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Mobile Home Lawsuit Dismissed; Another Tenant Addresses “Intimidation Litigation”

Posted at 6:40 PM, Apr 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-18 00:28:10-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (April 17, 2014) — The lawsuit against Robert Berkenpas and Rod Romain has been dismissed.

Sun Communities, which owns Southwood Village Mobile Home Park, filed the suit. The Southfield-based company alleged that the men violated a new policy and didn’t give the park a chance to match an offer or be the highest bidder for Berkenpas’ home.

Court documents FOX 17 obtained spell out the dismissal. FOX 17 also learned from one of the attorney’s offices, that all parties are barred from talking to media about the case. There is a confidentiality agreement.

With the case being dropped, the seller beat a $25,000 lawsuit. The buyer got to move the home. While visiting another resident at Southwood Village, FOX 17 saw that the lot where Berkenpas’ home sat is now empty.

The case revolved around a “right of first refusal” policy. It’s a policy that took effect January 1st. FOX 17 is finding out that it’s impacting mobile homeowners all across West Michigan, as landlords try to keep their communities full. A lawyer for Sun Communities said property values depreciate when there are many empty lots.

Resident April Johnston reached out to FOX 17 after seeing our original Problem Solvers story on the mobile home lawsuit. FOX 17 asked her her thoughts on the policy.

Johnston replied, “I think it’s a joke because we bought our house fair and square. We should be able to sell it if we wanted to move. We shouldn’t feel trapped.”

Johnston first learned about the “right of first refusal” policy last November. She and her boyfriend Korey moved in three years ago, and she said the home cost them $2,500.

“I started to try to sell my home last summer, and then they gave us that notice saying that we had to offer it to them first. And then we took our ‘For Sale’ sign down,” she explained.

Before taking the ‘For Sale’ sign down, she said she received an offer from an outside buyer for $5,000. In her mind, that’s a good price for the old property.
Johnston said she gave the park a chance to match the offer.

She said the park offered her “zero dollars.”

“They told us it was worth nothing. They said it was too old, and that it was worth nothing. That we needed to just give it to them for free,” Johnston said.

The couple is laying low and avoiding litigation… for now.

FOX 17 asked why the couple didn’t take the $5,000 deal and sell the home anyway.

Johnston replied, “Probably to avoid conflict. To avoid the whole suing and court issues and everything else.”

FOX 17 spoke with the park manager, Carmen Buntjer, by phone. She said she had no comment and referred us to the corporate office. A gentleman at the corporate office said to send all questions to the human resource department in writing.