Virginia neighbors say they were given 10 days to pack up and move out: 'This ain't no joke. It's real'

Posted at 6:22 PM, May 06, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-06 18:22:15-04

CAROLINE COUNTY, Va. -- Some Caroline County residents are left wondering where they'll go after they said they were not properly notified by new ownership to leave the property.

Six different tenants who own a mobile home in Hill Mobile Home Park near Rt. 301 but rent space in the park, said since new ownership took over the property in 2021, they had not received any written notice of a potential change or termination of their lease. They said then, they were given a notice to come to court, facing eviction.

"Some people came around, I don't know who they were," said Rodney Washington, who's lived in the mobile home park for more than 20 years. "They were supposed to be bringing leases out. They never did. They said they did, but we never received them."

Jimmy Benson, an associate broker who once oversaw the mobile home park, told CBS 6 in an interview that the property was bought by Homes of America.

"The LLC they are using to 'own' the community is the 'Hill MHP LLC,'" Benson said. "I have no contact information for them. I believe that is part of the challenge for the residents. There is no one that will respond to them or even talk to them."

In Caroline County General District Court, Washington, his mother, and several other residents said they had not received any information regarding a potential "shut down" of the mobile home park or a notice to vacate.

Rio Weber, a former legal assistant with Scott Kroner PLC, and attorney Henry Young with Scott Kroner PLC, represented Plaintiff "Hill MHP LLC."

According to Young's bio page, he's a University of Virginia School of Law graduate who spent a year at Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, "where his practice included representing low-income clients in landlord-tenant disputes."

He now practices Commercial Real Estate Development and Transactions, Commercial and Residential Leasing, Commercial and Residential Landlord/Tenant Disputes, and Real Estate Litigation.

Young said Weber mailed out notices to the affected tenants in November 2023 through USPS. Young showed at least one piece of post-marked mail was returned.

The plaintiffs said they could not confirm if anyone traveled to the mobile home park to confirm all notifications made it to the tenants involved. They argued a tenant's rights document did not need to be sent.

"I would have to believe that she's lying, or the mail has a 100% failure rate," said Presiding Judge Robert E. Reibach.

Washington and others said the first written notice they'd received from new ownership or the new owner's legal representation was a notice to appear in court for an eviction case on April 15.

It's unclear if other current tenants received notification or not.

An attorney representing four of the tenants involved argued Virginia code may allow them to have more time to determine their next steps, like where to live and how to remove their trailer from the property.

Judge Reibach sided with the plaintiffs, giving tenants 10 days to leave the property, arguing that they'd known about the possibility of having to move since April 15.

Young said he could not comment at all, nor did he direct CBS 6 to any person who could comment on the case from either Scott Kroner PLC or Homes of America LLC.

CBS 6 called Byron Fields, who is listed as the Chief Operating Officer of Homes of America LLC on LinkedIn.

Fields also declined to comment. CBS 6 left a message with a marketing assistant who said they'd pass along our media request for a response.

Fields, a Duke University graduate, has been in the role since January 2022, according to LinkedIn.

He was also listed as a former intern with Alden Global Capitol, a hedge fund, in 2017.

In November 2022, NPR reported on Alden "gutting local newspapers" and now "going after mobile home parks."

Julie Reynolds reported in the Columbia Journalism Review that Homes of America LLC is an "Alden affiliate." 

"In all these communities, I saw the same pattern. There were stories in the local media. They were raising the rents 40 to 60%, putting up eviction notices. They were even evicting people in a few cases where the rent had already been paid," Reynolds said in the 2022 NPR interview.

Tenants reported persistent issues with the property before receiving an eviction notice, saying there had been a problem with sewage maintenance that had not been addressed.

"To pack up and move in 10 days, and the judge won't even lenient about it. I mean, 10 days, wow," Washington said. "This ain't no joke. It's real."

Washington said it would take at least $6,000 to begin the moving process.

"I gotta pick up my permit to move my trailer out and my mother's. I'm going to try to help her," Washington said. "But you can only do so much in a manner of time like this."

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