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Diamond residents upset over infrastructure

Residents plan to start homeowners association; landlord welcomes idea

DIAMOND – Residents of Burt Estates in Diamond have become frustrated with what they say are disturbing living conditions, so much so that some are asking how to create a homeowners association.

Problems some residents cite are old electrical boxes, dead tree branches falling onto homes, part of the back of the property filled with trash and debris, and sinkholes in yards from broken water mains.

According to Burt Estates resident Christine Moore, her latest frustration seems to be with landlord MHPI Inc.’s decision to install water meters on every property. Burt Estates is a manufactured home subdivision.

On Aug. 16, about 20 residents from Burt Estates gathered to discuss forming a homeowners association.

Terry Nelson, board president of the nonprofit organization Mobile Home Owners Association of Illinois, has been working with residents for several months. The MHOAI educates mobile home owners about their rights, helps negotiate leases and works with legislators to pass laws protecting homeowners.

Leases in question

Some leases at the park are at least 15 years old. Those leases include water, sewer and garbage pickup as part of land rental. By installing water meters, some residents say their original leases have not been amended and are being violated.

“They are trying to enforce water meters instead of amending the leases. That caused a lot of residents to be insecure about where they are living,” resident Robin Nowman said.

MHPI owner and landlord Jim Soboleski said state statute allows leases to be amended every year.

The water meters will cost residents an additional flat rate of $39.69 each month in lieu of a rent increase for the next two years. Typical rent increases for the year equal out to $5 a month for seniors and disabled residents and up to $25 a month for others, the residents said at the gathering.

Residents in mobile home subdivisions are typically seniors, disabled or low-income families who can’t afford the increase in rent, Nelson said.

Soboleski cited exorbitant water costs as the reason for installing the meters. Since the village charges a flat rate, residents will in turn pay a flat rate instead of a usage charge.

“We have absorbed [water costs] for as long as we could,” he said. “Eventually, it will be based on usage. We wanted to do everything at one time; the meters and the roads.”

Nowman said when she asked neighbors to sign a petition protesting the meters, management called the police and shortly after she was served by local police with an order to cease and desist.

The handling of the water meter installation process by management has upset many residents. The first letter posted to doors July 18, a Saturday, Moore said, came from Universal Utilities Inc., a Michigan-based company.

The letter had no date and did not include the Burt Estates logo. Many thought it was a solicitation.

The letter, obtained by the Morris Herald-News from Nowman, stated work would begin two days later on July 20. Moore said residents didn’t get proper notice, nor were they able to talk with management staff because it was a weekend and the office was closed.

When Universal began work, not all residents complied and police were called by Burt Estates office staff on several occasions.

Moore asked to see a contractor license and state permit; the workers did not produce the documents, so she did not allow installation.

Soboleski said his company has used Universal Utilities many times and they are affiliated with a licensed Illinois contractor.

A second letter reminding residents of the water meters, dated Aug. 13 from Burt Estates, was posted on doors. It informed residents all leases were set to expire Dec. 31 and everyone is required to come in and sign a new one.

Private property limits village

Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc said she has received some complaints about the subdivision, but mostly regarding the conditions of the roads, which have since been repaired.

Kernc is aware of the issue with junk in the back of the property, and received a photo from management showing cleanup progress after the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office was prepared to take action, she said. Because the subdivision is private property, the village is limited in what it can do, Kernc said.

“When it’s a safety issue, we try our hardest to make sure [the issues] get addressed,” she said.

Those who attended the Aug. 16 meeting plan to meet again with Nelson and possibly create a board of directors and advisory board to start a homeowners association.

Soboleski said he doesn’t see the point of a homeowners association, but he has parks in Florida that have them. Sometimes, it’s easier to deal with just one person, he said.

“There’s probably not a fairer owner in our industry than me. Rent increases in the last few years have been minimal,” he said. “If they want to do it, go ahead.”

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