John Oliver... UGH


#1

Well last night John Oliver covered the industry (and singled out Frank) and he got it all wrong. I can no longer watch anything he does with credibility.

Here is my post I published on it. Probably best to let this sweep by but it boiled my blood a little.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/john-oliver-got-wrong-charlie-ansanelli


#2

I just watched the episode and came here to vent. Oliver blasted PE firms that are buying up parks and raising the rents on residents who cannot afford to move their mobile homes that aren’t really mobile after they are set. He talked about Clayton and MHU as well.

I’m sure the only point of the piece is to generate laughs, but it was more than a bit unfair. Frank’s quotes were taken out of context and the parts of boot camp where he talks about giving the residents a reason to live in your community and giving them something for their money were obviously not part of the episode. There were no interviews with residents who are happy with their community / landlord.

All in all, an extremely negative piece with no attempt to point out the benefits of manufactured housing.


#3

Why I mostly shrug this off:

-The piece is obviously bad. Sure, it doesn’t present the other (our) side, but how many successful TV shows are focused on level headed rational analysis of issues? Not many, because such shows are often boring.

-I think this piece does almost zero damage to our industry. Here are some other recent episodes:
+The Brazilian General Election
+District Attorneys in the US
+Iranian nuclear deal

Most people connected to or interested in the mobile home market are probably not subscribing to HBO (2x the cost of netflix) to watch a 20 minute segment on the Brazilian general election.


#4

The same sort of thing happened in the 2007/2008 time frame just before the Great Crash! Everybody including your server at the bar was into real estate. I know that when the late night guys talk about it, it has gone mainstream.
We will see. I have read those articles about those park owners raising rents $250 per month, my take is that they WAY over payed for the park and that is the only way to make the numbers work. It just makes all us ethical and trained RE investors look bad. They have to know that raising rents in any property type that much is going to draw attention. DAs.


#5

Saw this as well as I really like John Oliver and think he is very funny. Franks comments on there are a bit cringe-worthy by themselves. I would not have as large an issue with these hit pieces if they did not solely focus on Mobile Home Parks. What about apartment rents have they not risen? Home rents? Nothing about how those others are subsidized and our housing is not yet we are supposed to subsidize it ourselves? Also they do not take into consideration that not everyone can afford or qualify or save the down payment for single family homes. Should they then just rent a $1,200 apartment for the rest of their lives because losing that money every month is somehow better than depreciation on a mobile home?

I will be looking forward to the apartment rent episode with bated breath.


#6

One of the things I’ve noticed about cosmopolitan people is, they make a lot of money too, and take advantage of market distortions all the time. They just spend a bunch of time whitewashing it. At least Frank is up front about it.


#7

I think it’s a growth industry. The bottom half of the population is getting squeezed by globalization. Lot’s of money will be made in the next 50 years, figuring out how to accommodate all of these poor people. This is why dollar general has done so well over the last decade.


#8

I was just about to post the same thing, glad i saw this so i didnt double post. I think he got it all wrong of course. Wish folks would take some time to learn the industry.


#9

I know that all of these media groups have a huge amount of time to fill, but I wish they would put in at least a small amount of effort to understand what they are talking about. We never received any contact from John Oliver’s staff, and would have been happy to answer any questions they had on the industry. We have done so many times in the past, from the Guardian to NPR and even newspapers and television channels from Germany and Italy. One example is Gary Rivlin from the New York Times, who we allowed to not only go to Boot Camp for free but to then live in one of our parks for a week entirely at our expense. The end result was the highly controversial article “The Cold Hard Lessons of Mobile Home U” https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/magazine/the-cold-hard-lessons-of-mobile-home-u.html in which this anti-business writer was amazed at how happy our customers were and declared that we are the “best thing going in affordable housing at a time in which the nation’s need for low-cost places to live has never been greater”. We also allowed the National Geographic to follow me for a week as I went around various mobile home parks we own, with no restrictions at all. Although their view of the industry was tougher than the New York Times, the piece was fact-filled and there had been significant effort put into its production. The bottom line is that journalism is based on collecting facts, vetting their accuracy, and then stringing them together into a cohesive narrative.

John Oliver is obviously not a journalist but merely an entertainer. I honestly had never heard of him prior to yesterday. His “news” should have a disclaimer that says “the story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred”. Because that’s what it is: satire with the false appearance of news. I wonder if the viewers actually realize that he is simply a stand-up comic, as described in his own press release http://themetphilly.com/event/john-oliver-4/ ?


#10

Completely agree.

On the bright side, you know you made it when cable comedy ‘news’ programs come after you!

The sad thing is though is that the industry and the quality of life for residents have vastly improved in large part due to Frank and Dave. Sure they pay might pay closer to market value now (still way below) but they get management that enforces park rules, pre-screens tenants for safety, and invests in capital improvements. Most Mom and Pops stopped doing any of this decades ago.

Far left, far right media are all the same. Highly edited and biased from the start. Anything for a story and sound clip.


#11

I think it’s a matter of perspective–Honestly, I knew nothing about this as a form of investing. I am here trying to learn about mobile home investing because of the episode. So, it is ultimately what the viewer takes away from it.


#12

Don’t know who John Oliver is. Don’t want to know now.


#13

Not sure this should be the takeaway @JasonS

I was actually a fan of his prior to the episode and would watch regularly. Woke up yesterday with 5 people sending me the YouTube link.

Another broader point to glean from this event: the number of Americans that consume 100% of their news from outlets like this is staggering and increasing.


