It is a troubling story that has a better-than-expected ending. But former nurse Laurie Myers had to appear in Knoxville, TN “General Sessions Court on Tuesday, Sept. 14,” where she was told to expect “to be officially evicted from Amherst Ridge.” Amherst Ridge is a land-lease manufactured home community that per an informed local source was once owned by Clayton Homes. But the location was acquired by Yes! Communities, which per other sources still has several ties to Berkshire Hathaway owned brands. Clayton Homes, their affiliated lenders, and Yes are all among the “proud” and “award winning” Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) members. Thanks to a local businessman that stepped in, a pro-bono attorney from a nonprofit group, plus reporting by Don Dare at WATE ABC 6 News, Myers has dodged that eviction bullet for perhaps a year. Who says? Myers herself, as will be shown in the video posted below. The details and history of these events shed light on what numbers of residents and advocates are calling “predatory” companies that often happen to be MHI members, and/or a member of a MHI affiliated state association.
Yes Communities, has been cloaked for some years in a veil of MHI awards and self-declared wonder. As MHProNews has previously documented, there are methods that some MHI members have apparently employed that can take poor online ratings and ‘game’ the review system. That said, sometimes a different image emerges from a look on Indeed to see what current and former employees say the experience is.
With that in mind, the following pull-quote from a fresh MHI email said the following. Tricks of the trade highlighting is added for emphasis as to the relationship of that quoted phrase to its use in headline.
“If you are a park owner or manager, learn all the tricks of the trade, by signing up for the Accredited Community Manager (ACM) course.” So says a Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) email dated September 15, 2021, which elaborated: “The two-part course gives you all the training you will need to manage a manufactured home community efficiently and effectively, including management and resident policies, community maintenance, leasing and sales techniques, and fair housing laws.”
As longtime MHI member, award-winner, and attorney and now periodic MHI critic Marty Lavin has said, what is occurring in several manufactured home communities is a “witch’s brew” of troubling practices.
Against that backdrop, those who may be pondering leasing or buying in a Yes location should take a “buyer beware” stance. Here is what Don Dare and WATE’s initial video report on this topic said. The reports will be shown sequentially, to both set the context of what occurred and to illustrate how the short-term resolution was shaped and played out. This is from ABC 6’s September 13, 2021 report. Note that the nomenclature issues are in the original, as the home in question appears to be a HUD Code manufactured home, and not a ‘trailer’ or ‘mobile home.’
Each of the bullets are quotations from their linked report.
- KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A disabled grandmother faces eviction from a Knoxville mobile home park because she didn’t cut the grass or make timely repairs to her home. She’s a long-time resident of Amherst Ridge in Knoxville and owns her own trailer. However, park management claims she violated community guidelines.
- For six weeks over the summer, Myers says she’s tried her best, usually by herself, to spruce up her yard and home. She says apparently her efforts weren’t good enough for management. For 18 years she’s lived at Amherst Ridge mobile home park, operated by YES Communities. She has a month-to-month lease.
- She is unsteady on her feet as she says she has a severe heart condition along with other health issues. The 60-year-old grandmother and former nurse knows her limits. Myers, who depends on a limited fixed income from social security disability, may not live here much longer. Because her grass was high, her porch was cluttered, the roof to her home needed to be sealed among other cosmetic issues, she found a notice in June warning her to complete the home repairs by August.
- In response to the notice, Laurie said in July she had her backyard shed repaired and painted. The skirting around her home was replaced and her single wide that she’s owned for years was pressure washed. She also replaced the blinds in front of her home, and her porch was cleared of clutter. She did it all by herself.
- “This was like me doing something for like 30 or 40 minutes and my heart rate would be 160. I’d have to go in, sit down and rest,” Myers said.
- Apparently, the repairs and clean up were not completed fast enough. The detainer warrant served on Aug. 18 demands that she appear in Knoxville’s civil court for eviction.
As a local source stated, there are good reasons to have community standards. In fairness and for comparison purposes, there are numbers of similar accounts that emerge from conventional “site built” housing neighborhoods that may have an HOA (home owners association) which are zealously and/or politically/favoritism enforced. So, enforcing the rules that residents may freely agree upon must be balanced by the other evidence-based realities.
That noted, it seems that Myers made sincere efforts. Dare’s video report made clear that there was a significant improvement. So why did Yes insist that this was not enough, and then threaten to evict Myers? Let’s return to parts of the WATE narrative.
- “Myers [prior to going to court] expects [the] court to tell her she has 10 days to return or a 10-day notice to vacate. Myers said it would cost, at minimum, $5,000 to move her home. She says she doesn’t have the ability to pay.”
- WATE 6 On Your Side reached out repeatedly to Amherst Ridge for comment, and there’s been no response. Now, Myers will be forced to leave the place she’s called home for 18 years.
- Myers says over the years she has made many friends at the park, has never caused any trouble and continues to pay her monthly lot fee. She says if her health were better, she would have cut the grass, pulled the weeds, and made home improvements a lot sooner.
