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Mobile Home Park Home Owners Allegiance

Are you in a master metered mobile home park (park owner bills you for utilities on your Rent Statement)? Are you being overcharged for utilities? Is your electric bill more than you think it should be? Are you being overbilled for gas, water and sewage? If you've answered yes to any of the preceding questions, you should file an informal complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) at 800-649-7570. Each mobile home owner who has been affected by utilities overbilling should file a separate informal complaint with the CPUC.

Once you've filed a complaint with the CPUC, it is suggested that you file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for a Utility Bill issue which the HCD cannot assist you with, this is an information only exercise for the HCD. This provides an important official paper trail (documented patterns) that will be required at a later date.

Note: You may want to contact Weights and Measures in your county and have them come out and inspect your meter(s) for accuracy, calibration, etc. We’ve provided links to the Weights and Measures agencies in each county where Kort & Scott own mobile home parks.

Question: Where can residents get help if they suspect they are being overcharged on utility bills?

Answer: Most parks are “master-meter” operators that own, operate and maintain the electric, gas and water distribution system within the park and bill their residents with the monthly rent statement. Under the state Public Utilities Code, master-meter customers (parks) shall charge no more than the local serving utility would charge a resident, including passing through any low-income rebates or discounts, such as “CARE.” Residents can call County Weights and Measures (W&M) to have them check the accuracy of their meters and assure they have been correctly calibrated. Some W&M offices are willing to look into billing complaints, such as failure to provide proper billings or post rates, but most only check the accuracy of the meters. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is required to take informal complaints (800-649-7570) from residents in master-meter parks. The CPUC often refers these complaints to the serving utility to work out with the park management. If a third party billing agent prepares the utility billings for the park, the management shall disclose the contact information of the billing agent on residents’ billings. (Civil Code §798.40(b))

Recap:

  • The resident must prove overcharges.
  • CPUC is required to take informal complaints (800-649-7570).
  • Contact information for the third party billing agent must be disclosed on the residents’ utility billings.

Question: Can the park start billing residents for utilities that were previously included in the rent?

Answer: If the residents’ rental agreement provides that sewer, water and garbage are included in the rent, the park management may elect to itemize or charge separately for these utilities. (Civil Code §798.41) In this case, the average monthly amount of the utility charges shall be deducted from the rent. If the rental agreement does not specifically indicate that utility charges are included in the rent, then the park owner could charge for them after complying with the 60-day written notice requirement. (Civil Code §798.32)

Recap:

  • If the lease or rental agreement stipulates separate charges, then the resident must pay accordingly.
  • If it is not stipulated in the lease or rental agreement, then the park must give a 60-day advance written notice of an itemized billing.
Sierra Corporate Management Statement SIERRA CORPORATE MANAGEMENT BILLING DEPARTMENT Sierra Corporate Management Statement Overbilling Example

Sierra Corporate Management – Electrical Billing Overcharges

Fri, Mar 1, 2019 – The MHPHOA have received information from at least five (5) KSFG owned mobile home parks that residents are now being issued credits for electrical overbilling dating back to Feb 2017. These credits are labeled as a CPUC Adjustment on the Mar 2019 Rent Statements.

Example: CPUC Adjustment, SCE Credit: 2/17, 3/17, 4/17, 5/17, 6/17, 7/17, 8/17, 9/17, 10/17, 11/17, 12/17, 1/18, 2/18, 3/18, 4/18, 5/18, 6/18, 7/18, 8/18, 9/18, 10/18, 11/18, 12/18, 1/19

Many residents are receiving hundreds of dollars ($200 to $600+) in electrical credits dating back to Feb 2017. The residents have also stated that these credits do not compensate them for what they feel are the true electrical billing overcharges. They are also questioning why this wasn’t retroactive back to the time that KSFG purchased their mobile home park?

Prior to the issuance of these CPUC Adjustments on the Mar 2019 Rent Statements, residents received a letter dated Mon, Feb 25, 2019 from Trish Magnussen, Director of Operations for Sierra Corporate Management. That letter stated this...

Again, we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Although it is impossible to prevent human errors completely, we have taken measures to ensure that this does not happen again.

“Sierra Corporate Management

February 25, 2019

Dear Residents,

Please accept our sincere apologies for the recent error in your electric billing with regards to tier changes, which affected some of the rates used to calculate charges billed back to you. Fortunately, not everyone was affected by this; however, those of you that were, we thank you for your patience while a utility expert from our 3rd party billing company researched this to pinpoint the exact issue, rollback previous billings, and rebill the correct amount(s).

Those of you affected will notice a lump sum credit on your March 2019 billing statement; the description will indicate the month(s) affected and is a net sum of what was billed/paid versus the corrected amounts for each month listed. Credit amounts will vary since these charges are based on individual household usage.

Again, we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Although it is impossible to prevent human errors completely, we have taken measures to ensure that this does not happen again.

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your Community Manager. Thank you again for your cooperation and understanding. We appreciate your continued residency and look forward to serving you in the future.

Very Best Regards,

Trish Magnussen
Director of Operations
Sierra Corporate Management, Inc.”

There is a documented history of these “human errors” and they have been ongoing for over two (2) decades. Utilities overbilling is one of the top five complaints we receive from residents in KSFG owned mobile home parks that are master metered.

