Coakley says housing community bullied residents
BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the owners of a Cape Cod, Mass., manufactured housing community for allegedly intimidating residents with exorbitant membership fees.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the collection of improper fees and to recover money paid by consumers to Morgan RV Resorts LLC in violation of the Manufactured Housing Act and the Consumer Protection Act.
"Manufactured home ownership is an important housing option for Massachusetts consumers," Coakley said. "All homeowners must be treated fairly and in accordance with laws designed for their protection."
Coakley's lawsuit alleges that Morgan RV Resorts LLC and its sales team aggressively solicited homeowners at Peters Pond to pay up to $16,000 as a membership fee to remain in the community. This alleged fee was in addition to the $6,000 annual fee homeowners pay to lease their site and does not include any apparent benefits.
The defendants, directed by Morgan's president, Robert J. Moser, allegedly threatened homeowners that they would be removed from their site at their own expense and without compensation if they did not pay to join the "club." Many homeowners invested their life's savings in their Cape Cod home, and nearly 100 homeowners have paid to join the club out of fear that they would lose their home.
The complaint alleges that residents were threatened by the high-pressure sales tactics the company employs, which include intercepting homeowners at the community gate to listen to a sales pitch and repeatedly contacting them at their home and by phone.
When the homeowners asked to see the membership contract, the defendants allegedly told homeowners they needed to pay a $1,000 deposit and could not show the contract to a lawyer. The defendants then allegedly distributed a threatening letter to homeowners from their own lawyer, asserting the defendants' right to remove the homeowners from the community. Homeowners were allegedly threatened they would lose their homes if they continued to assemble at events like barbecues to discuss the conditions at Peters Pond.
Homeowners that were fed up with the alleged harassment tried to sell their homes and were allegedly interfered with by the defendants restriction of "For Sales" signs on the property and preventing brokers from entering the community. Prospective buyers were allegedly told that they must pay $16,000 to join the club before purchasing the home and that Morgan could, at their discretion, reject any potential homeowner.
The Peters Pond manufactured housing community is the seasonal home for dozens of elderly residents and retirees. Residents own their own homes but must rent the tract of land on which the manufactured home is situated. Once a manufactured home is situated on a tract, it is essentially immobile. Although manufactured housing communities must be annually licensed by the municipality's board of health, the Peters Pond community owners allegedly operate without the requisite manufactured housing community license.
Coakley's office is seeking injunctive relief to prevent the defendants from soliciting further illegal fees from consumers. Coakley's lawsuit seeks the recoveries of money that Morgan improperly collected for memberships, as well as penalties for violations of the Consumer Protection Act and the Manufactured Housing Act. The lawsuit also requests that Morgan cease all unfair and deceptive conduct and obtain proper licensure.