Former Residents Accuse Kentucky Mobile Home Park Operator of Improper Evictions, Seizures

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14710720539_0d33d8085f_oSixteen current and former residents of mobile home parks owned by SSK Communities in Kentucky have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing SSK of a self-enrichment scheme of evicting residents, seizing their trailers and renting them to new tenants.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in Jefferson County Circuit Court, alleges that SSK’s eviction and water-billing practices violate several state laws, including the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act. It asks the court to stop SSK from refusing to renew leases to “force a resident to sacrifice their home.”

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting in August reported on how residents at one SSK property have endured the stench of sewage system overflows for years. The state Division of Water has repeatedly cited the company for letting untreated sewage escape from a manhole into a public stream.

SSK, based in Erlanger, in Northern Kentucky, is co-owned by the chairman of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s campaign for governor, Nathan Smith.

Nathan Smith

NKU.edu

Nathan Smith

The company owns and operates 17 trailer parks throughout the state, including six in southwest Jefferson County. The company would not respond to the allegations in the class-action suit, issuing this statement Monday: “We regret that these individuals have taken this action. We believe that the complaint has no merit and we will vigorously defend our company’s interests.”

By seeking class certification of the lawsuit, plaintiffs’ attorney James Craig of Louisville hopes to represent all those “affected by the unfair, unconscionable, false, misleading and deceptive business practices” of SSK and Augusta Home Sales. A judge will decide whether or not to allow others to join the suit.

The lawsuit claims that SSK evicts residents who own their trailers — even when they are current on their lot leases and are “upstanding” residents — by not renewing those leases. Because the cost of moving their trailers to another park is so high, “up to $5,000 or more,” the evicted owners abandon the trailers and SSK rents them to new tenants. The suit states that SSK can evict a tenant with 30 days’ notice “for any reason.”

The lawsuit says further that SSK threatens to evict residents who do not pay water bills as high as “10 times a normal bill.” Residents of several SSK parks have complained of sharp increases in water bills in 2014. SSK’s water and sewer systems both leak, the suit states, and SSK passes along the cost of lost water to residents.

In Jefferson County, SSK owns the Ashley Pointe, Autumn Lake Pointe, Barrington Pointe, Johnsontown Pointe, Logans Pointe and Mills Pointe parks.

WHAS-TV in Louisville and WKRC-TV in Cincinnati have reported on the water billing complaints.

Reporter James McNair can be reached at jmcnair@kycir.org or (502) 814-6543.