Apple Tree Park water woes, lease concerns could be eased through state legislation
Residents of mobile home parks in Colorado are leaning on new and pending state legislation to help them work with park owners over a variety of issues and secure one of the last bastions of affordable housing.
Colorado’s Mobile Home Park Oversight Program could also be an avenue for residents of Apple Tree Park near New Castle to deal with the new owners there over water quality concerns that were recently brought to light, as well as other issues.
Several pieces of legislation approved in recent years, and one under consideration this year, are aimed at amending the state’s Mobile Home Park Act (MHPA) to give greater protections to lease-hold tenants in mobile home parks.
Among the recent changes have been to give tenants more heads-up when parks sell, and more time to remedy nonpayment of rent, or to vacate if they are evicted.
A new bill, HB22-1287, which passed out of committee last week, seeks to amend the MHPA to prohibit landlords from increasing rent on a mobile home lot by more than 3% per year.
It would also hold park owners more accountable to deal with any park improvements that are deemed necessary for the health, safety and welfare of residents.
Many mobile home park residents own the house itself, but lease the land it sits on from the park owners.
It can become a dilemma whenever a park gets sold for redevelopment, or if an owner dramatically increases the lease rate to the point where it’s no longer affordable.
And homes that were manufactured prior to 1976 cannot legally be relocated, per federal HUD standards.
Apple Tree Park, a 294-space mobile home park on the south side of the Colorado River from New Castle, changed hands in 2020 and is now owned by Investment Property Groups (IPG), which has several mobile home park properties across multiple states.
After bringing water quality concerns to the attention of Garfield County commissioners last week, several park residents told the Post Independent the water is not their only worry.
Resident Janelle Vega has begun collecting petition signatures from her neighbors to ask state regulators to inspect the park for potential violations.
She said the new park owners have asked her and other homeowners to remove storage structures and other add-ons that had been allowed by the previous owners, and to make various improvements to their properties.
That may be necessary for safety reasons and park aesthetics, she and other residents said.
But if the tenants are being asked to do those things, the owners should also make some general park improvements that have been deferred for too long, Vega said.
She said elm trees have been allowed to proliferate throughout the park, and residents are not allowed to remove trees that are impacting fence lines.
“We’ve remodeled everything since we’ve been here,” said Vega of her husband and two children, who’ve lived at Apple Tree for 17 years. “We didn’t have any issues or problems before getting approved for something that needed to be improved.”
At the same time, she said their lease is going up 17.5% at the beginning of April, from $455 to $535 per month. Spaces under some of the units that have been sold recently are now double that rent or more, she said.
“A lot of us here are grandfathered in, so the rent is still relatively manageable,” she said. “But it also seems like they’re trying to push some of the longtime residents out, and pretty soon it’s not going to be manageable.”
She said the water situation is one of the more obvious concerns. Because of high iron content in the water — which park managers have acknowledged and state regulators have said is not a health-safety issue — Vega said her family drinks bottled water, and she takes all of their white clothing to a laundromat to wash.
She and other residents say the added expenses don’t stop there. They’ve also had to replace appliances such as water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines as well as fixtures more often than they should have to because of the water quality.
County commissioners last week, after hearing Apple Tree resident concerns, asked that a state water inspection be ordered and that the park owners consider taking the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment up on programs to make water system upgrades.
One of Vega’s neighbors, Rachel Price, said she’s all for sprucing things up around the park. But it goes both ways, she said.
“Honestly, if everyone is kept to the same standards, I’m fine with it,” she said. “My house is not trashed compared to some of the other ones, but yet I have to tear down my shed?”
One provision of HB22-1287 would require the landlord or a representative to attend up to two public meetings with residents each year to go over any general mobile home park concerns.
In addition, it would:
- Clarify that a landlord is responsible for the cost of repairing any damage to a mobile home or lot that results from the landlord’s failure to maintain the premises of the park;
- Clarify the triggering events that demonstrate a park owner’s intent to sell a park, for purposes of providing notice to homeowners and the method for giving notice;
- Change the period in which a group or association of mobile home owners may make an offer to purchase the park from 90 to 180 days;
- Provide a right of first refusal for a public entity that accepts an assignment of a group or association of mobile home owners’ opportunity to purchase.
Those are just a few of the provisions.
State Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle, who represents House District 57, said there are some parts of the bill that he could go along with, but ultimately it comes down to private property rights for him.
“I’ve heard from a few of the (park owners) in the district who said this, if it goes through, they can’t make that work,” he said primarily of the caps on rent increase.
“I see the point of the residents, and mobile home parks are a great affordable housing option, and we need that in our community,” Will said.
But any legislation aimed at preserving mobile home parks has to be viable for owners and residents alike, he said.
The water issue at Apple Tree, which is not far from Will’s home, does need to be fixed, he agreed.
“That is a problem,” Will said. “If they’re charging lot rent to these people, that needs to be made right, and they have to have clean drinking water.”
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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