#14

To @mills540 point, I was discussing this with several people - will be quite ironic if his story has the opposite effect on our space and MHU specifically. Would love if @frankrolfe or @brandon_reynolds would be able to share some traffic or enrollment figures over the next 6 months. Sure there have been many negative pieces put out before, but nothing with this kind of reach unless I’m mistaken.


#15

I loved the typical big Pharma plug conveniently placed in at the 2:25 mark. How exactly has this clown drawn a logical line between affordable rent being responsible for someone’s inability to afford un-affordable medication? Typical dick face media puppet move.

Apologies for the language but eh, fuck John Oliver.


#16

As you said John, you have a whole team watching MHU. So, I’ll invite you to a friendly one-on-one discussion about how to possibly solve it. You should be embarrassed at the solution you suggested because it’s ridiculously impossible to implement across the industry. You’d know that if your team was any good at research. I’m free any time if you actually want to do something meaningful with your platform. Or, just slink back into the shadows and shut the fuck up.

(276) 237-4311


#17

Dear Mr. Rolfe,

I’m writing in regard to the recent online videos covering comments you made about MHU’s business practices. I would hope that someone in your position would not encouraging members of your university to exploit people who are financially vulnerable. The comments made about “holding all the cards” after raising rent on tenants do not reflect a man with empathy. I do not know you. Nor am I in a position to say what type of person you are on a moral level. It is not my intention to accuse you of lacking empathy (believe me, I’ve had MANY unflattering moments none of which were put online). I simply encourage you to be mindful of how comments about raising rents can come across.

I’m sure that HBO would prefer to paint the least flattering picture of your organization, as it would make them look virtuous in the coverage. I believe you are a kind and caring man beyond the first impression of a few clips on YouTube. With that being said, I hope that your response to the negative coverage is to bring positivity to the less fortunate tenants. I have faith in you, your members and your organization.

Thank you for your time,

Charlie D.


#18

Your team took 2 hours to come up with that?


#19

You have my number John.

Whoever the mystery person is writing on my behalf. My entire life is filled with unflattering moments. You’ll have to be more specific if you’re trying to give me hints.

Out.


#20

Frank and others,

I have been reading lots of posts on this forum as I seriously considered becoming a mobile home park investor. Certainly the returns touted seemed almost too good to be true. My wife, however, has never been a supporter of this idea, having been a mobile home park tennant in the past. The John Oliver report was harsh, and I have to admit, for me he drove home all of the negative points about mobile home investing which had been of concern to us, as well as some we had not considered, as we have discussed the issue. Here are some of those bothersome issues:

Upgrading the park and passing along the cost (along with the cost of a nice profit bump) to those who live there: Those of you in the industry who tout the improvements they make to the parks they buy never bother to ask the residents if they want your improvements, so let’s all agree this is BS. Those improvements are not being made for the benefit of the residents. They are being made to make the park more attractive to prospective new tennants and to help justify gouging all of those who are trapped and therefore must contend with your higher rents, therefore, all the benefits of the upgrades accrue to the owner, and not to the tennants.

When the rates are raised on those who cannot afford the higher rents, and who you know cannot afford to move their home from the park, because they are held hostage by the cost of moving the home, you know what the result will be: some people will lose their life savings, in the form of equity in their homes, when you either evict them for non-payment of the rent, or they give up and move out before you evict them. Then you get to seize their “abandoned” property and convert it to your asset. Never have I ever seen such a blatantly immoral set of practices condoned, and even recommended, by leaders of an industry. If ever there should be an illegal activity, this one tops my list.
Frankly, the activities I see being so casually discussed in this forum with not even the slightest hint of empathy for the poor you are knowingly screwing, disgust me.

If you all want to be able to hold your heads up while doing business in this industry, I have a few suggestions for the beginning of a code of conduct:

  1. Any rent increase must be announced a minimum of one year in advance of it being raised to the new level, with annual increases limited to twice the rate of CPI inflation. This would give tennants an opportunity to make other arrangements for where they live, or to prepare for the higher rents.
  2. Any mobile home that is abandoned through eviction or coercion to move, in the face of any rent increase, must be sold, with the proceeds, net of any mortgage payoff and/or reasonable cost of sale, being transferred back to the previous owner of the home.
  3. When a park changes ownership, all existing tennant rents are to be immediately subject to the first rule, with the first increase to become effective no sooner than one year after change of ownership. Vacant and newly created lots may be rented at any price the market will bear.
  4. Conversion of POHs to TOHs must include a complete and clear explanation of the implications of this change, delivered at least 7 days prior to the buyer’s signing the purchase agreement. Tennants cannot be expected to know in advance of such a deal that they will now be required to pay for all maintenance costs, their insurance will go up (from renter’s to homeowner’s.) They need to be informed as to what the actuarial value of the home they are now buying will be in 5 years via a third party appraisal, and what it is going to cost them in payments, however they may be disguised, to buy the home.
  5. Conversion from community to lot level utility metering, must be made revenue-neutral at the time implemented, with the lot rent adjusted so as to maintain the same total cost to the tennant, and that cost must remain fixed, other than adjustments for changes in the utility rates that may be implemented by the city during this period, for one year from the date of conversion, at which time rule one shall apply.

I am confident that your industry could actually become what so many of you now claim to be; champions of the poor, providing low cost housing for those who need it. To achieve that level of respectability, though, you must cast aside the pall that has settled over you all, whether deserved or not, that you are a bunch of money-grubbing, abusive, exploitative, opportunistic, slum landlords, who make outsized returns by taking advantage of the poor who failed to see you coming when they decided to rent a space in their MHP.

Be well…and do the right thing.
Me? I am out.

Tom