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Homeowners seek support from AG, Dept. of Insurance

Deputy Attorney General: We are here to help
Deputy Attorney General Greg Strong speaks to manufactured homeowners at the Long Neck CHEER Center. BY KARA NUZBACK
December 18, 2012

Manufactured homeowners showed up in droves to demand help from state officials.

Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, organized a Dec. 12 meeting at the Long Neck CHEER Center in Millsboro on issues affecting residents of manufactured housing communities.  Between 150 and 200 people attended, including homeowners, legislators and attorneys.

Briggs King said in a Dec. 6 phone interview she is drafting legislation to fulfill her campaign promise to protect the rights of manufactured homeowners.  She said she called the meeting to familiarize herself and the Attorney General’s Office with the needs of constituents in mobile home parks.

Deputy Attorney General Greg Strong, director of Delaware’s Consumer Protection Unit,

said the Attorney General’s Office gets involved when it sees a pattern or practice of contract violations, but it is possible for one complaint to spawn an investigation.

Strong said every manufactured homeowner should be given a copy of the rules and standards in a park when a lease is signed.  He also reviewed reasons a lease can be terminated, rules for selling a home or community and lease violations.

When asked about Delaware’s Rental Assistance Program, Strong said homeowners must meet a list of eligibility requirements, and it is only available to those who live in parks with 26 rentals or more.  Eligibility requirements are set by the state Housing Authority, but Strong said he would inquire about widening eligibility standards.

Briggs King said constituents have told her when the Attorney General’s Office receives a complaint, they sometimes turn it away and direct the person to another agency instead of redirecting the complaint themselves.

Strong said if his office receives a complaint that falls under the jurisdiction of another agency, he would be glad to forward it.

Ron Amadio, of Delaware Manufactured Homeowners Association, said the standard of living in parks should be clearly defined.  For example, he said, there is no written definition of a road that is in good shape; the homeowner might say the road needs to be fixed, while the landowner might say it does not.  “So what do we do?” Amadio asked.

Fred Neil, of DMHOA, said park owners can raise the rent for land once every year, and there is no limit to how much the rent might go up.  Neil said if homeowners bring action against a landowner, even with support from the Attorney General, the landowner could raise rents and make homeowners pay for their legal defense.  “The victims pay,” Neil said.

Strong said he has no solutions, but he would make a list of homeowners’ concerns and work to solve them.  “If we need to come back in a month or two, I’m happy to do that,” he said.

A number of homeowners who attended said they filed complaints but never received a response.  Al Burns said he filed complaints nine months ago, and he still has not heard from the Attorney General’s Office.

“I think nine months is a long time, and that needs to be addressed,” Strong said.

Strong said he became director of CPU in July, and he has used the time since then to familiarize himself with consumer protection laws, which likely caused the delay in his response to complaints.  “I am personally getting my feet wet with this stuff and trying to understand it,” he said.

Strong said he would do better; he handed out a stack of business cards to audience members and provided contact information for the Department of Justice Consumer Protection Division. He also stayed after the presentation to speak to people one-on-one.

Strong appears undaunted by the number of concerns. “I’m actually excited that so many people turned out for this,” he said.  “We really want to know about these things,” Strong said.  “We are here to help.”

Briggs King also invited representatives from the Delaware Insurance Department to discuss homeowners insurance for manufactured homes.  Mike Gould and Shirley Davis said the department receives about 5,500 complaints and inquiries every year.

Gould said many insurance companies are no longer offering insurance in coastal areas.  He said because Delaware is a small state, a handful of expensive claims can quickly make it an unprofitable place for insurance companies to do business.

“They are looking out for their bottom line,” Davis said.

Gould said homeowners could contact the department for a list of available manufactured housing insurers.  To contact Delaware Department of Insurance Consumer Services, call 800-282-8611 or go to www.delawareinsurance.gov.

To contact the Department of Justice Consumer Protection Unit, call 800-220-5424 or go to attorneygeneral.delaware.gov.