Tualatin community at odds with property owner over trees

Residents at Angel Haven Mobile Home Park fear some of the trees on the property are dangerous and could fall on someone. (KATU Photo)

People who live in a Tualatin community accuse the property owner of not doing enough to remove dangerous trees that are leaning over homes, garages and backyard decks.

During this winter's severe weather, several large tree branches broke, damaging a carport and shed at Angel Haven Mobile Home Park.

Residents say the property owner, Commonwealth Real Estate, is not maintaining the property to an acceptable level.

"It's like, do we wait until the tree blows over and then they do something? You know? At that time, there will be lives lost," Imogene Stout Nelson said. "That's a huge branch. If somebody would've been under this tree, one that fell, it would've been all she wrote."

Stout Nelson says it's a sentiment echoed throughout the 128-unit park.

"The one in the back looks like it's tipping," homeowner Mary Crandles said, pointing to a leaning cedar tree in her backyard. "My concern is that it's going to go any day, and we don't know when."

At Angel Haven, residents own their homes, but not the land. They rent it.

Stout Nelson says Commonwealth Real Estate removed roots twice from the tree behind her home.

She says the tree also sits on a water pipe, near utility lines and stands within 10 feet of structures and nearby homes.

In the park's Statement of Policy, it states, "root systems which may potentially compromise the utility lines housed underground, curbing, sidewalks, driveways and/or streets will not be allowed to be planted or to otherwise remain at Tenant's space."

"It's under all of these bushes, right here at the base of this tree," Stout Nelson said, pointing to where the lines are and where the work took place recently. "If it blows over it's going to hit my neighbor's house and part of mine."

Under ORS 90.727, if a licensed arborist certified by the International Society of Arboriculture determines a tree is a hazard, the landlord is required to remove the tree.

Residents at Angel Haven Mobile Home Park have not done that, but say they may. Even then, some say they fear the property owner may hire their own arborist to refute that claim.

Stout Nelson says it costs approximately $160 for a certified arborist to inspect a tree, a cost she says most residents can't afford because many rely on fixed-incomes.

According to Oregon Housing and Community Services, a state-run department, there are more than 62,000 units within communities like this statewide.

There are 40 mobile home parks in Washington County, 103 in Clackamas County and 109 in Lane County.

Oregon State Tenants Association Manufactured Housing President Rita Loberger says similar disputes between homeowners, management companies and property owners exist with homeowners often getting pushed to the side.

"People with the deepest pockets win," Loberger told KATU. "That's sad because we need this affordable housing."

Loberger says Oregon lawmakers passed an entire chapter of laws regarding residential landlord and tenant regulations. Unfortunately, many of the laws don't have teeth -- they ask for voluntary compliance.

"If we do not have (an) enforcement person in place, that leaves us with very little that we have on our plates," Loberger said. "I have gone as far as the Attorney General's Office wondering why there is no enforcement for these laws."

State Rep. Julie Fahey, D-West Eugene and Junction City, says homeowners currently have two options: hire an attorney and take property owners to court or enter dispute mediation. However, Fahey says both parties need to agree to mediate, which rarely happens.

Fahey told KATU the Washington Department of Justice handles enforcement in that state. In Oregon, no state agency is designated to enforce ORS 90.727.

Loberger says Oregon State Tenants Association and Manufactured Housing Communities of Oregon, a group of homeowners, landlords and stakeholders, are working with lawmakers to determine how to enforce these laws and who does it.

"It's money over morals," Stout Nelson said. "They don't seem to care if that three might fall on us."

KATU called and emailed Commonwealth Real Estate Monday. A reporter visited their Tigard office Wednesday and managers did not make themselves available.

"Karma is a great thing because they're going to get old someday," Loberger said of property owners. "I like manufactured living. They are communities. They are neighborhoods."

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