RV park residents hope to reach agreement with landlord

Residents of a North Austin trailer park hope they won't soon end up homeless.

They recently filed a lawsuit against their new landlord over an increase in fees.

Now they're awaiting a resolution.

In the fourteen years Roberto Sanchez and his family have lived here, he says they've never had any problems.

Until now.

"From the beginning they said they were going to make a lot of changes. The only change I've seen, is that every time we must pay more and more," says Roberto Sanchez, resident.

In January, North Lamar Mobile Home Park was purchased by RV Horizons, Inc., a Colorado based company.

Since then, they have started to clean up the property.

With that, came an increase in rent.

Many of the residents had been paying around $390 a month, including utilities.

Now they will have to pay $450, with utilities separate.

When some eviction notices were given, Council Member Greg Casar got involved.

"My office sprung into action when my constituents reported to us that their rents and utilities were going up sixty or seventy percent, even though they had twelve-month long leases. They showed us those documents. So they are reporting illegal activity," says Austin City Council Member Greg Casar, District 4.

Just for utilities this past month, the Sanchez family paid $100 for water, $80 for drainage, plus gas.

If you have more than two cars at the park, there is now an extra $50 fee.

"I know that to live in Austin it's a little bit expensive. We're not saying we're not going to pay but there needs to be respect for the law and respect for contracts. When it ends, we'll see if it's to our convenience to stay living here," says Sanchez.

With the help of Council Member Casar, the community formed a residents association and paired with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aide to file a lawsuit.

At least ten residents made a statement under oath regarding their situation.

Two of whom provided a copy of their twelve-month contract and four of their eviction notice.

"I am very supportive of investors and business models that are trying to bring our community up. I am not supportive of those business models that seek to take advantage of working people," says Casar.

RV Horizons co-owner, Frank Rolfe, says that is not the case.

"We've honored all the leases completely from day one. So that was not true," says Frank Rolfe, RV Horizons co-owner.

Here's where the problem lies, many residents say they are either month-to-month or on a twelve-month lease but have no contracts to show.

They say they were never given a copy.

Rolfe says that would have been bad management from the old landlords, not them.

He wishes someone with Casar's office would have called their company before a lawsuit was ever filed.

"It's pretty shocking when you get a non-renewal in the mail, right? Which means, basically, you have to move your mobile home, you have no choice. To be nice, we sent letters saying that we bought the park and we're cleaning it up and this is the new rent, which is certainly the way I would want to be notified. Yet that's now being used against us somehow," says Rolfe.

There are 69 mobile home units on the property.

Rolfe says they will be looking into everyone's situation individually.

Active leases will be honored.

Otherwise, if a resident needs to sign a new lease they must pay $450, plus utilities.

He says all they want to do is charge the market rent.

"The top of Austin is in the $700's, we will still be the cheapest guy on the block at $450.

In regards to the utilities, Rolfe says historically in the past, the park has had a massive over consumption of water.

He is hoping now that residents have to pay for it, they will learn to conserve.

RV Horizons agreed to wait 14 days before taking further action, hoping they can resolve the dispute and make a fresh start.

Wednesday evening residents from the mobile home park met with their lawyer to discuss their individual situations more thoroughly.

They are hoping to give that information to the landlord on Thursday and possibly reach an agreement.

So far, they say he has been very involved and cooperative.