Residents claim mobile park investors jacked rates while ignoring property needs

Mobile homes at Dakota Valley
Posted at 5:45 PM, Mar 21, 2024

HELENA — Living in the Dakota Valley Mobile Park in the Helena Valley costs more than any other similar property.

In my investigation, I found that despite fire hazards, pipes bursting, and brown faucet water, the property owner appears to have a pattern of increasing rates while ignoring property needs.

"I have my best day ever multiple times a year. When I get a park and a contract, when I buy it, when I raise the rents, and when I refinance it—those are the four things I love in mobile home parks," said Abraham Anderson, co-owner of Dakota Valley Mobile Park, during an interview with Mobile Home University.

According to county water system records - he co-owns Dakota Valley Mobile Park with Malcolm Fan.

Water System detail on Dakota Valley

The county records also show they do business in the building pictured below.

Location listed where Anderson and Fan are supposed to be from

According to various interviews, Anderson and Fan own mobile parks throughout the United States.

MTN spoke with Charles Crane, a reporter at the Minot Daily News.

He was covering the mobile park Wheatland Village in North Dakota, which was also owned by Anderson.

Crane said, "They would much rather not spend anything on these communities. They just want to get money out of it."

Crane said that a lack of maintenance and a revolving door of property managers was common at Wheatland Village.

However, the Mobile Homeowners Rights Bill passed in North Dakota this past April, increasing the rights of mobile park tenants.

"That situation has settled down somewhat and has actually, I think, led to the operator in particular that you're interested in hearing about leaving North Dakota and taking his operations elsewhere," he said.

One of those operations is Dakota Valley Mobile Park. When I showed up this week, a group of roughly ten tenants greeted me to voice their concerns.

Dakota Valley Mobile Park

"We should not be taken advantage of this way. Someone should not be getting rich off of our money that we've worked so hard for," said Dakota Valley resident Tim Hall.

He has lived there for about 12 years and started to see changes in the mobile park four years ago when the new ownership took over.

He said, "[I] just want everything to get back to normal."

Residents pay $675 monthly rent, the most expensive in the Helena Valley.

Even though rent has increased, maintenance of the property has gone down.

"We're having multiple septic alarms going off every night and backups, and we can't get anybody out here that will pump them out for us," Hall said.

Septic alarm

Hall says that about every three months, he hears of one of his neighbors' pipes bursting, and he's seen the work being done on the septic tanks coming from their pocketbooks.

"They're literally using an auger to aug it out to get it cleaned up, and it's just not right," he said.

Dakota Valley work shed

Hall has taken it upon himself to maintain other parts of the property – filling potholes, shoveling snow, and mowing the shared community space to prevent fire danger.

He said, "[The owner] refuses to hire anyone to come out here and mow the weeds down. If you look to the back, they're about waist-high. Just one little spark will put this entire area up in flames. There'd be no way to control it."

Another tenant, Joe Ciccarelli, moved into the mobile park three years ago when rent was $300 cheaper.

He now has had to take on a second full-time job to afford the rent increases.

"I've had issues where I turn my bathroom water on. It smells like sewer for the first minute. Turn the tub water on, and it comes out brown," Ciccarelli said.

He is paying rent for both the mobile home and the lot for $1,600 a month.

Dakota Valley Street Sign

He says the community has been promised improvements but has not seen any.

"If you're going to tell people you're going to make improvements – make them. Don't just raise the rents of everybody here. Do what you're actually saying you're going to do," Ciccarelli said.

Montana Legal Services Association recommends contacting them if you have concerns regarding your rights as a renter. You can find where to do so here.