LAYTON — The legal tussle sparked when residents of a Layton mobile home park publicly complained about conditions there is over.
But that doesn’t mean relations have thawed between residents and management at Ridgewood Estates.
“There is no middle ground,” said Valerie Moody, a resident there who has helped lead the Ridgewood critics’ efforts to get their concerns addressed by management. Relations between her, at least, and park managers remain tense, and tenants still have concerns.
After Moody and others publicly decried conditions at Ridgewood last February, the mobile home park operator, UTLA Ridgewood MHC of Colorado, filed suit against six residents, accusing them of defamation. The sides went in to mediation to resolve their differences, but Moody said those talks didn’t lead to anything.
On Aug. 9, though — following what Moody describes as fruitless efforts at mediation — Judge Michael Edwards of 2nd District Court in Layton dismissed the case. UTLA agreed to dismissal, Moody said, after the Ridgewood defendants agreed to drop their push in mediation for implementation of a code of conduct governing Ridgewood Estates, located at 2875 N. Hill Field Road.
“I’m thinking it was pretty much a stalemate,” said Richard Robinson, president of the Utah Coalition of Manufactured Homeowners, also named as a defendant in the suit. The tenants were “an inconvenience” to Ridgewood operators, and he hopes their efforts at least prompt managers to treat residents better.
Lawyers handling the matter for UTLA weren’t available, according to their office, and neither they nor a Ridgewood rep responded to queries seeking comment.
The Ridgewood tenants publicly aired their criticism of conditions at a Feb. 9 gathering outside the Layton post office. They cited a sewage backup that led to raw sewage oozing out of a manhole a month earlier, potholes on roads, lack of responsiveness from management and more.
A Ridgewood representative at the time disputed the contentions, saying park owners were in the process of implementing a $2 million plan to upgrade water and sewer lines, among other things. Response to the sewage issue was complicated, the rep had said, because it occurred over the New Year’s Day holiday. More generally, the rep said, managers had, in fact, been responsive to complaints.
Either way, the turn of events underscored what advocates of mobile home residents say can be the uncertain nature of life for them, the sense of being beholden to mobile home park managers. In its lawsuit, UTLA sought a determination that the six residents named in the court action had violated mobile home park rules and were thus subject to eviction.
“The number one tool that our landowners have is fear,” said Robinson, who lives at a mobile home park in Farr West, had advocated on behalf of the Ridgewood residents. Mobile home park tenants frequently own their homes, but rent the land where the structures sit.
Indeed, Moody said she thought she and the others were sued “to shut us up about complaining.” UTLA, she suspects, aimed to force them from the park.
What made the difference, Robinson said, was the legal help the Ridgewood residents were able to muster. Manufactured Housing Action, or MHAction, an advocacy group that has worked with the Ridgewood tenants, helped secure the assistance of a law firm for the residents, pro bono.
“That made all the difference in the world,” Robinson said. The lawyers, Robinson said, did about $50,000 worth of work for the Ridgewood residents, money they wouldn’t have been able to raise.
In mediation, Ridgewood residents unsuccessfully sought acceptance of a series of guidelines by mobile home park managers setting required response times to residents’ complaints, among other things.