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Local resident fights for tenants' rights

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Rita Loberger, who lives in Eldorado Villas, wants 2017 Legislature to come up with new laws


JAIME VALDEZ - Rita Loberger, who is a volunteer leader of the Manufactured Housing/Oregon State Tenants Association, strolls through Eldorado Villas, where she has lived for years.Last summer, Cal-Am Properties sent scores of eviction threats to residents in its Oregon manufactured home parks, threatening to kick out longtime residents if they didn't quickly rectify maintenance issues uncovered in inspections.

The threats panicked residents, many of them senior citizens on fixed incomes.

"They went to extremes," said Rita Loberger, who lives at Cal-Am's Eldorado Villa by King City and is a volunteer leader of the Manufactured Housing/Oregon State Tenants Association.

Despite hot summer weather, Cal-Am told residents at its Heritage Village Park in Beaverton to remove window air conditioners.

Some of Loberger's neighbors were told they must install blinds or curtains inside their homes. "That steps inside our homes - they can't tell us that," she said.

Others were told they had to repaint their homes, even though the paint wasn't chipping, according to Loberger.

"The houses have to be painted one of 50 shades of beige, and we will decide which one you can do," Loberger said residents were told. "They cannot require that unless those homes are in disrepair. My contention is that Cal-Am is not sticking to the Oregon law for the management they need to be doing."

Paul Cosgrove, Cal-Am's Oregon lobbyist, reviewed the Heritage Village inspection results and concluded the company had not overstepped its legal bounds.

"I'm convinced that they have been very careful to follow the rules, both park rules and state law," Cosgrove said.

Park managers must keep standards up to meet the demands of other residents, lest their property values and quality of life are threatened, according to Cosgrove.

When Loberger was invited to speak to nervous residents at Cal-Am's Lakeside Village Park in Salem, she was told about 140 homeowners there received some kind of notice.

Lakeside residents were so upset that about 300 people showed up at the meeting, according to Loberger.

The park management "threatened to shut the meeting down and lock the doors," she said.

JAIME VALDEZ - Rita Loberger spends a lot of time on her computer these days, contacting legiislators and manufactured home park owners while also speaking to residents in manufactured home parks.Cal-Am has since eased off, under pressure from U.S. Rep Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton, and others.

But as Portland's housing affordability crisis deepens, manufactured home residents are increasingly nervous.

That's one reason Loberger wanted the Manufactured Housing Landlord/Tenant Coalition to discuss ways to enforce Oregon's laws protecting tenants. But park owners, fearful of a proposal to have the Attorney General enforce the laws, put the kibosh on that, causing the coalition to disband.

Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Canby, sees a ready compromise on the current lack of enforcement of state mobile home/manufactured home laws. "I think there ought to be pressure put on for the state to enforce its own rules," Kennemer said. "There should be agencies that enforce these rules, and not the Attorney General."

But with the coalition out of action, any compromise might have to wait.

"It means that we probably won't have any bills this year," Loberger said, "if we don't work on it together."