A longtime Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) insider called “bull crap” at RHP Properties claims in a new controversy involving the manufactured home community land-lease firm. New York State Senator Jen Metzger (D) joined resident protestors of RHP Properties Huguenot Estates in Deerpark recently who are protesting long overdue maintenance combined with site fee hikes. Resident Beach-Houck said to the local NPR affiliate that she’s “been breathing this waste in for nine-and-a-half months…” as unresolved sewage issues have persisted for months that she says are harmful for her family.
RHP Properties in an exclusive statement to MHProNews shared their official stance regarding those allegations. That will be further below the insights from a local NPR radio affiliate.
This most recent episode sound eerily like another report out of New York about RHP in December 2019. In that instance, residents and NY State Senator James Skoufis (D) took to the airwaves, cable, and internet to protest an RHP Properties site fee increase that they said violated state law.
After MHProNews published the report above, giant RHP backed down. RHP claims they are the largest privately owned company operating manufactured home communities in the U.S. They are also an MHI and National Communities Council (NCC) member, and certainly among the largest manufactured home community operators in the U.S. See the related report below for details.
Oddly, Senator Metzger and her top staff opted not to comment to MHProNews. But their comments to the NPR affiliate WAMC are included in the following report from that source. The terminology errors – such as ‘mobile home park’ instead of ‘manufactured home community’ – are in the original. Additional information, the MHProNews inquiry to RHP leadership, RHP’s formal reply plus an analysis and commentary will follow.
NYS Senator, Residents Call On Mobile Park Owner To Fix Issues, Stop Rent Increase
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 [do] 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.”
RHP Response, Additional Information, MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
MHProNews contacted Ross H. Partrich, whose initials form the name “RHP Properties” that he has led since 1988, per his LinkedIn profile.
Here is the emailed message to Partrich last week.
— email text from MHProNews to Ross Partrich, RHP Properties —
“And we wonder why as an industry we are disliked.”
That quote above is from one of your industry peers associated with MHI that also sent the following which included the comment above, among others.
Paraphrasing the rest of what he said, he said that there were times his communities (“parks”) had problems too, but he addressed those without hiking rents. He called the RHP comment in the above “Bull crap.” He then concluded longer remarks by saying that “And we wonder why as an industry we are disliked.”
MHProNews is told by a state association exec, and an MHI board member, that they are aware of no enforcement action under the MHI/NCC “Code of Ethical Conduct.” If you are aware of any such enforcement effort, please so advise.
Your comments can be on or off the record, but we see value to it being on the record from you or another RHP spokesperson. Please email any statement for our mutual accuracy in handling/reporting.
Finally, as an FYI, there are a few BCCs in this message to document the outreach for comment. Among them is MHI. Note that we may be contacting others about this story, depending on your response.
— end of MHProNews’ specific inquiry message to RHP —
After internal discussions at RHP Properties, RHP had Glenn Oswald, an outside communications person contracted by RHP, provide this message to MHProNews.
— Formal emailed reply to MHProNews’ on behalf of RHP Properties —
Please see below. Please attribute to Joel Brown. Thank you.
“A Statement from Joel Brown, President, RHP Properties
Our mission and philosophy at RHP Properties is to provide a high-quality lifestyle, service, and sense of community to our residents.
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.
Currently, there are no other maintenance issues that we are aware of at the community.
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.”
— End of RHP email —
MHProNews advised Oswald that the above was flatly contradicted by statements made by residents and public officials. Neither Oswald, nor Partrich – who was also contacted in the following follow up – provided any additional reply.
On Wednesday 9.23.2020 at 2:05 AM ET, this follow up message was sent to Partrich.
Glenn’s email response, which I presume you know is in the history below.
In fairness, IMHO, it doesn’t serve your interests, much less that of others involved, well.
We plan to use it. But MHProNews would encourage a more specific response that gets to and addresses the unanswered original and follow up questions.
Entre nous, depending on how the election shakes out, there are reasons to believe that several issues that have festered will begin to get serious – as opposed to superficial – attention by public officials, including, but not limited to, the feds. Food for thought.
