With that backdrop, let’s dive into the specifics of several residents stated to media or posted online about Pine Hills community in Middlebury, IN. That will be followed by additional information – good and bad – about Sun Communities (SUI), which for years has had a reasonably good reputation. Mention will be made to other operations that happen to be members of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), which while they have white hats among them, nevertheless seems to be a magnet for black hat brands and what residents and lawmakers have often called “predatory behavior.”
The tweet below is from the same news station, but is
about is about a different location and manufactured home
community operator. It is a reminder that shoppers
need to do their homework before buying and/or moving
into a manufactured home community. Positive and
Cautionary notes will follow the Pine Hills report that follows.
Residents of the River Springs Estates mobile home park in Berrien Springs are upset about prolonged pipe issues they say were made worse by a 2018 flood. @tvpaigebarnes reports: https://t.co/ETABtZ342d
— WSBT (@WSBT) November 23, 2021
CBS affiliate WSBT Chanel 22 has a video linked here which interviews a specific resident and shows examples of documents and complaints that underscore the points pulled. The terminology errors – e.g.: “mobile home park” are in the original. These are routinely manufactured homes, and not mobile homes. For the proper terminology, distinctions, and some history – click here. That said, while the headline is errant, reporter Kristin Bein’s first and fourth sentence below uses the correct terminology. The terminology is not properly interchangeable.
Some residents at Middlebury mobile home park say company is not maintaining property
by Kristin Bien, WSBT 22 Reporter | Wednesday, November 24th 2021
At least one woman says she was evicted from Pine Hills in Middlebury for complaining about the company.
Pine Hills in Middlebury is located along State Road 120.
It is owned by Sun Communities which owns manufactured homes communities across the county.
When we talked to Melissa Kauffman in October, she was preparing to move out of her mobile home in Pine Hills.
“I own the home outright. I don’t have a mortgage it is paid for. The property is what we lease — The lot we lease,” says Kauffman.
Kauffman was evicted.
She says, her eviction was because she complained about Sun Communities.
“Greedy. Greedy. That’s the best word to describe them. It’s all about the money,” says Kauffman.
Kauffman claims that Sun Communities ignored maintenance. She says the company had put people who live there in danger.
Kauffman cites the trees as her main safety concern.
“The first one came down, I believe the date was August 12th. It came down in the middle of the afternoon. My daughter and I were actually in the backyard doing some cleanup. And the tree just fell. Scared her to death,” says Kauffman.
That tree caused major damage to her home.
She says within the 2 weeks after that, several more trees would fall nearby.
Kauffman obtained inspection reports from the state health department from March of 2021 and August of 2021 showing inspectors found the trees were not “maintained in a safe manner.”
Kauffman claims tree experts told her the trees were diseased.
“But our lease specifically states that the trees are the sole property of community management and that they are the only ones allowed to trim and make any decisions when it comes to the care of the trees,” says Kauffman.
Kauffman says other maintenance issues on the property are also ignored.
Kauffman says after she complained about the issues, she was served an eviction notice.
She isn’t the only one complaining.
Kauffman says residents have been complaining for a long time. She found state health department inspection reports going back 20 years showing violations.
“I hope this will somehow open sun‘s eyes to say we can’t treat people like this and get away with it and think that it’s okay,” says Kauffman.
Dennis Price owns his home and his lot, so he can’t be evicted.
He says he is trying to speak for the residents who are too scared to talk. Price says Kauffman is not the only resident at the mobile who have experienced this.
“I always say to people here That renters from Sun Communities are a captive audience. Nobody in here can afford to buy a home that they’re forced to buy. Then because Sun gets upset with you, it wants to evict you knowing your home is sitting here. You can’t just hook up to it with your pickup truck and haul it away. So what happens? The home returns back to Sun and they sell it again,” says Price.” ##
Kauffman told Bien that trailer she Sun Communities wouldn’t pay to fix her home. Nor could Kauffman afford to move a damaged home elsewhere.
“My frustration comes from not only my own situation but watching my neighbors go through it and knowing as the little guy we’re just left hanging,” Kauffman stated. Per Elkhart County Commissioner Suzanne Weirick, “the Elkhart County Department of Planning and zoning has been working with them [Price and Kauffman] to address the complaints within the County’s justification.”
While the state says that Sun is currently up to date, Weirick said: “In addition, the State is dealing with the complaints that fall within their jurisdiction.”
WSBT said that “We reached out several times to Sun Communities. We have not heard back.”
Additional Information, More MHLivingNews Analysis and Commentary
It is often common for so-called predatory community operators to ignore media requests. However, there are also purportedly predatory firms who strive to respond and put the best possible face upon their often-aggressive behavior. In fairness to Sun, this is what their website says about that location.
“Get special offers on select homes at Pine Hills, a family-friendly manufactured home community in Middlebury, Indiana.” Clearly, Kauffman, Price, and other comments posted on Google remarks paint a different picture.
Some examples are as follows.
Tonya Pearson (2021) posted the following about Sun and Pine Hill: “I know several people that live here. The rent just to put your home here is way to[o] high They always put that boil water sign up till further notice. I would think they would fix their water system. It is a very clean park that i can say.”
