Seniors in Mobile Home Parks: The Unprotected Class

E. Napples, Arizona

“That’s not my concern, I’m in the business to make money,” replied a park owner to a senior who said she couldn’t afford to live in her mobile home after his uncontrolled rent increase.

There is a land where the inhabitants are told by their ruler how much they are required to pay for the right to live in their homes and where they are forced to live by 33-pages of dictated and enforced rules and regulations.  These rules and regulations control the inhabitant’s movement in the land, they control their ability to make minor decisions concerning their homes, they control who can visit them, and they control virtually every aspect of the inhabitant’s economic and social life. This is not a foreign land in some faraway country; this is a pocket of land in America called a mobile home park. It is a pocket of land where the American ideal of life and liberty and self-determination does not exist. And, many of these inhabitants are helpless and easily scared senior citizens.

Mobile homes (really unmovable manufactured homes) are still the most inexpensive home to purchase. The owners are either very young or very old, as this is their first (or last) affordable home to buy. Seniors in mobile home parks, due to their age, health, and economic status, are very vulnerable and need to be established as a protected class by local, state, and federal governments. The Americans with Disability Act should be changed to include the aged as a protected class, especially in this senior mobile home area of housing, particularly if the senior’s income is mainly social security. This said, there is a unique form of disability seniors in mobile home parks are subject to. This is an “economic disability” which makes these seniors susceptible to a form of constructive eviction from uncontrolled space rent increases, pass throughs and from the unreasonable enforcement of park rules and regulations used many times to control and intimidate tenants. A pass through is a monthly bill the park owner attaches to the tenants rent to cover a park expense. No authorization or justification is needed by the owner to do this. It is really a second form of a rent increase. Not to pay a pass through subjects a tenant to an eviction.

All senior citizens, because of their age and insecurities, are least likely to defend themselves and can be exploited, especially if they fear the loss of their mobile home. Because of the mobile home park management’s ability to levy uncontrolled rent increases, many seniors are forced to sell their mobile homes and lose the only security they thought they had until the day they die. In short, this is a form of elder abuse, elder discrimination, and rises to the level of a national public health issue. This is a vulnerability a senior has for living in a mobile home park where there are no laws to protect them from the unrestrained abuses of park owners.

The average age in a senior park is over 55 years of age. Many are in their 80s.  When a senior purchases a mobile home it is fair to say it is not for an investment, but a place to live in for the rest of their life. Also, it is usually the only type of home they can afford to purchase with most of the seniors living on social security or a small pension. Seniors are physically and economically trapped by mobile home park owners which can lead them to being marginalized and exploited. This is the second vulnerability a senior living in a mobile home park has.

There is a crisis in America in affordable housing.  Ideally, what is needed is universal rent stabilization laws for all renting Americans, not just for seniors in mobile home parks. The laws that allow for uncontrolled lot rent increases and for unreasonable rules and regulations create a unique and over-powerful flaw in the authority given to mobile home park owners. As a start, what is needed are state and nation-wide laws that protect and preserve home ownership for seniors in mobile home parks.