Manufactured home owners in disputes with their community owners will be eligible for free legal representation by Delaware Community Legal Aid Society Inc. under a contract with the Delaware Department of Justice.
“Constituents in all three counties have called for this kind of resource for years,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings in a statement released Jan. 4. “This is a hard-fought victory for the more than 20,000 homeowners in Delaware’s manufactured home communities, many of whom live on fixed incomes and feel trapped by economic circumstance, even when the law is on their side. This agreement makes the system more fair and equal, and brings justice within reach for people who simply want a fair deal. I’m excited about this partnership, and I’m grateful to everyone in the DOJ, at CLASI, and in the General Assembly who made it possible.”
The contract was authorized by legislation that created a dedicated attorney fund, supported by a 50-cent portion of an existing monthly assessment paid by owners of manufactured homes. The contract provides for quality legal representation to homeowners in manufactured housing communities while also including the resources necessary for CLASI to expand eligibility and client capacity, officials said.
“I strongly supported House Bill 46, and I’m glad to see this contract signed,” said Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association President Bill Kinnick. “I’ve worked closely with CLASI over the years. I know their work, and I’m glad to have them on our side. As long as I can remember, the deck has been stacked against manufactured home owners, many of whom are senior citizens or working class and have nowhere to turn when they are mistreated. This contract will finally help level a playing field that has been tilted against us for years.”
The contract specifically covers homeowner-community owner disputes in communities governed by the Manufactured Home Owners and Community Owners Act. The DOJ will/does not participate in CLASI's representation of clients, but will monitor the contract to ensure that the statute’s goals are met.
"Multibillion-dollar corporate entities are increasingly buying up the manufactured housing communities in Delaware and jacking up the ground rent on the land literally beneath the feet of our neighbors, friends and family members, all to turn a profit for shareholders who have never set foot in this state," said Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna. "These excessive rent hikes deplete local manufactured home owners of their limited disposable income and leave them unable to afford proper legal representation. Our legislation simply gives those homeowners a way to pool their resources and level the playing field. Thank you to Attorney General Kathy Jennings and CLASI for working together to give the little guy a fighting chance."
Eligible Sussex County homeowners seeking representation can find more information at www.declasi.org or call CLASI at 302-856-0038. More information about manufactured housing is available through the DOJ’s Manufactured Housing Ombudsperson at 302-577-5035 or de.gov/mho.