Posted September 7, 20222:37 pm
PAINESVILLE, Ohio -- Residents of two Lake County mobile home parks who say they have been subjected to dangerous living conditions, utility price gouging and discriminatory behavior against Mexican immigrants filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the companies that manage the properties.
The Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland and the Painesville-based Latino advocacy group HOLA filed the allegations in Lake County Common Pleas Court against Jones Estates Perry and Jones Estates Fairground, companies that operate parks in Perry and Painesville, respectively. The suit also names a private utility sub-metering company, 5 Star Metering.
The complaint accuses the companies of breach of contract, violation of state and federal Fair Housing Act protections.
The lawsuit did not include the names of attorneys representing the companies.
Speaking Wednesday on the steps of the Lake County Courthouse, HOLA Executive Director Veronica Isabel Dahlberg said that employees of the companies have engaged in targeted harassment and intimidation of Mexican immigrants, who make up a majority of the park residents.
“It’s just a feeling of insecurity and danger every day on these properties,” she said.
Legal Aid Society attorney Melanie Shakarian said that a total of about 700 people live in the two parks, including three school busloads of children.
The complaint said that the most recent lease agreement between the companies and the residents expired in August 2021.
Residents are supposed to pay the cost of their utilities separately from their rent. But according to the complaint, 5 Star Metering “at the direction of and on behalf of” the operators, charge residents nearly double the rate that public utilities companies charge residents.
Dahlberg said that as a result, some residents’ water and sewer bills have ballooned to hundreds of dollars a month.
The parks’ sewers and water lines have also flooded several times and left raw sewage standing on the ground, Dahlberg said.
She also said that a fire recently broke out in one of the parks and firefighters found there were no water pumps.
The lawsuit also accuses the company of discriminating against Mexican residents by giving white residents longer grace periods to make rent payments before evicting them, making derogatory remarks about Mexican resident’s immigration status and threatening to call immigration authorities if Mexican residents complain.
Dahlberg said that a manager approached her and threatened to arrest her as she was speaking to residents about the living conditions, she said.
Original story published on cleveland.com: Lawsuit accuses Lake County mobile home park operators of discrimination against Mexican immigrant residents