The Town of Fallsburg organized a forum in response to growing complaints about FoxCroft Village, where Paula Frumkin, president of the community’s homeowners association, was one of the residents who spoke on Jan. 23, 2018.
The situation deteriorated since then, she said, per the Record Online.
“We have more empty homes than we’ve ever had,” Frumkin said earlier this month. “None of them are being fixed up. Nothing is being done.”
In mid-December 2018, then-New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court against the owners of FoxCroft Village. The legal action aims “to compel them to fix the water system; properly dispose of garbage; fix septic systems; repair roads and public lights; abate outstanding Town of Fallsburg and state Health Department violations; and secure a valid permit to operate from the state Health Department,” said the Record Online.
FoxCroft Village reportedly has some 321 home sites. About 200 are resident-owned homes, with the balance rented to the residents via rent-to-own contracts, according to the NY AG’s lawsuit.
The community’s operating permit expired in December 2017. It has been unable to obtain a new one due to the conditions there, the AG’s lawsuit states.
The lawsuit sets a deadline of Feb. 15, 2019 to achieve compliance, plus seeks restitution for all the aggrieved residents.
George Levin and Gayla Sue Levin of the state of Florida are defendants, along with L & F Enterprises, Inc., and Foxcroft Village, LLC.
FoxCroft Property Manager Mike Mergendahl declined to comment on the pending legal matter.
“It is evident that respondents are unwilling to perform the maintenance, repairs, and system replacements necessary to address Foxcroft’s failing water and septic systems and other dangerous conditions throughout the park,” the state’s legal complaint says.
George Levin reportedly denounced the lawsuit in an email, saying it relies on misinformation. Levin criticized Assistant Attorney General Stephen Barry, who has been representing the state in the case.
“No one from the State’s AG Office has ever visited Foxcroft to verify what has been done or is being done on a daily basis,” Levin wrote in the message.
Levin said that Barry’s basis for the lawsuit is Fallsburg’s meeting from last year, which was “called for the sole purpose of disparaging Foxcroft” because of a “running vendetta” by Town Supervisor Steven Vegliante against park management.
There was no water service on Dec. 26, as of the report dated Jan 6th. It is the second year in a row that the community lost water service around Christmas, according to Lisa Stephens-Hotalen, a 16-year resident. Hotalen lives across the street from Frumkin.
There’s so much water leaking near their homes that it reportedly pools up in one portion of her lawn when Hotalen presses her foot into the grass. It was the only part of her yard that wasn’t covered in snow.
The lawsuit claims that FoxCroft has experienced “park-wide intermittently functioning water distribution and failing septic systems” since the summer of 2017 and that residents reported brown water coming from their taps.
Residents have also been under a boil-water order since Dec. 23, 2017. The Town of Fallsburg cited FoxCroft for a code violation for the water system on Jan. 14, 2018. Since then, the community has faced a maximum fine of $1,500 per day it remains in violation, according to the NY AG’s lawsuit.
Levin said a new water system has been installed and Sullivan County’s health department approved of the installation.
Vegliante confirmed that FoxCroft’s owners have begun to replace the water system.
“It’s been unbelievably frustrating,” he said of the past year. “People deserve a safe place to live, and finally they’re [the owners] starting to resolve some of the issues.”
Officials noted that noted that “We’re doing everything we can not to condemn it,” meaning the community, and hope that the state AG’s suit will spur completion of the pending work.
Code Enforcement Officer Mollie Messenger declined comment on alleged violations, citing active litigation, referring questions to the town of Fallsburg’s attorney, Bruce Perlmutter. Fallsburg is set to go to trial with FoxCroft in town court near the end of January. The parties could not agree on the total amount that should be paid in fines for the code violations.
‘Rent To Own’ Woes…
The New York attorney general’s lawsuit also takes aim at the approximately 100 rent-to-own contracts FoxCroft has with some residents, calling the agreements “deceptive” and in violation of state law, which are subject to fines per contract.
FoxCroft’s documents reportedly tag rent-to-own payments as ‘loan payments’ pursuant to a mortgage. But L & F Enterprises, Inc., is not a lender. They hold the title to each home until it’s completely paid for by the resident. Those residents are subject to summary eviction for non-payment at any time before that time, the AG’s lawsuit states.
This is a noteworthy issue to every community in the nation that is doing, or is considering doing, rent to own, lease purchase options, or other contracts of this kind.
Some industry professionals, such as George F. (F?) Allen, Spencer Roane, and the so-called SECO conference have promoted this kind of ‘seller financing’ for years. They claim it is legal, purportedly checked out by an attorney who advised Roane.
But if the New York AG believes they are problematic, and since it seems to violate the notion of a “disguised credit transaction” – which can be problematic under Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guidance – do Allen, Roane and SECO leaders really think they can successfully defend a similar state or federal claim against their process? Do their ‘students’ and followers want to take these types of risks?
Back in New York, Levin denies that FoxCroft has such contracts. But he said that FoxCroft does internally finance the sale of its homes to residents.
The Daily Business News on MHProNews will continue to monitor such cases. While we are not attorneys, and don’t give legal advice, it is prudent to consider legal actions like this case in New York as the most recent in a string of warnings to those who literally buy the advice of those – like Allen, Roane, and SECO – who sell such apparently problematic, and potentially risky “education.”
That’s this morning’s “News through the lens of manufactured homes, and factory built housing,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
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