Please see Glenn’s message, our follow up to him, and my original inquiry to you.
— End of MHProNews email to Ross Partrich for the date and time shown. —
There are indeed a growing number of inquiries and research being done by state and federal officials on MHProNews. Beyond published reports, such as the one below, there is evidence that MHProNews is aware of that more action may be looming.
Beyond direct contacts with public officials, one of several third-party evidence that engagement from public officials on MHProNews and our sister site is found below.
That engagement on manufactured home community related issues is known to be bipartisan.
While the Trump Administration has taken the formal stance the rent control tends to limit the creation of more affordable housing, note that the report above is one of several possible examples of even ‘red state’ Republicans considering various regulatory, investigative, and possible legal actions.
It’s not just a Democratic issue anymore. But the efficacy of rent control is in doubt based on experience and nonprofit research.
Those doubts haven’t kept MHAction and others like them to press for rent control.
MHAction and Rent Control in New York
After years of efforts that blocked rent control in New York State, as noted with an assist by MHAction, it was finally passed into law in 2019.
Not long after rent control was enacted – as was previously noted in reports linked above from MHProNews and MHLivingNews – big RHP Properties essentially challenged the limits and effectiveness of the law in short order.
That fits a pattern that residents have noted in other states. There have been complaints by members of an MHAction affiliate in Delaware, for instance, that acknowledged that the community operators knew how to get what they wanted despite rent control laws.
As years of evidence and reports are examined, the question has arisen. Are one or more of these resident groups acting duplicitously on behalf of community operators and other big-boy MHI members who seek consolidation that is fostered by more regulations?
Rope a Dope via MHAction and Other “Resident Advocacy” Groups?
Out west, a manufactured home community resident has accused a certain resident advocacy group of actually being a tool working for the interests of manufactured home community owners. That allegation is denied by the group in question.
In California, the Golden State Manufactured-Home Owners League (GSMOL) – which is one of several groups that advocate on behalf of manufactured home residents living in communities – accused the MHAction group of usurping some of their work product. In doing so, their past-president informed MHLivingNews that MHAction was funded by the Tides.
The Tides nonprofit has been identified by Influence Watch as a left-wing advocacy group.
When the money trail to the Tides nonprofit is followed, it leads back to their largest donor, which is the Novo Foundation. The Novo Foundation for years was funded solely by billionaire Warren Buffett – a serious Democratic backer – and is run by Buffett’s son Peter.
Chairman Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway dominates MHI, in an alliance with other consolidators. The MHI PAC has RHP Properties as one of their largest donors in the 2020 election cycle.
When evidence arose that MHAction may be ‘shadow boxing’ or ‘play acting’ with prominent and notorious MHI/NCC members Frank Rolfe and Dave Reynolds in a fashion that merely poses to benefit residents – but actually benefits larger community operators who seek to consolidate the white hat mom and pops of the community sector – Reynolds flatly denied the claim in a message to MHProNews. But MHAction stayed mute on that topic. Reynolds denial and more on that topic are in the report linked below.
MHAction and NMHOA – both of which have so-called dark-money ties to Buffett’s donations – where asked about this new issue in New York involving RHP Properties.
Both MHAction and NMHOA ‘resident groups’ remained silent.
More evidence of that money trail that connects Buffett, George Soros and other left-leaning groups and media – including Prosperity Now and MHAction – are found in the reports linked above and below.
When those various puzzle pieces are put near each other, as this report outlines, a picture begins to emerge.
That image is one where activist groups raise what are often legitimate concerns from the vantagepoint of residents. Stiff site fee hikes, twists on financing intended to make manufactured homes more affordable is instead made to support less affordability in communities, and issue like the one involving RHP in New York are considered, what appears to be a pattern emerges.
The purported solutions advanced by MHAction and NMHOA often play into the hands of MHI/NCC giant consolidators. After all, it was giant publicly traded Equity LifeStyle Properties (NYSE:ELS) that said in a conference call that they have learned how to navigate the rent control laws in the jurisdictions that they operate in.