- The “Knoxville’s Community Action Committee says it’s been working closely with Myers, trying to do all it can to help her meet the park’s requirements. CAC says it will continue to work with her if she is evicted.”
Why the heavy hand by Yes management with a resident that is reportedly current with her site fees (a.k.a. lot rent) and not a trouble maker? There are several possible reasons. One could be the firm’s unstated business model. Several MHI members and/or members of MHI state affiliates have been accused of “aggressive,” “predatory” and heavy-handed tactics.
Several states have laws that if a pre-HUD Code mobile home or a post-HUD Code manufactured home is declared “abandoned,” then a fairly simple process exists for the community owner/operator to acquire title.
In such states, a resident that is evicted – for whatever reason – and then can’t afford to pay for a home to be moved, a scenario such as Myers’ could result to a clear title on a home that an aggressive community owner could acquire title to in short order. Once such a community owner has title, they can then update the formerly resident-owned house and either resell it at a hefty profit, and/or lease that house out. Simply put, if ethics are lacking, aggressive management can make a tidy profit by evicting even good residents.
In a recent report on NPR, the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) CEO Lesli Gooch, Ph.D., defended her association’s members against claims that some of her members were aggressively evicting residents, even during the declared COVID19 pandemic and associated hold ordered by public officials on evictions.
“Across the board, the owners and operators were really trying to keep their residents safely housed,” Gooch told NPR.
Did Gooch really seriously make that claim with a straight face? Then why have several MHI member firms effect evictions such as the one reported by NPR, others reported by various media, or the one threatened by Yes as reported by WATE proceed?
Residents of Yes who own their homes have complained about other practices too. One of those is explored in the report linked below.
So, with that backdrop, MHLivingNews reached out to local sources for additional information. Several at the Knoxville’s Community Action Committee was contacted via email, but had not replied by 11:45 AM ET on 9.16.2021.
By contrast, MHLivingNews reached out to Dare at WATE6, who promptly provided the following update. Dare, it should be noted, has a long list of awards and recognitions as a journalist.
|from:||Don Dare – WATE ABC 6|
|to:||L. A. Tony Kovach
|date:||Sep 15, 2021, 4:22 PM|
|subject:||Re: Don, media outreach about your Yes! Communities, Laurie Myers report|
Thank you for your message. Yes, we were in court on Sep 14 with Ms. Myers, her attorney, and a representative from the Area Agency on Aging’s Community Action Committee. Laurie Myers will be able to remain in her home. Her attorney, Bennett Hirshhorn, and a Knoxville attorney representing YES Communities Amherst Ridge agreed to a favorable settlement for Ms. Myers.
The eviction case against her was dropped. Laurie agreed to keep her home within the standards of the “Community Guidelines.” That concession was made mainly because a well-known local business, Horn Of Plenty Restaurant, agreed to bring her home up to standards and to maintain her lawn and shrubs for a year or more. Amherst Ridge said it would give her a full one-year lease and may renew it regularly if she follows the “guidelines. She had been on a month-to-month lease. CAC’s [Knoxville Community Action Committee] caseworker agreed to assist Ms. Myers as it has been doing since served her eviction warning in June and then eviction notice in August.
Her [CAC] attorney said he was “surprised” by the agreement and said, “The landlord is actually being very reasonable. I see a lot of these cases and not so many landlords are willing to be reasonable. So, that’s a huge win really for everybody.”
This was the second story we’ve covered at Amherst Ridge. In August, two viewers called about their cars and their visitor’s cars being towed from in front of their homes because the vehicles were either on the grass or had their wheels on the roadway. The tow bills ranged from $150 to $250 each.
Regarding the eviction story, I wrote to YES Communities Corporate office in Colorado and to the area representative of East Tennessee last week, never received a reply, but their attorney was ready to listen attentively to Ms. Myers’ attorney who must have made a compelling argument.
Amherst Ridge had originally been a Clayton Mobile Home community. It had been well run, I never received any complaints from viewers about the management. Apparently, the present management is not very hospitable toward some of their lot renters.
If you need any other information, call me.
WATE 6 On Your Side
1306 North Broadway St.
Knoxville, TN 37917 … ##
Dare subsequently called and near the end of the conversation noted that they would be doing a follow up video report, which is posted below. Dare also thoughtfully indicated he was okay with being quoted.
In fairness to Dare, who’s ‘beat’ for WATE covers a range of consumer issues in the Knoxville metro, not unlike others in mainstream media, events occurring in manufactured housing are just a tiny part of what they cover. Nor is there a demand for Dare to cover issues beyond his ABC affiliate’s broadcast service area. That said, Dare seemed quite knowledgeable about several of the troubling issues that are playing out nationally in the manufactured housing industry.
Dare was modest when this writer opined that based upon the broader dynamics and experience, the outcome for Myers was likely due in no small part to his report that his station thoughtfully aired.
Indeed, Myers’ said similarly.
