Mobile home tenants: Help almost nonexistent

Out of sight, out of mind is an approach that appears equally among mobile home park residents hiding their garbage and state legislators who consistently bow to owners' wishes to avoid giving the Attorney General's Office authority to help enforce landlord-tenant laws. CHRIS NIELSEN photo

WASHINGTON - Shelly Schutter, supervisor of the Washington Attor-ney General's Office's Southwest Washington Consumer Resource Center succinctly summarizes what tenants in mobile home parks in the state face if they have problems with owners or management.

"They don't have anywhere to go or anywhere to turn," said Schutter. "There are no agencies that can help them. There is no governmental agency. There is no statewide tenant advocacy program. There is no non-profit [agency] to handle landlord/tenant disputes. A private attorney is the only way they can deal with it in any way. Everyone is left on their own to deal with their own landlord. It is a very sad situation."

Schutter said, as an office, the Southwest Washington Consumer Resource Center understands that people, especially those who live in mobile home parks, many times fall into a low-income bracket. For this very reason, she said they are a vulnerable audience.

In addition, for those who own an older mobile home in a mobile home park where conditions are unacceptable, it is no easy or inexpensive task to relocate.

Schutter said for the last several years the Attorney General's Office has been asking the Legislature to write a law that would put mobile landlord/tenant issues back into its jurisdiction and under the Consumer Protection Act, but this effort has not been successful.

"It's been shot down by landlord coalitions every year," said Schutter. "There's too strong of a lobby group against it and we have not been able to get it passed at all. It's a really a sad situation, because these people are really disenfranchised. We've asked to have more jurisdiction over especially mobile home landlord/tenant issues, but no one will write the law."

Because of landlord opposition and also an estimated $2.4 billion state budget shortfall for the 2003-05 biennium budget, Scutter said it is very unlikely the Attorney General's Office will try to introduce any legislation during the current session.

"We knew it wouldn't even get any floor time," she said.

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