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Left without water for days, mobile home residents sue the park’s owner

GUNNISON COUNTY, Colo. Residents of a mobile home park organized and advocated for better living conditions just outside of the city limits of Gunnison, Colorado. They now claim they’re being punished for it.

Elizabeth McGee moved to Ski Town Village Mobile Home Park, formerly known as Country Meadows, last August. The park is just out of town but she loves how quiet and reasonably priced it is.

“Everything in town is really expensive just to rent,” she explained. McGee said she bought her mobile home for $25,000 and pays $875 a month, including land rent. “It was definitely a good deal when I bought the place,” she said. She doesn’t feel that way anymore after the land under her home was sold to another company.

With mobile homes, sometimes called manufactured homes, the residents only own the structure, not the land the home is on. Lately, selling the land under mobile homes in Colorado has become a lucrative business, one that involves large, out-of-state companies.

[Related: Colorado’s mobile home parks are becoming a lucrative business, but not for residents]

“I’m hoping that the community will see that it’s getting ridiculous,” McGee said, “these out-of-towners coming, buying up the properties and jacking up the rent.”

Almost all 55 mobile homes at Ski Town Village are owned by residents who do not own the land beneath their homes. Residents said that division of ownership and responsibilities has led to several issues, including water outages. Their complaints led to a state investigation. Then, the park’s owner put the land up for sale.

Now, the homeowners have filed a lawsuit.

Park residents have continued to advocate for improvements and maintenance. According to residents, a number of trees are at risk of falling on homes and the snowmelt floods the roads each spring. Photo by Bella Biondini, Gunnison Country Times

Complaint About Living Conditions

It all started about three years ago, when owners of mobile homes in Country Meadows got together to talk about problems in their park. The issues involved water, utility service lines, roads and pavement owned by the park’s then-owner, River Walk Village LLC. In 2020, homeowners filed a complaint with the state’s Department of Local Affairs detailing their concerns.

About a year later, River Walk Village Notified residents of the park was being listed for sale and it intended to accept an offer it had received. Colorado state law requires parks to notify homeowners before they sell to give residents the opportunity to buy the land.

According to a lawsuit filed in Gunnison County District Court, homeowners tried to work with the county to craft an offer to buy the land, but were unsuccessful. In February 2022, residents learned the state investigation into resident complaints found River Walk Village violated the Mobile Home Park Act by failing to maintain utility lines, remove snow, provide adequate drainage and maintain trees. The investigation also found the owners violated the law by improperly terminating leases.

In April, residents received a letter that their park had been sold to Ski Town Village and that their rent would be raised significantly, from $425 a month to $725 a month.

Two days later, according to the lawsuit, homeowners experienced water outages, “having either no water, only intermittent water, or extremely low water pressure.”

The lawsuit claimed homeowners were not notified before the outages. The problems with water service persisted on and off until June 24.

In their lawsuit, homeowners claim they did not get a fair opportunity to purchase their land because the previous owner ignored the county’s requests for information.

The lawsuit also claims the 70% rent increase is a retaliatory action against homeowners who exercised their right to advocate for better living conditions. The litigation claims the landowner tried to pass on the costs of the penalty fees and the remedial actions of fixing the issues from the investigation on to the homeowners, which would be a violation of Colorado law.

Tenants are also seeking reimbursement for their expenses incurred during the water outages.

In the lawsuit response, Ski Town Village LLC’s attorney denied most of the allegations. The attorney did, however, acknowledge that the owners raised the rent. Rocky Mountain PBS reached out to Ski Town Village LLC and its attorney for comment but did not receive responses in time for our publication deadline.

Edwards said there is a court hearing on August 8 to hear the homeowners’ motion to continue to pay $425 monthly rent until the lawsuit runs its course.

Sonia Gutierrez is a multimedia journalist with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at [email protected].