Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Moscow-area residents frustrated with mobile home landlord

By Anthony Kuipers Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Mobile home residents in the Moscow area continue to be frustrated with a landlord who has significantly raised their rents and asked them to sign leases that attorneys say do not hold up to the law.

Hurst & Son, LLC, manages six mobile home communities in the Moscow area. The western Washington-based company manages Abiel, Appaloosa, Bluebird, Evergreen, Palouse Hills and Woodland Heights mobile home communities.

The past two years, residents in those parks have been asked to sign leases with significantly higher rents. New leases have raised rents between $110 and $170 a month in communities that are populated by low-income residents. Abiel residents, for example, saw their monthly rents spike from $375 per month to $525.

Furthermore, an attorney representing residents in those communities has advised them that the leases do not comply with the Idaho Manufactured Housing Residency Act and federal law.

The residents are being represented by the Intermountain Fair Housing Council, a Boise-based nonprofit. The IFHC wrote seven “education letters” to Hurst & Son in 2023 detailing the lease language and practices that the IFHC believes is illegal.

“We are still hearing from tenants in your parks that they continue to receive monthly statements from you that list an incorrect rent amount, purport to add late fees to that incorrect rent amount, and/or charge for utilities that are not in their leases,” said one of the letters, dated Nov. 9.

The IFHC has warned Hurst & Son that landlords must provide 90-day written notice before any amendment to a lease is made, including any rent increase. Otherwise, the old lease will automatically renew. Residents say they were not properly notified of the new leases according to the law.

Because some of the residents have refused to sign the new lease, Hurst & Son is charging residents different rates for the same tier of lots. This also violates Idaho code, the IFHC wrote.

“IFHC is concerned that the sharp rent increase harms people with disabilities in particular,” the IFHC wrote in an April 20, 2023, letter. “Thus, the new lease, rent, rules should not be enforced or used to retaliate or evict/terminate your tenants.,”

The IFHC has also pointed to vague and restrictive rules regarding issues like the communities’ quiet hours, lawns and children in the park.

Kim Stretch, an IFHC attorney, wrote in an email that Hurst & Son has communicated with the IFHC. Hurst & Son has claimed the leases are in compliance with Idaho law, Stretch said. But Hurst & Son requested the names of the tenants being represented by the IFHC before it addresses these concerns.

“For clarification, IFHC did not have permission from the tenants to reveal their identities because they feared retaliation from Hurst,” Stretch wrote.

As of Thursday evening, Hurst & Son had not replied to emailed requests for comment.

The IFHC did not advise against signing the new leases. But many refused to sign them after learning they may not be legal.

“We’re not opposed to a lease from Hurst & Son, but you have to make sure that it’s legal and compliant with Idaho laws before we will agree to sign it,” said Abiel resident Quinn Rupe.

As a result, some residents are receiving three-day and 30-day pay or vacate notices, according to the IFHC. But the IFHC believes these may be invalid if tenants do not legally owe the money that Hurst says is past due.

Rupe said those residents are paying what Idaho law says they are supposed to be paying. Rupe and Abiel resident Breanna Sipley said some residents have moved out of their community because of this situation.

“Most of us have no option to,” Sipley said.

Abiel resident Zach Rishling said among the problems he experienced is receiving random charges from Hurst & Son without explanation.

“It’s honestly very stressful,” he said.

Sipley and Rishling said residents are frustrated that they are being charged for utilities even though the homes do not have individual meters.

The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver, Wash., reported in January that the Washington state Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Hurst & Son after it received more than 100 complaints from Washington residents regarding rising rents, economic eviction and poor services.

Idaho Attorney General’s Office spokesperson Dan Estes said Idaho is not investigating Hurst & Son.

Four of the Moscow communities have partnered with nonprofit ROC USA to form a cooperative. The cooperative has its own board that votes on issues and communicates with the landlord.

Stretch wrote the next step is to exhaust all avenues of negotiation with Hurst & Son to get to a “meeting of the minds.”

“If that does not happen,” she wrote, “the next step is to individually represent tenants in court against eviction complaints that may be filed, to file complaints with (Housing and Urban Development) for tenants who were discriminated against in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, and to file lawsuits in state or federal court for tenants with strong arguments who want to take this issue further.”

Sipley said she hopes local legislators become aware of issues her neighbors are facing and try to find solutions.

“We’re feeling pretty hopeless and powerless right now,” she said.