Judge orders Bowling Green mobile home park residents to leave in 10 days

by | May 6, 2024 | ALLFFP, Caroline, Housing

Residents of the eight remaining occupied trailers in the Hill Mobile Home Park in Bowling Green were ordered Monday to vacate their homes within 10 days by Caroline County General District Court Judge Robert Reibach. 

Reibach ruled in favor of Homes of America, the Englewood, New Jersey company that purchased the 9.3 acres off A.P. Hill Boulevard for $203,000 in 2021. 

Reibach said the trailers can stay longer, but residents must depart.

“I was shocked,” resident Rodney Washington said. “At least give us more days. That would’ve helped a lot. All I need is more time.” 

Henry Young, a lawyer for the Charlottesville-based Scott Kroner PLC, which represents Homes of America, argued that letters were mailed to the residents Nov. 13, 2023, stating that their leases would not be renewed when they ended on Feb. 28. 

Residents testified they did not receive the letters and that they never signed a lease from Homes of America. 

However, Young presented the judge with year-to-year leases that the residents agreed to under previous owners that carried over when the land changed hands.  

The judge said residents’ claims that they did not receive the letter are not credible, and he noted that one was returned to the sender. He said that showed the correspondence was sent. 

“Certified mail is not required by law,” Reibach said. 

Resident Tanya Rowan sobbed as she exited the courtroom. Linda Grady, 73, told Reibach that 10 days is not enough time for her to relocate. 

Grady, too, was in tears. She said she’s always been strong — even when her mother died — but this was heartbreaking. 

“I don’t like anybody seeing me cry,” she said.  

Grady said she feels “scammed” after recently paying off her trailer and believing she finally had stable housing. She said she would not have bought the trailer if she knew her living situation was so tenuous. 

Alexander Reidell, who represented the residents for the Fredericksburg-based Legal Aid Works, advised his clients to appeal the ruling to Caroline Circuit Court. He said it could cost approximately $800 to do so and that while a change in the ruling may not be likely, an appeal would give them more time to move. 

Reidell said companies buying mobile home parks and evicting residents off the land is a “major problem in Virginia” and a serious threat to one of the few, dwindling options for affordable housing. He said mobile home parks are the “worst of renting” and the “worst of home ownership” because of instability with land ownership.

Reidell said one option for mobile home park occupants is to band together to purchase the land themselves. 

“They may need to get more organized,” Reidell said. 

Rowan, who is disabled and has two daughters living with her, said she will find shelters for her three dogs. She said she prayed prior to the court appearance and believed the judge would hear out the residents. After Reibach gave his ruling, Rowan said she felt like her voice was silenced. 

“I guess I’ll take what’s important and leave the rest,” Rowan said. “I’ll figure it out. I have to tell my kids this. I don’t know right now. Everything is gone.” 

Reidell argued that his clients should be afforded 180 days to move based on the Manufactured Home Lot Rental Act, which requires six months to vacate if the land is to be redeveloped or the park shut down. 

However, Young declined to state in court the company’s plans for the land, and Reibach did not require him to do so. 

Young declined to answer any questions from reporters after the hearing, saying he has limited knowledge of the case. A legal aid from Scott Kroner PLC declined to provide her full name to reporters. She testified that she mailed the letters to the residents in November but said she knows nothing else about the case. 

Homes of America was accused of operating an “eviction mill” in an article in the Minot (North Dakota) Daily News. The corporation was also at the center of a VPM News report regarding 40% lot fee rate increases at a trailer park in the Mineral area of Louisa County. 

Rowan said she now turns her attention to finding land for her trailer. Relocation can cost several thousand dollars. Residents who move their trailers also face costly water and sewer hookup fees, among other expenses. 

 “I’m going to go home and cry a little bit,” Rowan said. “Then I’m going to put my big girl pants on and work this out.” 

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