Response from the owner [Sun Communities]
Hello Tonya, We appreciate the review. Thanks for taking the time. Have a great day!
Yvonne Reynel (2020) said: “The park itself is nice , but we had a terrible experience trying to move in here. We tried to apply for a home loan here, and I told them if we didn’t get approved then we would be more then interested in renting a home instead. We applied and heard nothing back , no email updates and no phone calls. We tried and tried to get ahold of someone in the office but our calls kept getting ignored and you aren’t able to leave a voicemail due to the mailbox being full, also no response to our emails. Finally when we were sick of being ignored, we used a different phone number to call and what do you know, the person in the office answered! We then were told we were denied for the home loan and I should have gotten an email stating that, which I would’ve believed if it hadn’t been for the emails I sent asking for an update that kept being ignored…just unprofessional. Thankfully we went to another community and we were approved for a brand new 2020 doublewide that cost even more then the home we originally tried to purchase here!
Response from the owner [Sun Communities]
Hello Yvonne, We are sorry that you are disappointed but appreciate your feedback. We are committed to providing you with a great experience We’re glad to hear that you found a home. Take care.”
The average Google rating for this property is 3.5 stars. But Pearson, for instance, gave a largely harsh rating, yet oddly rated it 4 stars. Several 1 star ratings are posted. Additionally, MHProNews and MHLivingNews has reported that some community operators have learned how to give positive ratings an incentive and otherwise ‘game’ Google and/or local media.
MHLivingNews and our MHProNews sister site has been reporting on the trend of larger community operators accused of unethical if not illegal behavior. These companies are routinely, but not always, Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) members. MHI has what’s called their National Communities Council (NCC). Aggressive firms may be MHI/NCC members and/or are often a member of an MHI affiliated state manufactured housing association.
But before diving deeper, it is good to set the broader context. While manufactured home community operators, and sometimes the producers and lenders on manufactured homes, are often the subject of negative news reports, it would be incorrect to think that others in housing are all angels and saints.
Objectivity and Context are Necessary
One of the advantages of buying a new manufactured home is that there are consumer safeguards provided with each new home. Those safeguards are often not available on far more costly conventional housing. The late resident advocate and manufactured home owner, Bob Van Cleef posted the following comment on the first video, post below.
“This is an excellent introduction to what could be the best, subsidized solution to the affordable housing crisis. Instead, it is housing’s best kept secret. Tony Kovach is the publisher of two excellent Manufactured Home related news sites: MHProNews.com and MHLivingNews.com.” – Robert “Bob” Van Cleef.
That said, as MHLivingNews reported over 2 years ago, each of the companies that John Oliver’s viral hit on “Mobile Homes” have as a common thread is that they seem to have clear ties to MHI. When asked to respond to that and other evidence-based allegations, MHI and their attorneys have routinely declined comment.
Objectively speaking, some of those companies projected a relatively benign or even noble approach as they began to consolidate the industry’s routinely ‘mom and pop’ owned land-lease communities. But for whatever reasons, some firms that had a reasonably good image not so many years ago are at times falling into this pattern that RHP Properties, Sun, Flagship Communities, Impact Communities, Havenpark Capital, and others that are linked in reports below.
Marty Lavin, J.D. Weighs In on Controversy
Attorney Marty Lavin is a longtime manufactured home industry professional who is willing to critique the problematic behavior in the profession and trade group that gave him honors and awards.
Lavin said the following to MHLivingNews: “I did an expert witness assignment in Indiana and was less than impressed with the treatment of manufactured home community residents there. Take a state like NY, where compliance with state manufactured home standards is akin to strict liability, I found Indiana far from that standard, little seeming concern for manufactured home community residents.”
Lavin owned communities himself. When he moved toward an active-retirement lifestyle, he sold one of those properties to the residents – it became a so-called Resident Owned Community or ROC. That said, Lavin noted: that “diseased trees should certainly be attended to, and followed up for completion by the authorities, if diseased. In my life, in my communities, I dealt with many trees and cut them down as needed. Expensive, but destructive if they fall.”
“Failure to deal with resident complaints leading to eviction is another, as the industry dealings are one of the few financial transactions given faint protection leading to a pure mercenary equation.
Yes, it cost money to be poor.” More from Lavin on this topic is linked here and the reports linked further below.
The problem with these firms is arguably because good laws are being thwarted. See the reports linked below for more information. Much of the problem can be boiled down to good laws that are not being properly enforced. For instance, if there were more home sites and communities, then the ability to create a local monopoly would be thwarted. What must occur is a blend of education, good law enforcement, bringing on more options for manufactured home owners/seekers, and to legally punish those who have behaved in predatory behaviors. ##
We lay out the facts and insights that others are too lazy, agenda-driven, or otherwise uninformed to do. That’s what makes our sister site and this location the runaway leaders for authentic information about affordable housing in general, the politics behind the problems, and manufactured homes specifically. That’s a wrap on this installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
Recent and Related Reports:
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.