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Residents of Lake County mobile home parks file lawsuit against owners

Residents of Jones Estates Fairgrounds and Jones Estates Perry stand outside of the Lake County Courthouse
Legal Aid
Residents of Jones Estates Fairgrounds and Jones Estates Perry stand outside of the Lake County Courthouse for a press briefing.

A lawsuit alleging a mobile home operator in Lake County failed to provide lease agreements, overcharged for utilities and harassed predominantly Mexican American residents has been filed with the help of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland and HOLA Ohio.

HOLA Executive Director Veronica Isabel Dahlberg said she started receiving calls from distraught residents in Perry and Painesville two years ago about the properties managed by Jones Estates. She said it started with utility bills.

"They were forced to agree with management changing out these meters and putting some other kind of meters in there where the minimum would have to be $100, but some of the bills were coming in at $300, which was about average, a month even up to $500 a month," Dahlberg said. "And people were just having a hard time affording that. They felt intuitively like something was wrong with these charges."

Dahlberg said initially HOLA did not know how to handle these issues, and then the residents began experiencing rent increases, despite not having a lease.

"If anybody tries to say anything, you know a couple of people have gotten into arguments when their properties have been damaged and then they're given a three-day eviction notice for even speaking out," Dahlberg said. "So, there's a lot of fear."

Melanie Shakarian with Legal Aid said they got involved when it became clear there was no way to work with the property owners.

"The complaint that Legal Aid filed today alleges that Jones Estates Fairground and Jones Estates Perry willfully violated Ohio state law by taking advantage of the residents in a variety of ways," Shakarian said.

The complaint alleges the owners are refusing to provide leases, charging an unlawful amount for utilities, failing to maintain common areas and harassing residents.

"These are Mexican Americans," Shakarian said, "and they definitely feel targeted by their background."

Dahlberg said the residents' living conditions are unsafe and unbearable.

"There's literally like broken sewage pipes with raw sewage bubbling up," Dahlberg said.

Dahlberg said a large tree that residents had expressed concern about fell last week and crushed a car. Luckily no one was injured.

"The tree is still there, and it's been over a week," Dahlberg said. "And the kids have to climb around it to get to the school bus."

Shakarian said there is a concern from residents of retaliation from the property owners.

"I think any time that you are asking a landlord to take action and follow the law, there can be a fear of retaliation for sure," Shakarian said.

Dahlberg said letters from residents to management received no response.

A person answering the phone at a Jones Estates office near Columbus said there was no comment on the suit.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.