RIVERDALE -- Residents at the Riverdale Mobile Estates are bringing in a manufactured homeowners advocacy association and asking for the city's help addressing their complaints.
Resident Patsy Knight moved to the leased land manufactured housing community four years ago, when her lot rent was $365 a month. Now, it's $475 a month. Other nearby communities charge $280 in monthly lot rental fees, she said.
Not only is she concerned with increasing rental rates, Knight and other residents are also concerned at the method their utility bills are calculated. For Knight, her gas bill for a 1,100-square-foot manufactured home has climbed to $140, much higher than it should be, she said. And, residents are charged for gas even if their home is unoccupied, she said.
Among her other complaints: Residents are not allowed to have yard sale signs; items are being stolen from their porches; skateboards are banned from the park; the playground equipment is falling apart; management asks for copies of mobile home titles; and the manager often advises residents to keep their children inside.
Knight said residents have finally had to take matters into their own hands.
The answer was to form a homeowners association, something Knight attempted to do by assembling in the park's clubhouse April 20. The park's manager attended and later asked Riverdale police to disband the meeting, said Colette Hadlock, former Utah Manufactured Homeowners Action Group northeast area director and current legal liaison. That is in violation of several local and county laws, she said.
"The manager got in my face, got loud and got argumentative, telling us that if she could not remain in the meeting, she was to disband the meeting," Hadlock said.
When the police came, Hadlock discussed the law with them and successfully convinced them the residents had the right to assemble. In the meantime, another resident "figured out how to disband the meeting," Hadlock said.
"We have been harassed since," she said.
Hadlock said the scenario is a common one around the state, where 75,000 households provide much-needed unsubsidized affordable housing. UMHAG often helps residents battle rising lot rental fees, reductions in amenities such as swimming pools and playgrounds, unlawful eviction, and managers making a profit off utilities that are not individually metered, Hadlock said. In addition, UMHAG can aid residents in organizing social activities, forming neighborhood watch groups and qualifying for financial help with legal services.
Recently, both Hadlock and Knight addressed the Riverdale City Council in an effort to educate leaders about the rights of city residents living in manufactured housing communities.
Hadlock said Riverdale leaders were sympathetic to their efforts.
"The city is eager to keep their parks," Hadlock said after speaking with the city council and the community development department.
"Residents ask for help, then really heinous things happen to them later. They are terrified to assemble," Hadlock said. "We at UMHAG understand residents' fears all too well and aim to educate and empower residents to improve the circumstances in the communities they live in. UMHAG tries to level the playing field because residents have the right to pick their advocates."
Knight is now co-chairwoman of an ad hoc homeowners association formed under the Utah Manufactured Homeowners Group, but haven't met since police were called in April 20. The association is still waiting for the park's owners to contact them about their complaints.
"I get discouraged and wish I could do more," said Knight, 73. "At the rate it's going, we have to fight every inch of the way."
Hadlock said the association will operate under the protection of UMHAG until training is provided and the group can be properly licensed with the state. Historically, the process can take up to two years.