For more than 10 years, Damares Colin de Paz has not received the title to the mobile home she owns in Cary’s Mobile Estates trailer park, nicknamed Las Americas. She’s one of dozens of Latinx residents of the park who organized and approached the North Carolina attorney general’s office to request an investigation into the missing titles and accounting issues with Mobile Estates’ management.
Since an April report published in the INDY, a total of 30 residents, up from 20 since last October, have now received their titles according to Sandra Bueno, an organizer with One Wake and the N.C. Congress of Latino Organizations. But progress has been slow, Bueno says, and at least 47 families are still awaiting titles. A state Department of Justice investigation is ongoing, and residents say they continue to be bombarded with a barrage of fines and eviction notices from Mobile Estates.
Colin de Paz, a longtime resident, told the INDY that, even though Mobile Estates has refused to relinquish her title, she’s still had to pay for repairs to her home. Her yard, she says, has had flooding issues that have not been addressed for many years. She cannot cut her grass, she says, or else flooding gets worse, and because of that, she has received multiple fines. She is allowed to park her car only on a small patch of gravel by the road, where it has been damaged three times.
Colin de Paz has received more than 20 eviction threats and letters from Mobile Estates, and many other letters charging her increasing amounts for trash, water, and pet fees. Her rent costs to $360 a month but Mobile Estates wants her to pay $475, plus an additional $200 one-time pet fee. She says she refuses to pay any more than $360 and wants her title.
“He has the right to charge whatever he wants, and OK, I really could pay him all this money as long as he also supports me and fixes everything I have problems with,” Colin de Paz says. “I told him I wasn’t going to pay him until I get my title.”
The eviction notices have taken a toll on the community, Colin de Paz says. Her former neighbor died by suicide in 2015, she says, because his family was unable to keep up with payments. His mobile home stands vacant next to Colin de Paz’s home.
“Coming to my neighbor’s house makes me want to cry,” Colin de Paz says.
G. Hernandez, a construction worker and resident at Las Americas, said he has also faced multiple issues with Mobile Estates regarding his property. After letting a pregnant neighbor borrow one of his parking spots, Hernandez says Mobile Estates has not returned his parking spot to him. He is now allowed to park his Ford Ranger by a patch of grass in the corner of his property, where he says the vehicle juts out into the street and has been hit twice by a car.
“What would you do if someone took away your parking spot?” Hernandez said. “Of course you’d go up to complain about it.”
Parking has not been the only issue for Hernandez. He and many of the other residents say Mobile Estates has also incorrectly charged him in pet and trash fees. The managing company has tried to take away his construction tools in the past, he says. Last Friday, he met with the general manager at Las Americas to finally discuss his land problems.
“It’s like being a mechanic,” Hernandez said. “Without his tools, he can’t work and make a living, so that’s why I’m going up to talk to these folk.”
Carlos Carmonia Tagle, another resident at Las Americas, has also had similar problems. A few years ago, Carmonia Tagle went to court after receiving an eviction notice, despite his making monthly rent payments on time. In a letter to the North Carolina Real Estate Commission, Carmonia Tagle said he was also being charged late fees and other unclear charges, and that connecting with Mobile Estates’ management was nearly impossible.
Hernandez says it took months before he could speak to the management about his parking problems, and Colin de Paz said the front office at Mobile Estates also is uncommunicative.
“Over the years, the accountant has ignored telephone calls, emails, and requests to speak regarding our accounts to this day,” Carmonia Tagle said in his letter to the N.C. Real Estate Commission. “Now that I am asking for a contract on my rental terms, I anticipate I may be charged for new fees they’ve added and cannot prove. I am not the only one with these complaints.”
Matt Waters, an attorney for the company, said in an email to the INDY that Mobile Estates, “through its legal counsel, has been working with the North Carolina Department of Justice to rectify certain issues raised by certain residents … ” The process of repairing mobile home titles is complicated, Waters continued, and was compounded by the pandemic slowing work at the N.C. DMV. He says Mobile Estates denies allegations against it from earlier news reports and that Mobile Estates “has repaired titles and made significant progress, even despite the pandemic.”
But Bueno and the residents say Bullard and his team know how to target residents through various means, from eviction notices, to arbitrarily raising rent and assigning random fees, to shutting off residents’ water. Still, they remain steadfast in their organizing efforts.
“He has so many trailers already and he still wants to take away ours,” Colin de Paz says. “He’s gonna have a hard time with mine. I could end up homeless but I’m going to hit him where it hurts.”
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Colin de Paz pays $360 a month in rent but Mobile Estates wants her to pay $475 plus an additional pet fee and that her neighbor died in 2015. Carmonia Tagle went to court a few years ago, not earlier this year.
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