On Tuesday, District Judge John G. Canavan Jr. lifted a temporary restraining order placed on Stephen H. Sanders and A-Rolling Acres Mobile Home Park, although the owner has agreed to give residents until mid-February to move from the property.
“I respect the judge's ruling and I think he evaluated and struggled with the issues. I'm grateful that he allowed them until the 15th of February,” said Kenneth Massey, attorney for the group of tenants.
On Oct. 10, Tenants of A-Rolling Acres Mobile Home Park were served with a letter notifying them the park must reduce its number of residents due to the park not meeting Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations. The notice stated that the park was no longer in compliance with DEQ regulations and tenants had to be out by Dec. 31.
While many moved after receiving the letter, others said they were forced to stay because of lack of funds, nowhere to go with their trailer or unsure if their trailer could survive a move.
On Dec. 19, a small group of residents filed a civil suit and on Dec. 21, a temporary restraining order was issued to prevent turning off utilities or denying residents access to the property, with the formal hearing scheduled for Jan. 3.
The nearly two-hour hearing was held Tuesday afternoon in Pottawatomie County District Court, where Sanders along with two residents took the witness stand.
Tenant James Forte, who pays monthly lot rent but admitted he is a couple months behind on his payments, testified that the park's water quality has been poor for several years and the roads are in desperate need of repair.
Sanders testified he is paying an estimated $1,500 per month to keep the park open and said the remaining tenants are all in default of rent payments.
Sanders also testified that the DEQ required several changes to the lagoon and the proposed changes were not financially feasible, therefore he was closing the park.
He also testified tenants were on a month-to-month basis, which allows he or tenants to make a change with a 30-day notice. Based on the October letter for everyone to move by Dec. 31, he also was waiving rent for November and December.
Due to language in the lease agreements, action from the court hearing indicated Sanders is within his legal right to close the park and evict residents immediately due to lack of payment, but he agreed to allow the tenants until Feb. 15 to vacate the park. Massey was unable to provide documentation that any of his clients were current on their rent payments. Based on testimony during the hearing, tenants reportedly owe anywhere from $190 to $1,800 in past rent and late fees.
There were several other residents scheduled to testify but both lawyers, Massey and Craig Brackeen, attorney for Sanders, stipulated that if they were to testify, they would all testify to the same thing.
Massey is also representing the tenants in the civil suit regarding issues with the park, with further action expected in that case.
“This was just step one of the process in a long process. Unfortunately we didn't win the battle today, but we haven't lost the war,” Massey said.
You can reach Adam at (405) 214-3940.