SEATTLE – March 26, 2008 – A new state government program is helping resolve disputes between manufactured home owners and their landlords. Attorney General Rob McKenna, Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, and Rep. Dawn Morrell, D-Puyallup, today announced a new statewide tour to educate homeowners and landlords about their legal rights and how the Attorney General’s Office can help them resolve problems. “We’re promoting stable housing communities in Washington by providing access to justice and ensuring compliance with the law,” McKenna said. “This program will help tenants and landlords resolve many disputes without spending thousands of dollars on private attorneys.”
The tour, titled “Don’t Move It; Solve It,” kicks off tonight with a public forum in Puyallup where Kastama and Morrell will join staff from the Attorney General’s Manufactured Housing Dispute Resolution Program.
Morrell and Kastama took the lead in introducing legislation that created the program. Morrell was the prime sponsor of E2SHB 1461, which went into effect in July 2007. Kastama introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“I’m excited that we finally have a way to resolve manufactured park disputes fairly without long and expensive court cases draining everyone’s time and money,” Morrell said.
“If you visit many of these parks, you soon find out that the incomes these people live on sometimes are in the $700-$900 range,” Kastama said. “The instruction they’ve been given in the past is to hire an attorney at $200-$300 an hour, and it just didn’t work. So we looked for other solutions.”
Morrell and Kastama recognized that although the state’s Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act has been on the books since 1977, the state’s Office of Mobile Home Affairs (located within the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development) lacked power to issue fines or otherwise enforce the act.
The new program provides an opportunity for the state’s more than 60,000 homeowners and owners of nearly 1,400 communities to file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office. Staff in Seattle investigate complaints, provide informal dispute resolution and, when appropriate, issue fines for noncompliance with the state Mobile/Manufactured Home Landlord-Tenant Act. Officials said they believe the program provides a balanced approach.
Since the program began last summer, staff have handled more than 700 phone calls from manufactured homeowners and park owners. They’ve also received 205 requests for dispute resolution; about two-thirds of those have been resolved so far. The Attorney General’s Office has 15 cases in the investigation phase to determine whether a violation of the law may have occurred but so far has not had to issue any fines.
Funding for the program comes from fees paid to the Department of Licensing by landlords who register manufactured/mobile home communities. Landlords may charge each homeowner a maximum of $5 per year for this assessment.
Homeowners, landlords and property managers can learn more by attending one of the free “Don’t Move It; Solve It” public forums.
- PUYALLUP: Wednesday, March 26, Puyallup Pioneer Park Pavilion, 330 S. Meridian.
- VANCOUVER: Thursday, April 3, Washington School for the Blind – Frye Auditorium, 3314 E. 13th St.
- EVERETT: Monday, April 7, Snohomish County PUD – Commission Room, 2320 California St.
- KENT: Tuesday, April 15, Department of Social and Health Services – Children Services (directly behind the office front), 1313 W. Meeker Suite 102.
- OLYMPIA: Thursday, April 24, Olympia Center – Multipurpose Room A, 222 Columbia St. N.W.
- Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the programs begin at 7 p.m. No registration is required. Call 1-866-924-5458 or 206-464-6049 for more information.
To learn more about the Manufactured Housing Dispute Resolution Program or request dispute resolution services, visit the program Web site at www.atg.wa.gov/MHDR.aspx, e-mail MHDR (at) atg.wa (dot) gov or call 1-866-924-6458 or 206-464-6049.