Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said Monday that the operators of Regency Mobile Home Park will resolve the questionable financial practices and living conditions at the park or the state will do it for them.
His office already has opened a civil investigation looking into allegations of consumer fraud at Regency, and it will file a legal case if the company doesn’t take action that is satisfactory to the state, he said.
“This situation needs to change, one way or another,” Miller said during a news conference at the Iowa City Public Library.
He did not put a timetable on how long the investigation would last, but he said it likely would take months.
On Monday, Miller and a few other members of his team toured Regency, which is south of Iowa City. They then met with several local officials, including the county attorney and sheriff, to discuss the situation.
There is a long list of complaints against Regency, whose corporate owner is Colorado-based Churchill Group. Some have been well known for years, including problems with the water supply and rundown conditions at the park.
Miller’s office is investigating claims that Regency sold mobile homes without clear titles and without making buyers aware that back taxes are owed. Miller also said the operators of the park should not profit when ownership of a home is transferred.
Miller said his priority is making sure people are credited when they pay rent. He said a resident showed him receipts for payments, yet Regency had still taken the man to court.
The owners of 18 Regency homes were threatened with eviction earlier this month, but most of those were later delayed while the state investigation is conducted.
Miller said several residents have filed consumer fraud complaints. His office also has asked for and received information from Regency as part of the investigation. Assistant Attorney General Ben Bellus declined to say what the state asked for, but he said Regency’s legal counsel has been cooperative so far.
Miller acknowledged that the physical appearance of the park was poor, with there being a number of vacant lots and mobile homes in disrepair.
At a work session Wednesday, the county’s Board of Supervisors will discuss a proposed property maintenance code that would give the county more power to force nuisance properties, like Regency, to clean up.
Area legislators have said they expect the Legislature to consider changes to the state mobile home statute, including giving local authorities more control over water systems and extending the amount of time people who are evicted have to leave their homes
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has opened a criminal investigation into the consumer fraud allegations. Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said that work is continuing but there as yet have been no big breaks.
“We haven’t had anyone come forward with a smoking gun,” he said.
A phone call to Churchill Group was not immediately returned. Representatives from Churchill Group and Regency of Iowa have not responded to repeated messages over the past several weeks.