A New York state senator is calling on the owner of a mobile home park in Orange County to hold off on a planned rent increase and tend to maintenance issues. One resident says she’s about ready to move after a nearly year-long septic issue that has forced one of her children to sleep elsewhere in the home.
On Monday. Democratic state Senator Jen Metzger went to Huguenot Estates in Deerpark, joining with residents in opposition to a more than 4 percent lot rent increase and calling on Michigan-based RHP Properties to fix longstanding maintenance issues. She wrote a letter to RHP’s president, co-signed by state Senators James Skoufis and David Carlucci, who also have RHP manufactured home communities in their Hudson Valley districts.
“Essentially, we’re calling on the company to address the maintenance issues that, and just be more responsive generally to their tenants, and to consider the situation, consider that we’re in a pandemic and that people are struggling financially and hold off on rent increases during this challenging time,” Metzger says.
Senator Skoufis stood outside an RHP community in New Windsor last November, opposing a rent increase.
December will mark 12 years since Aurora Beach-Houck has been living at Huguenot, near Port Jervis.
“And in January, I started experiencing septic issues, backing up into my house, my sink, my showers. It was horrible,” Beach-Houck says.
After much back and forth with the company, their plumber and others, Beach-Houck says, by July, the problem had grown worse.
“So finally in July I called the office. I said, you guys have to something, like there’s a pond of septic out here, like something has to be done. She, they kept begging me not to call the health department so, I was like, you know what? I’m calling the [county] health department because we can’t continue to live like this,” Beach-Houck says. “It’s coming up in my house. It’s all over the yard. So I called the health department. They came out, took pictures. It was a big pond in my yard.”
She retained an attorney from Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. Beach-Houck says the pipe at issue is under her youngest daughter’s bedroom, and the room is unusable because of the stench.
“I have two children. My oldest daughter has health issues. She has a part of her immune system that’s missing, so she gets sick with the drop of a dime,” Beach-Houck says. “So the fact that she’s been breathing this waste in for nine-and-a-half months, I have to take my kids to doctors, I have to take my kids to be examined and have blood work and have them checked because there could be something going on. There could be stuff that I don’t know that’s going on, especially my older one with her health condition. Like do you care, do you guys care at all?”
In a statement RHP Properties President Joel Brown says, “We are in the process of replacing the sewer septic system for affected homes in the community and are awaiting the Health Department’s approval before the final repairs can be made. While the current system is operational, we recognize the need to replace it and will do so within the timeframe that was initially communicated to residents.”
Senator Metzger says several residents have reached out to her about maintenance problems. Then there’s the rent increase. Her 42nd District is a largely rural district in the Hudson Valley and Catskills where manufactured housing communities are one of the main affordable housing options available for senior citizens, veterans and others living on a fixed or modest income. The rent increase is for the lot that contains the home.
“The residents, they legitimately ask, what are we being, what is this increase for? What exactly is it paying for, because they’re not seeing the improvements,” says Metzger.
“The rent goes up every year. I will be getting my new lease, it usually comes October and it usually goes in effect the end of December, so January of the new year it will go in effect,” says Beach-Houck. “It usually goes up every year between $30 and $50.”
RHP is the nation's largest privately-held owner and operator of manufactured home communities in the U.S. New York state law states that rents may not increase more than 3 percent a year, but allows for up to 6 percent when the landlord’s expenses have increased in certain categories such as property taxes or capital improvements. Again, Metzger:
“The company has provided no justification for this increase over 3 percent, and it’s quite clear that they’re not even taking care of basic maintenance, let alone major capital improvements in the property,” Metzger says.
RHP’s Brown addresses the rent increase in his statement saying, “The rent increase is within accordance of current law and is necessary as we continue to reinvest in the community and provide a high level of service and quality lifestyle to our residents.”
Beach-Houck says she likes the place, has paid her rent on time, hasn’t caused or experienced problems prior, and is now soured by the situation. If the septic problem isn’t remedied, Beach-Houck says she may be forced to move at a time when there are few affordable options in the area.
“When is this going to get done. I have to worry about, come winter time, I might have to leave my home because I’m going to be dealing with a lot of issues and problems because this pipe is going to cause a lot of issues and problems,” says Beach-Houck. “So now I’m worried with my kids going back to school, having to do online schooling. Where am I going with my kids, my dog and my bunny?”
Metzger says she has not yet heard from Brown or anyone else at RHP. Brown says he will be reaching out to Senator Metzger to discuss questions and comments that she may have.