. The monthly site rent was increasing from $250 to $500. He estimated that moving the home would cost around $13,000.

Residents attending that meeting filled a courtroom at the Mercer County Courthouse. Many of them said they cannot contact their parks' out-of-state owners or get copies of their leases.

Mountain State Justice announced Monday that a lawsuit had been filed on behalf of residents of five manufactured housing communities in Mercer County against an out-of-state private equity firm and its affiliates.

The defendants in the lawsuit, Smith Management LLC and Homes of America LLC, have purchased five manufactured home communities in Mercer County, according to court documents. The communities include Gardner Estates, Elk View, Country Roads, Delaney and Shadow Wood.

The firm has purchased several manufactured housing communities in Mercer County and surrounding areas, in many cases more than doubling the lot rent rates residents are paying, according to a press release from Mountain State Law. These increases are set to kick in just before Christmas this year.

"What these firms are doing is unconscionable. They're forcing homeowners from their homes and exacerbating the affordable housing crisis — all while turning massive profits that flow directly out of West Virginia," said MSJ staff attorney Adam Wolfe.

Mountain State Justice can be contacted at 304-344-3144.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com