New NYTimes article on Eviction / Mobile Home Parks

Running one of the poorest trailer parks in the city had its challenges, like dealing with mental illness, addiction and domestic violence. Every so often, tenants wrecked their trailer the night before being evicted. Tobin had a way of dealing with that. He’d pay one of his tenants $20 to clean up the mess, then offer prospective new families the “Handyman Special,” a free mobile home as long as they paid “lot rent.” Lot rent was the same amount as rent, except the new “owners” would be responsible for maintenance. A family could move their trailer elsewhere, but in reality no one could afford to. When families fell behind in lot rent and were evicted, they inevitably left their trailer behind. Tobin would reclaim it as “abandoned property” and give it to someone else.

Tobin bought the mobile home park, 131 trailers parked on asphalt, for $2.1 million in 1995, paying off the mortgage nine years later. After reviewing Tobin’s books and expenses (property taxes, utility bills, missed payments), I estimated that he netted roughly $447,000 a year.

I like my POHs. I wouldn’t mind living in them. They’re cute and they work. I fix things that break. I’m creeping my rent up to attract and keep tenants who want things looking nice and neat, and don’t give me any headaches at the first of the month. I make more than I would putting my capital elsewhere, but a mobile home park offers more headaches than inanimate financial tools, and it’s not hand over fist at any rate.

I suspect some facts may be missing but there are plenty of interesting tidbits, and of course this article is an opinion.

If it bleeds it leads.

I found the following on another forum a long time ago:

10 Reasons why you should NOT feel guilty about evictions.

    1) ALWAYS start evictions immediately. It the tenant needs more time, the court will give it to them.

    2) You don't make a profit with evictions, only cut your losses.

    3) You've already supplied the NEEDY tenant with free housing. You've done your charity work, give
    someone else a chance.

    4) If a tenant doesn't have a friend or relative to help them out, doesn't that say alot about the tenants

    5) If anyone asks how you could put someone on the street, ask them to pay the rent for them and you
    won't evict them.

    6) The tenant has illegally kept possession of your property and is stealing from you. He has stolen your
    home, utilities, stolen your hard-earned investment and stolen your services. This tenant is a thief. Do you see retail stores letting your tenant go in and take from them?

    7) Letting a tenant stay in your house who is not paying rent is like giving them your charge card or a
    blank check, and telling him, "fell free to spend it because I really don't care. I like loaning money out
    interest free, even if I'm not sure I'll get paid back."

    8) How would you feel if you worked all week long and your employer said "I don't have a paycheck for
    you?" Guess what, your tenant has told you that! Do you really work for nothing?

    9) If you want to give your house away or provide FREE rent, you should be the one that decides who
    gets it, NOT YOUR TENANT. There are alot of people more deserving.

    10) Your tenant is taking money that stops you from providing for your family needs. And the sad thing is
    that some tenants live a better lifestyle then their landlord. It's easy when landlords let them live for
    FREE. Picture yourself trying to tell your child that you couldn't him/her the item he wanted because
    YOU had to pay a strangers rent so the stranger could buy the gift for his child.

    My point... I guess I've heard just about every excuse know to all mankind and I would NEVER allow
    anyone to stand in the way of my family's needs.

The media – and most of America – has the opinion that anyone who sells a product or service to poor people must be ripping them off. They refuse to believe that you can offer a great value or provide a great service when the customer base is the lower demographic. Sure, payday lenders and pawn shops and used car lots rip people off on a daily basis. But there can be a business model that is a win/win with poorer customers – and mobile home parks are that rare business model. That’s not to say that all park owners are saints, but you can’t include mobile home parks in the same sentence with payday lenders. One business model is win/win and the other is win/lose.

When the New York Times came to us in 2013, they were writing a similar story. In fact, the writer had just written a book called “Broke USA” about how payday lenders were bankrupting poor America. Instead of saying “no comment” we invited them to live in one of our parks for a week. The writer loved it. He then wrote a lengthy piece that declared that we were “the best thing going in affordable housing”.

The moral is that most people know nothing of our industry, and they unfairly lump us into the wrong category. We are not the problem, we are the solution.


Keep in mind “The Media” is in the business of selling a product. Everything written is done so as to attract the greatest numbers of readers. The general public is not interested in reading about a street gang helping little old lady’s across the street. The story that sells is the one about the gang beating up little old lady’s.
Pay day lenders and MHCs will continue to do business the way they do business regardless of the reputation because they both serve a public purpose.

I also came across this article lat week and my eyes immediately gravitated to the picture of those mobile homes. WHY? Because I used to own this park. No, I’m not Tobin. We bought the park from Tobin after the city essentially forced the owner to sell the park.

I had long heard of the ‘reporter’ who lived in the park to write about the park but always wondered who that was or when the his book/article would come out. Now I know :smile:

I can tell you that his article was a VERY one sided. Yes, Tobin did do many things that were poor management procedures, most notably poor tenant screening processes. However, I can tell you that this park was far from the armpit that the writer describes.

In fact, I had so many people tell me that this park was well more affordable than the low-income apartments (many subsidized) where they came from. The total cost of living was cheaper and quality of living much better. Many of these tenants could not afford the higher end parks in the area…and there is nothing wrong with that.

In 3+ years owning that park we spend over $250k in various capital improvements. We saw the ‘good’ tenants improve their homes (painting, gardening, vinyl siding). We even had a program where tenants had a food and clothing share, using part of our office. I recall one instance where one family could not find their 2 yr old daughter. Over half the park went all around the neighborhood looking for her (we later found her sleeping underneath their couch). This was not behavior I would get in my own SFR neighborhood.

I can probably respond to every sentence in this article because I know this park first hand. While I understand his intent and believe we as park owners have a duty to improve affordable housing standards, he absolutely forgot to look at this topic from all angles, which is poor journalism IMO.

Sorry for the rant. I am going to buy his book now…cant wait to read the rest of it.

Funny thing first time I posted on this thread I had not bothered reading the entire article just the bit posted.
I have now read the article and don’t feel it was any sort of a slam on “parks” or park owners at all. It’s a story about poverty and how in the real world rental housing fits in.
Fairly good article actually. Landlords make money off of tenants, nothing new there.

Totally agree Frank. As someone who has been a member of the media in various capacities for going on 20 years, the only way to begin to change the narrative is to engage them – politely, firmly and consistently. Like your writer, they walk in the door with certain misconceptions. It’s up to us to correct the record and make sure they accurately report things.