The March 15, 2021 issue of The New Yorker includes an in-depth look into why mobile homes across the country are seeing huge rent spikes, titled “What Happens When Investment Firms Acquire Trailer Parks.” The piece examines how investment firms are buying mobile-home parks and in turn, raising the cost of rent on tenants. According to the article, 20 million people live in mobile homes in the U.S., and many of them are veterans, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.
The story of our client, Suellen Klossner, is included in this piece from The New Yorker.
“On September 8th, [Kennedy Hunt P.C. together with Iowa Legal Aid] filed a lawsuit against Impact, charging it with violating the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against a disabled sixty-year-old Table Mound resident named Suellen Klossner. According to the suit, Impact tried to compel Klossner to sign a lease with illegal provisions, such as one that said that, if any rule in the lease was breached, Impact could evict residents after giving just three days’ written notice. Impact had also increased Klossner’s rent and utility charges by about eighty-seven per cent since buying the park. (Impact denies all the allegations in the suit.)”
Ms. Klossner has lived in the Table Mound Mobile Home Park since 2009. Though she owns her 1977 Trail-A-Rod double-wide manufactured home, Klossner rents her lot at Table Mound. As mentioned in The New Yorker, Klossner is a person with disabilities. In 1993, the Social Security Administration determined that Ms. Klossner was unable to work due to a combination of her impairments. Therefore, Ms. Klossner’s income is from public assistance payments.
When Ms. Klossner moved to Table Mound in 2009, her monthly rent was $235.00. From 2009 to 2017, her rent incrementally increased to $280.00, at a rate of approximately two percent per year.
But in June 2017, IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC purchased Table Mound. As The New Yorker article outlines, when investment firms purchase mobile home parks, rent prices tend to rise, and fast.
From June 2017 to September 1, 2019, Klossner’s lot rent went from $280.00 to $380.00 per month. IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC also started charging Klossner for services she had not paid for in the past, including water and sewer usage and trash pick-up.
As The New Yorker detailed, IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC created illegal lease agreements. In 2017, Klossner signed a lease with illegal provisions, including that “a tenant’s right to occupancy shall be terminated on thirty days’ written notice of non-renewal or three days’ written notice for a breach of any provision of the lease.”
In 2019, IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC. again ordered Klossner to sign a lease with illegal provisions. In response, Klossner sent a letter asking for clarification about the illegal provisions, which was never answered. In June 2019, Klossner did not sign said lease agreement. Klossner was again asked to sign a lease that included illegal provisions in February 2020. After legal counsel intervened, the defendant’s counsel claimed the lease with illegal provisions was sent by mistake. A new one was sent shortly thereafter and Klossner signed it.
Meanwhile, as her rent prices continued to rise, amounting to more than 50% of her income, Klossner sought out help. In February 2020, Klossner obtained rental assistance from St. Vincent De Paul Society. Additionally, in January 2020, Klossner was approved for a Housing Choice voucher. This federal voucher program provides rental insurance to ensure that very low-income families, persons with disabilities, and seniors secure decent housing.
Immediately upon receiving approval for the Housing Choice voucher, Klossner asked the Property Manager if IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC would accept it. Though Klossner is disabled and qualifies for the voucher, her request from IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC was denied.
On February 20, 2020, Ms. Klossner’s counsel sent Defendant’s counsel a letter asking if they would accept Ms. Klossner’s housing choice voucher. IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC denied the request.
On March 17, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Iowa placed a moratorium on most evictions until May 27, 2020. Additionally, due to pandemic, the Defense Health Agency extended the use of its Housing Choice voucher program. With this in mind, Klossner, through counsel, again requested reasonable accommodation, which IADU Table Mound MHP, LLC again denied.
This case is ongoing. For further information, please contact attorney Thomas E. Kennedy at (314) 872-9041 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or someone you know has been a victim of housing discrimination, our skilled attorneys at Kennedy Hunt, P.C. may be able to help you. Fill out a questionnaire so we can understand your claim.