“We bought a trailer  that wasn’t really ours. I mean, it really hurt me.
My nerves have been tore up. I’ve been crying.”
– Tonya Evans, a customer of Tom Lackey’s Stoney Pointe MH Community business.
Spencer Roane is an RV MH Hall of Fame Inductee, and is one of a group of manufactured home land-lease community owners who has organized the Southeast Community Owners (SECO) symposium.
Among the features of the annual SECO gathering?
Talks by Roane on a controversial use of a lease-to-own (rent-to-own) program that he has previously said can be used to “finance” the sale of manufactured homes.
Roane was asked by the Daily Business News about Tom Lackey, who stands accused of ‘selling’ pre-owned manufactured homes rent-to-own. More on Roane’s reaction and comments to the troubling accusations, later below.
But first, what exactly is creating such a troubling mainstream media stir?
Charges of “Selling” Homes “Rent to Own,” Without Titles
According to accusations reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Lackey and his business did not own the homes that he “sold” rent-to-own.
18 residents learned their homes would be auctioned off for back taxes.
Tonya Evans and her family had a jolt when “…about five weeks ago, county workers showed up and taped a yellow seizure notice to their house. They did the same with 17 other mobiles homes  at Stoney Pointe and Blue Ridge Estates, located around the block on Schmitt Road. Nobody had paid property taxes for years,” per Times Free Press staff writer Tyler Jett.
Lackey reportedly did not return calls and messages from the Times Free Press.
Nor did Tom Lackey reply to a number of direct and indirect queries from the Daily Business News, that invited him to share his version of the highly-emotionally – and legally charged – allegations. But oblique comments about Lackey were offered by a colleague, Spencer Roane.
Spencer Roane’s Comments on Tom Lackey
“Tom has been a member of our SECO planning group for several years. I couldn’t ask for a more professional, conscientious, or capable member of our team,” Roane said in a message to the Daily Business News.
Roane was asked about Lackey. Roane was also asked about their often publicized to industry members ‘rent to own’ or ‘lease purchase option’ process.
“I am somewhat familiar w/this situation [i.e; Lackey/Stoney Pointe] but am not comfortable commenting on it, except to say that lease-option contracts are [a] complicated, legally enforceable means of transferring ownership of MHs in some states,” Roane said.
Roane added, “I’ve bcc’ed Tom on this msg. He will contact you if he wants to discuss it.”
The SECO website shows Lackey on their planning team.
Apparently, Lackey did not want to explain his view on what took place with Tonya Evans, her family, and 17 other households that live in his community. Should he and/or his attorney offer a comment, we can update this report.
Blogger, COBA7 owner, and RV MH Hall of Famer retired Col. George Allen – who has been played a role in the SECO program – declined comment on the troubling story.
“I’m somewhat familiar with the matter. No comment from here,” Allen said to the Daily Business News via email.
As Allen’s COBA7 followers and others know, Allen has promoted Roane’s rent-to-own program and SECO for several years.
What Local Authorities Said
“Dealer rules and regulations are very clear,” said Danny Sane, the tax commissioner of Whitfield County. “You’re not supposed to be able to sell a car or a mobile home without the title in your name.”
Sane called the bill of sale ‘worthless,’ per the Times Free Press.
Walker County Tax Commissioner Carolyn Walker said, “Mr. Lackey must go through the proper proceedings before he can legally rent, or sell the mobile home ,” Walker said in an email to the Times Free Press. Their report indicated that Lackey never obtained those titles to the manufactured homes they were ‘selling’ when he purchased the community in 2014.
Evans Paid Cash
While most of Lackey’s customers were presumably ‘buying’ rent-to-own, Evans and her husband reportedly paid cash for their home.
Now, they’ve packed up and moved on, saying they had been defeated.
What impact, if any, this has on Stoney Pointe, Lackey, SECO, COBA7 attendees and their followers is not easy to predict. But some consequences wouldn’t be surprising. And what will those various residents who thought they would become owners do?
The Times Free Press has signaled that this is going to be an ongoing investigation by their publication.
A source familiar with the matter from Georgia had this off-the-record comment, “…this is common among Community Owner’s because states don’t have appropriate abandoned housing laws, these guys buy a community and can’t move a home because it has ten years back taxes to pay for because customer died 8 years ago and family want moved the home. Doesn’t mean it’s right though. Georgia has a new Abandoned housing law that goes in effect July 1st that will help avoid this in the future.”
In the era of Google and internet-driven news searches, this is likely to be an ongoing image issue for many other community operators, and arguably the industry at large.
It is part of what MHI award-winner Marty Lavin, JD, has called tongue-in-cheek the industry’s “other image campaign.”
Lavin was travelling, and was not able to comment on the specific concerns in this case. But he has previously noted the principles that people should pay more attention to what people do than what they say, and to follow the money.
- Will the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) weigh in on the troubling issue?
- Will MHI defend the reputation of those who strive day-by-day to serve their customers properly?
- Will Lackey respond to our numerous attempts to get him to comment on his version of these incidents?
- The Chattanooga Times Free Press news report is linked here. ## (News, analysis, and commentary)
(Third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)
 The terminology shown is in the original, and isn’t the proper legal name for the kind of home being described. To learn more about terminology and general industry facts, click here. MHProNews encourages mainstream media, and all others too, to use the proper terminology for each type of home.
Update, on the record comments from GMHA (5.15.2018 at 11:43 AM ET):
“We [GMHA] recognized the state had an issue and so we utilized the legislative process to rectify the problem. We know this [new] law is sound. We used the Alabama law for precedence and invited the states magistrate judges, tax commissioners, and bankers to the table. We worked together for two years until we had 100% agreement,” said Jay Hamilton, Georgia Manufactured Housing Association (GMHA) to MHProNews.
The Daily Business News pressed the GMHA, in a follow up, about Tom Lackey, Stoney Pointe, and the details of this specific matter. In their follow up reply, Hamilton said via a text message the following.
“The GMHA can’t comment on the specifics of such matters,” the GMHA executive director said.
“But in general, when a potentially problematic issue exists with a member, there is a code of conduct and process the GMHA follows.”
“The association is always focused on resolving underlying issues, and doing so in a manner that respects consumers and members alike,” Hamilton said to MHProNews.
In the NPR story, the blame is on the community owner, tenants, county, and state. This failure is across-the-board and does not represent the industry as whole, but is a growing problem that needs to be addressed when communities are used for investment purposes by those who don’t know what they are doing.
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