Lawsuit claims mobile home park managers conspired to fix and inflate lot rental prices

CHICAGO (AP) — A lawsuit seeking class-action status accuses nine mobile home community management companies and a mobile home market data provider of conspiring to fix and inflate lot rental prices at more than 150 locations across the U.S.

The lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Chicago claims the management companies bought up mobile home parks and used “competitively sensitive market data” provided by Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Datacomp Appraisal Systems Inc. to exchange pricing information and conspire to raise rents.

“In the face of these significant manufactured home lot rent increases, some manufactured home residents were not only facing severe financial pressures, but even the threat of eviction,” Gregory Asciolla, an attorney with Chicago-based DiCello Levitt, one of the law firms filing the suit, said in a news release.

“These individuals — whose median annual household income is approximately $35,000 — were overcharged for what was meant to be affordable housing,” DiCello Levitt partner Adam Levitt said. “Manufactured home lot rental prices were blatantly inflated at a staggering rate of 9.1% per year between 2019 and 2021.”

Institutional investors led by private equity firms and real estate investment trusts and sometimes funded by pension funds have swooped in to buy mobile home parks.

The purchases have put residents in a bind, since most mobile homes — despite the name — cannot be moved easily or cheaply. Owners are forced to either accept unaffordable rent increases, spend thousands of dollars to move their home, or abandon it and lose tens of thousands of dollars they invested.

Telephone and electronic messages seeking comment were left for Datacomp and its Chicago-based parent company, Equity LifeStyle Properties.