Sierra Corporate Management - Electrical Overbilling

Corona La Linda Mobile Home Park – Complaints to Weights and Measures

Wed, Dec 19, 2018 – During the Corona City Council Meeting on Wed, Dec 19, 2018, Ms. Margaret from Corona La Linda Mobile Home Park (owned by a Kort & Scott DBA) spoke about the electrical overbilling that residents have experienced.

During her 3 minute presentation, she stated that Sierra Corporate Management recently overcharged the residents for electrical billing for the previous five (5) months. Residents complained to Weights and Measures who allegedly issued citations to Sierra Corporate Management.

Ms. Margaret also said that the residents have not received a refund from SCM for the electrical overbilling.

She also stated that a representative from Weights and Measures indicated that Sierra Corporate Management have done this in nineteen (19) mobile home parks in three (3) counties.

San Jose Verde Mobile Home Park – Homeowners Powering Park Utilities

Tue, Dec 18, 2018 – On January 16, 2018, the City of San Jose, Department of Housing, Rent Stabilization Program was contacted by a resident of San Jose Verde Mobile Home Park regarding park safety concerns, utility billing, and park management. On February 26, 2018, Program staff met with the resident, park management, and Weights and Measures to discuss the resident’s concerns. During this meeting, the resident raised concerns about limited access to park clubhouse and laundry room, incorrect utility charges on resident’s billing statements; incorrect meter readings for electricity, gas, and water, and CARE program reimbursements.

III. Electrical Meters

Residents also raised concern that there is a split of ground wire from the Park’s light posts that connects to individual resident’s electrical meters. Upon resident’s request, Program staff visited the Park where residents invited staff to their respective home site to view the connection between the light posts and the resident’s electrical meter. Staff noticed that when residents turned off their circuit breakers, the light post on the street also powered off, suggesting that resident’s individual meters are also powering Park utilities. At least ten (10) homes throughout the Park demonstrated this trend. Program staff referred the residents to the State Ombudsman’s Office for additional assistance.
City of San Jose, Department of Housing, Rent Stabilization Program

Note: If you own a mobile home and there is a street light on or near your lot, you should perform the above circuit breaker test to see if your circuit is powering the park’s street light. While this may be uncommon, we have found a number of California mobile home parks where the resident’s circuit is powering the park’s street light(s). These residents would normally receive a credit on their monthly rent statement for the estimated electrical costs to power the street light(s).

If you find yourself in this situation and have NOT been receiving a monthly credit, you should first assemble your evidence which would be all of your utility bills since you’ve purchased your mobile home. You should then file a written detailed complaint with park management allowing them thirty (30) days to respond in writing. If you’ve not received a satisfactory outcome within thirty (30) days, you can escalate your informal complaint to the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission).

What’s it Cost to Power a Street Light in a Mobile Home Park?

Based on information available online, it’s all relative to the Watts/kWh used per month. The standard wattages for street lights in a mobile home park appear to be 35-250+ Watts with total monthly operating costs between $10.00 and $25.00+, it depends on the Wattage, the type of bulb being used, and its efficiency.

Thu, Feb 16, 2017 – Residents of Corona La Linda Mobile Home Park have been attending City Council Meetings and informing the Corona City Council that they are being overcharged for utilities (water) since Kort & Scott purchased their park in May 2015. Council Members performed their own review of the utility bills presented and told the residents they were not being overcharged. The residents knew otherwise and took their grievances, and proof, to the Riverside County Weights and Measures (W&M) office.

W&M requested the master water bills from Sierra Corporate Management and after investigation found that Sierra Corporate Management was/is overcharging residents for their water usage. SCM is now issuing credits to residents for the water billing overcharges. In one instance, a resident was credited $280 for a water calculation adjustment for the period 11/2015 through 12/2016. Another resident was credited $138 and another $110 for the same time period.

Tue, Sep 5, 2006 – Phoenix, AZ – Expensive electricity bills are hitting residents of mobile homes and recreational vehicles in Arizona especially hard.

Some of the bills are being calculated at twice the rates charged to single-family houses.

‘There are many RV parks that are flat out price-gouging their tenants, and I think it needs to stop,’ said Corporation Commissioner Kris Mayes. ‘To be profiteering on electricity in the middle of the summertime is completely objectionable.’

Some manufactured-home residents, such as Scott Yount of Tempe, are taking matters into their own hands. He flipped off the streetlight in front of his trailer and padlocked the switchbox because he thinks he was paying to light the roadway.

The 48-year-old has been living in the 359-unit Chaparral Mobile Village for nearly 10 years. He said he started becoming troubled several months ago when his bill was higher than his next-door neighbor’s.

‘I keep my AC at 80, with a floor fan on, and at night there’s maybe one light bulb and a TV,’ said Yount, who lives alone. ‘Meanwhile, they have kids running everywhere and their bills were consistently lower by at least 50 percent or more.’

Abe Arrigotti, president of the California company that manages the Chaparral park along with 28 other parks, said he did not believe that was true. ‘If it was true, we would be happy to send an electrician out to fix the problem,’ he said.

Even so, many other residents face similar billing issues but are too scared or financially strapped to do anything, said attorney William Spence, a family practice attorney from Chandler. He says he speaks with frightened mobile-home-park residents almost daily.

Mayes is now asking her fellow commissioners to help solve the problem and is seeking to implement statewide legislation to curb such practices.
Arizona Daily Star