Per the WATE follow up video posted above, she praised those who stepped up to help her out of what would have been an apparent eviction absent third-party intervention. Here are some pull quotes from the WATE follow up.
Posted: Sep 15, 2021 / 06:06 PM EDT / Updated: Sep 15, 2021 / 06:06 PM EDT
- KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A victory for a disabled grandmother in Knoxville as her eviction notice has been dropped. Laurie Myers went to court thinking she would be given 10 days to move her trailer, but now, her luck has changed.
- Many East Tennesseans were eager to come to Myers’ aid when we first reported her predicament with the mobile home park she’s been at for 18 years. She’s owned her trailer since 2003, never missed a payment, doesn’t cause any trouble, but last month an eviction notice arrived. When the 60-year-old’s health started failing, she couldn’t keep up her place and ended up in violation of park rules.
- Knoxville’s Community Action Committee stepped in and provided an attorney to represent her in court.
- Myers will not be evicted from her mobile home park, Amherst Ridge. General Sessions Judge Chuck Cerny was told by the attorney from Amherst Ridge it has agreed to dismiss the eviction case against Myers.
- “We were able to make an agreement with the landlord so that my client can stay in her house for at least a year, maybe longer, as long as she complies with the community guidelines,” [CAC attorney] Bennett Hirschhorn said.
- Aaron Lhamon with Horn of Plenty restaurant said, “So, we’re going to take on the physical property maintenance around Ms. Myers trailer, get it all up to snuff.”
- Amherst Ridge agreed to give Myers a normal 12-month lease, not month-to-month and may extend the lease beyond the next year. Hirschhorn said, “The landlord is actually being very reasonable. I see a lot of these cases and not so many landlords are willing to be reasonable. So, that’s a huge win really for everybody.”
- “I’m just beyond… I don’t know what to say other than God works in mysterious ways,” Myers said. “God did this. You guys did this. If it wasn’t for everybody working together, it would never have been accomplished.”
Additional Information, MHLivingNews Analysis and Commentary in Brief
While this is a story that has a happy ending at this point, there are a variety of things that could occur during the next 12 months, or for that matter, any time thereafter. A review of the basic dynamics at this MHI member community will clarify that evidence-based statement. In no particular order of importance:
- Myers asserts, and there is no known evidence to the contrary, that she was current on her payments.
- There is visual evidence from the WATE videos that Myers made significant improvements. Nevertheless, Yes management – instead of threatening, for example a fine, reportedly continued to move towards an eviction.
- Had Yes management desired to do so, they could have offered to do the work for Myers for a reasonable fee. But instead, what Yes did is threaten and then move toward eviction.
- The evidence seems to suggest that absent the local attention and intervention on Myers’ behalf, Yes could well have evicted.
- Note that WATE said that Yes corporate and local management did not return opportunities to comment. This is similar to what MHI does. Is this part of the “tricks of the trade” that MHI and their “big boy” members use when confronted by media that is seeking authentic accountability vs. mere wordplay or deflection?
Perhaps Yes management was more consumer friendly several years ago, that merits some investigation. But what this episode arguably reflects is that – ‘Yes, Yes! Communities will evict you for an infraction that doesn’t meet our standards, even during COVID19 and potentially in violation of various ethical and legal protections.’
While Dare was polite about Clayton in this Yes-focused story, another local affiliate in Knoxville revealed part of the darker underside of that firm.
More on Clayton Homes and the years of controversies about that company are found above and below.
It is at times outside researchers and reporters that shed light on troubling issue that plague the industry’s ethical professionals and untold thousands of consumers who once lived in privately owned communities that have since been acquired by so-called predatory brands. See the reports linked below for details and examples of those concerns.
It is Samuel Strommen at Knudson Law who, as a third-party legal researcher, made the evidence-based allegation that MHI seems to be working in an apparently immoral and illegal fashion on behalf of some of their dominating brands to consolidate the industry.
That report provides the defense of MHI surrogates, because neither MHI, nor Berkshire, nor their attorneys have commented.
There is much good in manufactured housing and it is a good and necessary home option for millions. But without a serious effort to bring these problematic players to justice, this pattern of arguably illegal practices will only continue.
For potential manufactured home shoppers, see the reports linked below to learn how to spot predatory firms and avoid doing business with them.
For public officials, advocates, and others who want to see this pattern change, formal investigations with subpoena powers, testimony taken under oath, and then a full application of all laws violated is the logical answer.
To learn more, see the linked reports. In closing, there are numbers of ‘white hats’ in manufactured housing, but when a pattern of ‘black hat’ behavior emerges, that is a good reason to avoid those brands.
Finally, membership in MHI – even a so-called “award winning” member should not be a reason to ‘trust’ a company. Indeed, per a Democratic staffer to our publication, MHI has a reputation in Washington, D.C. for being anti-consumer. Are handing out awards to aggressive member brands bent on consolidating the industry part of MHI’s “Tricks of the trade?”
“We Provide, You Decide.” © ##
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.