The cesspools have been overflowing. There are potholes all over, so severe that one resident allegedly broke two bones after falling in one. The community pool has been closed for years. The electrical system is outdated. Tenants say they are being charged for chores the owner is supposed to take care of. Yet, the rent goes up each and every year.
Thus is their plight, said residents of the East Hampton Mobile Home Park, who have banded together to address the issues. And, they have two powerful politicians in their corner.
State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and State Senator Ken LaValle attended a meeting hosted by the tenants at the park Friday.
The owner of the complex is RHP Properties, based in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The company did not have any representatives at the meeting.
Representatives from the Mobile/Manufactured Home Owners Association of Suffolk attended Friday's meeting. They advised the locals about the legal steps necessary to form a tenant's association. "It would be like stirring up a hornet's nest," LaValle said.
Thiele offered his legal services pro bono to help with the process, he said.
"In some other states tenants have access to the courts for rent gouging if the increase exceeds the cost of living," Thiele noted. He said a similar bill has passed in the assembly but stalled in the senate, a victim of landlord and real estate lobbyists.
This isn't the first time residents of the mobile village mobilized. About eight years ago The Independent published a series on the matter. The manager at the time, Barbara Schellinger, was accused of, among other things, forcing trailer buyers and sellers to pay her a broker's fee, which is illegal in New York State.
At the time RHP, whose spokesman was Jay Weston, denied the allegations and supported Schellinger. Weston, in fact, said he wasn't aware the residents were unhappy. But several residents said they had contacted him, and at least one produced certified letters of complaint he had mailed to Weston. After The Independent investigation intensified Schellinger was not only removed as manager but was ordered to leave the premises. She reportedly left the state after at least one resident contacted police with allegations that Schellinger sought kickbacks from workers she hired to perform chores at the site. However, it should be noted police never formally charged her with wrongdoing.
The most egregious complaint currently, Thiele said, is that the sewer system is inadequate. Potholes are a concern, and speed bumps installed a few years back caused considerable damage to some of the cars residents drive.
The residents of the park own their mobile homes but must pay rent for the space and the services provided – snow removal, garbage removal, and security. There are almost 200 units, and the annual rent is $1.7 million. It should be noted the current complaints are not lodged against the facility's on site manager but its management company, a subsidiary of Newbury Management Company.
Thiele said he is hopeful that the bill to control rents will pass when LaValle submits it again. "Once the park owners know someone is looking over their shoulders" the complaints are usually addressed, he said.
A call to RHP was not returned by press time.