If ELS has learned to navigate the rent control environment, why would it be a surprise if other big operators like RHP have or are learning to work around rent control too?
One There are an array of sources – like introductory video above – that make the argument that rent control ultimately doesn’t achieve its desired goal. Additionally, even ROC USA’s Paul Bradley has said to MHProNews that in his mind, rent control is not a solution.
A reasonable conclusion is one that is born out by the experiences from north of the border in Canada.
There, rent control has had the effect of keeping most land-lease communities nearly full, but has limited the production of new land-lease communities. When a manufactured home community closes, what are those residents supposed to do? Where do they go with their homes?
In or out of land-lease properties, there is posturing by MHI of trying to mitigate those obstacles to creating more homesites and communities for manufactured homes. But even pro-MHI member Don Westphal admits that there is much resistance.
While ELS or RHP might be arguably seen as more subtle, “Frank and Dave” are often ‘in your face’ in their statements and boldness in promoting the notion that no more new manufactured home communities should be developed.
That lack of new construction – with evidence that there are more community closures than new ones opening – in turn leads to an opportunity for the slow and steady monopolization of the industry by a fairly small group of would-be or de facto land-lease community oligarchs.
This pattern has been brought into focus by another MHI member that RHP leaders know. Nathan Smith and his colleagues at Better Business Bureau “F” rated SSK Communities, which has rebranded as Flagship Communities.
SSK Communities was also noted by John Oliver’s video, above. They now seek going public with the stated purpose of consolidating the fragmented manufactured home community sector.
Additionally, MHARR has recently accused HUD officials at the Office of Manufactured Housing Programs (OMHP) of foot-dragging that aims to thwart Trump Administration regulatory reforms until a possible-Biden-Harris administration takes office.
Be someone a fan of President Trump or not, he has made the apt point that negative media can be useful in some instances. That certainly seems to be what Frank and Dave, Nathan Smith, possibly RHP and others are engaged in.
Economics 101 tells us that the only thing that will mitigate rising site fees – along with any other rising rent or housing costs – are creating more affordable housing opportunities. MHARR, MHProNews, MHLivingNews, and others have argued that in the manufactured home community sector, that means more communities and sites must be brought on line.
The National Association of Realtors Lawrence Yun, recently and previously, has pushed the notion that millions of more housing is needed. So too has the leftist National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
So, when HUD Secretary Carson tried to make the case that manufactured housing is a possible solution, but that regulatory barriers had to be removed to allow for more such options, it wasn’t like Dr. Carson was breaking news. He was reframing with a manufactured home focus what others across the political spectrum have said.
Summary and Conclusion
It remains to be seen if RHP pivots as they did before, and as fellow MHI member Skyline Champion Homes (NYSE:SKY) did recently.
What remains undisputed by the very groups that have been alleged to collude with MHI members in an effort to foster more rent control, and through more regulations, more consolidation. Note that legal sources indicate that there are a variety of possible laws that might explain why MHAction and NMHOA leaders don’t want to deny something via email that they are in fact guilty of doing.
That the “system is rigged” has been increasingly claimed for over 2 decades by voices across the left-right divide.
The question that is before manufactured housing professionals, affordable housing advocates, public officials, and others is this. Are laws being tested or broken in a fashion that involves collusion that in turn is fostering more consolidation that hurts residents of manufactured home communities and white hat independents alike?
RHP won’t answer that question or others like it directly yet. But their behavior will shed light on the issue.
It isn’t just in New York where people are breathing waste, literal, and figurative. RHP wouldn’t reply to the notion that a fellow MHI colleague of theirs said is occurring at their community is “bull crap.” If someone listens to talk around MHVillage, there is a lot of “crap” going around on a range of issues that impact independents, residents, affordable housing advocates, and taxpayers’ interests. MHProNews will continue to monitor and report on such matters as circumstances merit.
There is always more to know. Stay tuned with the runaway largest and documented number one most-read source for authentic manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.
Communities, Assoc Exposé – Whistleblower “Leaks” – Lesli Gooch Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) CEO and Sheila S. Dey, Executive Director Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA)