After sale, residents in two Bismarck mobile home parks challenge new owners for changes

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Two mobile home parks in Bismarck, Holiday Park and Colonial Estates, have been bought by Havenpark, a Utah based company.

After Havenpark purchased the parks, they sent letters and leases to the residents detailing new terms and rent increases. Now the communities have organized to change the leases, and they've gotten local leaders involved.

Melvin Martin has called Colonial Estates home since 1972. Rent was $65 a month. He's seen a lot of growth and change, which he expected again when he heard about new owners coming in.

"We thought, first of all, it'd be water meters when we heard new people were coming. But we didn't expect this $30 raise in lot rent. That was a shocker,” said Martin.

On top of the basic lot increase to $415, there will be new utility fees as well as individual water and sewer payments for Colonial Estates, according to a July 29 letter to residents. Martin, whose wife spent months fighting cancer, says $30 goes a long way in his house.

"When you're living on a fixed income, it's hard to adjust,” Martin said. We asked if he’d be able to pay the increased rent. “I hope so,” he started. “I'm just going to have to find more of a part time job, just work a little longer at my part-time job.”

A few blocks away in Holiday Park, Jenny Erickson says new owners also are increasing her rent to $400. She says it will be the third increase in a year. She's afraid more increases will clean her out.

"I am a single mom of three kids and it's kind of tough sometimes but we make it work. I think it's the unknown of how far this company is going to push it because everything you read is just crazy increases and it doesn't stop after the first increase,” said Erickson.

Both parks were bought by Havenpark in July. The company didn't disclose how much it paid. The company has bought parks in other states like Iowa and Minnesota. The headlines in those places haven't always been positive. That was part of the reason Cathy Job organized a Facebook page. She also says a big increase could hurt her financially.

"That puts me in a financial hardship. I'm a single parent and I live paycheck to paycheck,” said Job.

The Facebook group led to a meeting on Wednesday at Jeannette Myhre Elementary. Before the meeting, Job, Erickson and few others got Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, involved in what was happening. Dever then informed Mayor Steve Bakken and Kent French with the North Dakota Manufactured Housing Association. Dever and Bakken have also spoken with staff from the Governor’s Office and staff with Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

A representative from Havenpark attended the meeting with hundreds of residents. It was announced at the beginning that changes to the lease were coming.

"They came up with some changes and I think good things are happening,” said Dever. "I think if Havenpark wants to be successful in their ownership of these mobile home parks, they need to recognize the people element."

While changes were announced, many residents want to see it in writing before they celebrate.

"Until we see something in writing we won't know. I do believe that it's going in the right direction in our favor, but I also know that there's some tough times ahead for us,” said Job.

Havenpark responds

Your New Leader reached out to the representative at the meeting for an interview. We were forwarded onto a public relations firm which provided a statement from Havenpark:

“The meeting with residents held Wednesday night was constructive and productive. Based on the feedback, we concede that the lease language was very legal heavy- making some of it hard to understand. We also believe many of the requested modifications to the lease agreement are reasonable and are planning to accept many of them. We hope to have an updated lease for review by residents shortly.

Ultimately, we believe all parties want the same thing. A strong community with improved safety, amenities, and property upgrades that benefit everyone. We’re confident that together we can achieve that, and look forward to building a positive, long-term relationship with community residents.”