At times, there was an almost giddy atmosphere during an Oregon State Tenants Association (OSTA) informational session at McNary Oaks Mobile Villa Friday, Nov. 8.
It was the sort of dizzying euphoria that arises when doing something subversive, yet totally within one’s rights.
For the first time in years, about two dozen residents of the park met to discuss how they might become a more unified voice when talking to the park’s on-site property manager and owner, Investment Property Group, LLC. In a few short weeks, some of the organizers already made great strides. In the hours before the meeting, they successfully petitioned for, and management had installed, a dedicated OSTA newsletter box placed outside the park clubhouse.
Inside the clubhouse, neighbors who have lived in close proximity to each other for months or years introduced themselves for the first time and then Rita Loberger, president of the statewide OSTA, began her pitch for reinstating a OSTA chapter at McNary Oaks.
“We are not a legal entity. I cannot take you to court and represent you,” Loberger said. “We provide education and we provide referrals.”
Loberger was peppered with questions and comments throughout the hour-long presentation. One attendee even walked out when the discussion wasn’t moving in a specific direction quickly enough, but Loberger’s advice had as much to do with building community within the park as it did interacting with management.
“You have to know your neighbors first,” before the residents can begin approaching management with demands, Loberger said. That happens through spending time together, she continued, at potlucks, coffee socials, knitting circles or – as once happened in the McNary Oaks clubhouse – a billiards league.
“It sounds like you have [the owner’s] attention now, so maybe this is the time to strike while the iron is hot and things are moving. Let them know that you want some of these activities back. You could make this a community that everyone could enjoy,” Loberger said.
OSTA can provide information and education, but it requires that 10 residents to become dues-paying members before an official chapter can be established at the park. OSTA dues are $10 a month and, before the meeting was over, some attendees were already discussing how they might help neighbors cover the costs.
Prior residents had established an OSTA chapter at the park, but none of the former chapter’s members are currently residents of McNary Oaks, which means starting over from scratch.
OSTA provides regular newsletters and a hotline that homeowners living in manufactured home parks can use to learn about the unique position they are in as homeowners living on rented land.
“That is why we have an entire chapter of Oregon law that details how our rights differ from those living in apartments or condos,” Loberger said.
More than 62,000 Oregon residents live in manufactured home parks or marinas that are governed by Oregon’s Chapter 90.
Another path the residents might take is forming a Committee of Seven. A Committee of Seven would be elected by all residents of the park to act as the voice of the resident homeowners. They could meet with property managers at least once a year and as often as twice to discuss maintenance issues or park rules and rule violations.
Forming the committee would mean finding candidates willing to represent the park as a whole and then sending out ballots to every resident, but even that requires neighbors getting to know – and trust – each other, Loberger said.
“We would love to have 10 of you sign up to be members tonight, but now you need to go out and talk to your neighbors about what we’ve talked about. Some of them who are homebound would probably liked to have been here so go spread the word,” Loberger said. “The businesses that own manufactured home parks are expanding. It’s a cash cow, and it’s all the more reason you should know your rights and responsibilities under the law.”