WEST FARGO — Retired and on a fixed income, Lee Kurle is worried about changes taking effect next month in his mobile home community.
The 69-year-old widower moved into Brookwood mobile home park 21 years ago, around the same time his late wife, DeQuetta, received a heart transplant they thought would give her at least 25 years to spend together in their West Fargo home.
She died in 2015, and though Kurle could make ends meet over the years, his monthly Social Security income may not cover new expenses now that Brookwood and two other mobile home parks — Riviera Heights and Countryside — were sold to Havenpark Capital Partners.
A new rental agreement states rent will increase by $45 starting Oct. 1, plus additional utility costs for water, sewer and garbage that were previously included in rent, and an unspecified "nominal service fee." It's unclear what this will all add up to, but Kurle is bracing for the worst, perhaps $100 more per month.
Already, 60% of his income goes to housing. Kurle said he's experienced $10 increases over the years, but nothing compared to what Havenpark is planning.
"They're buying up communities and raising rents. That's what they do," he said of Havenpark. "It's a business for profit at the expense of people who have no choice."
Kurle said Brookwood is a safe, friendly neighborhood. He enjoys the proximity to the West Fargo Public Library, his main source of entertainment, and knows his neighbors well. Many of them are single, retired and find themselves in the same predicament as him.
"You don't live here because you can afford something better, you live here because this is what you can afford," he said. "I anticipate living here as long as I can. And I was figuring I can afford this. I can just barely make it the way it was. So now it's going to be a challenge."
Havenpark is known for acquiring mobile home parks in the Great Plains and Midwest regions. Riviera Heights, Brookwood and Countryside are the first communities Havenpark has purchased in the Fargo-Moorhead area, according to a company spokesperson.
Complaints are widespread for the 3-year-old Utah-based company. It's accused of hiking rental rates in Iowa, Minnesota and beyond, with attorneys general fielding residents' concerns.
Havenpark says it's budgeted $2.4 million for improvements at the three local mobile home parks, like new roads and playgrounds. The company also says it plans to install new water meters, remove abandoned homes, make repairs, and install new manufactured homes.
The spokesperson said the three communities have identical rental agreements. A total of about 350 mobile homes are affected by the changes in the agreement, which the spokesperson said are based on federal regulations.
Insurance companies enforce federal regulations, and Havenpark needs to be insured, so regulations apply to all residents, the spokesperson said.
One of the changes in the new rental agreement is a ban on certain dog breeds deemed dangerous. Though, with proper documentation, "a service animal of any kind will be permitted within the community and will not be subject to pet restrictions of any kind including pet fees," Havenpark said.
Bailey Green, a Riviera Heights resident, said both of her registered service dogs are on the list of banned breeds.
Green, 25, said she thinks decisions on whether dogs can stay should be made on a case by case basis. "Every dog is how they're raised. If they're raised to be aggressive, they're going to be aggressive. If they're raised to be nice, they're gonna be nice," she said.
Green, who lives with her husband and mother-in-law, noted that local animal shelters are seeing an influx of dogs since residents were notified of the requirement.
"You shouldn't have to get rid of your dogs to have a place to live," she said.