July 18, 2024

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Most Colorado mobile home owners have never heard of oversight program designed to protect them, new report shows

A year after Colorado lawmakers enshrined into law new protections for the state’s tens of thousands of mobile home owners, more than three-quarters of complaints against landlords and managers remain unresolved and more than seven in 10 park residents had never heard of the state oversight program, according to an inaugural report released this week.

The “Mobile Home Park Oversight Program Annual Report,” published Tuesday, represents the most thorough look yet at the state of Colorado’s beefed-up Mobile Home Park Act, which introduced in 2020 a dispute-resolution system for mobile home owners to file complaints as well as a centralized registration system for the state’s 718 mobile home parks.

The dispute-resolution system — modeled after a similar program in Washington state — was designed to give mobile home owners a cheaper, easier avenue to address issues in their parks without costly attorney fees.

The most common complaints to state regulators included park owners’ failure to properly maintain trees, water and sewer lines, and park common areas; owners instituting rules and regulations that allegedly go against Colorado statute; and landlords allegedly requiring residents to sign new leases or rental agreements that waive their homeowners’ rights.

But the report also noted a persistent backlog in cases that have not been resolved by state regulators.

The program received 221 complaints between May 1, 2020 — when the dispute-resolution process launched — and June 30, 2021, encompassing 546 alleged violations. Of those complaints, 49 had been resolved — or just 23%. Seventy-seven of the 546 alleged violations were resolved, meaning 86% remained open.

Christina Postolowski, who runs the state’s Mobile Home Park Oversight Program, said in an email that the state focused during its first year on getting the park registration database built, much of which had to be entered manually. This took regulators months to do, and contributed to the complaint cases stacking up.

“Getting current, accurate ownership and contact information for parks underpins the rest of the work that the program does,” Postolowski said in the email. “The structure of the program (as set up by the state legislature) relies on the division being able to quickly identify and contact park owners to investigate complaints and disseminate information on the program to resident home owner.”

Mobile home owners detailed to The Denver Post last fall their frustration over the extended wait times for addressing their concerns, ranging from snow removal and sewage issues to mold in laundry rooms or water being shut off for days without notice. Some residents still hadn’t had their issues resolved more than a year after submitting complaints to the state.

Four corporate owners — which own dozens of parks around Colorado — were responsible for a quarter of the complaints, state data from September showed. It’s part of a growing trend of hedge funds and large corporations that are buying up mobile home parks around the country, where they are known to increase rent repeatedly and remove amenities.

Postolowski acknowledged in her email that the department did not, initially, have enough staff to register parks, address park sale requirements, resolve complaints and enforce the rules. In response, the department hopes to hire two additional staff to focus just on park registration and mobile home park sales by early this year, she said.

“Those additional staff resources will help the program address the backlog in cases while working to resolve new complaints,” Postolowski wrote, noting that there were 36% more mobile home owners in the state than initial data suggested. “The demand for the program suggests the division may need additional staff beyond these two.”

Even with the delays, more than 40% of respondents to a state survey said they had a good experience when they contacted the oversight program, compared to less than 18% who reported the experience to be poor. Just over 35% said the experience was “OK.”

A nagging issue, however, is a lack of awareness about the oversight program — particularly among mobile home owners.