Investor fights rent increases on behalf of his retired neighbors

Glen Ettman – Lantana, Florida

In a search for stability and security, my life has involved many self-pioneered ventures. I worked in the manufacturing sector for most of my life and eventually came to own a manufacturing facility, which I managed for thirty years. After some time, I decided to go in a new direction and purchased a limousine company. In 2008, I sold this company and bought real estate. Currently, I am semi-retired and my sole source of income, aside from my social security, is derived from this property ownership and management. In order to gain the maximum benefit from my properties, I rent them out and do not live in them. After splitting from my wife and having spent much of my life caring for my daughter, who is now twenty-four, I yearned for stability and peace of mind. I moved to a manufactured home community, Maralago Cay in Lantana, Florida due to its supposed ease, convenience, and cost effectiveness. Since moving here, I have found anything but these things.

Sam Zell, my community’s owner, owns hundreds of manufactured home communities. He is not strapped for financial security, as many of the members in my community evidently are. He has been issuing rent increases for the past six years not only to myself, but also to all of the other community members. The rent increases are four and a half percent a year, which is very burdensome to all members of my community. Some of these members are far less secure than me and my main concern as a part of this community is for the countless individuals who have been pushed out of this community due to these increases.

There are six hundred homes in my community and there are nearly one hundred for sale or vacated lots. It seems that a lot is being vacated almost every day. I have witnessed lots being foreclosed upon and do not know where to turn for help. I, myself, may follow in the footsteps of my neighbors and relocate if these rent increases, which seem ceaseless, continue. The disharmony in our community extends far beyond the distaste for our owner and his incessant rent increases. There is also a prevalent disdain for the management.

We have not quietly accepted defeat. I have participated in and have organized protests, which have consisted of groups of sixty or more community members holding up self-created signs directed both at our community’s owner and its management. We currently have a case against our landowner, which is in the process of mediation.

This housing is no longer affordable and it is being positioned as so. The value of our homes is also being decimated by these increases because if we did want to sell our homes, the exorbitant land leasing prices detract from the affordability of the home itself, unless it is moved to another site. Similarly, parallel problems would likely arise at an alternate site. Our cries for help must not be dismissed and we are doing everything in our power to assure that they will not be. These are real people, whose suffering is all the more real. They are losing a primary source of stability in their lives due to the insatiable greed of one man. We are doing all we can to secure stable rent and feel that this would be the best remedy to all of the trouble and injustice.