VERO BEACH, Fla., December 21, 2021–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today a group of mobile homeowners filed a federal class-action lawsuit claiming real estate giant Equity LifeStyle Properties (NYSE: ELS) has ignored decades of complaints over failed drainage issues, leaving residents to deal with frequent flooding, mud, injuries, damaged mobile homes and cars, and more, in dereliction of their duties as mobile home park operators and owners.
The suit alleges ELS failed to maintain the Heritage Plantation property since 2003 by ignoring code violations, failing to maintain the park’s buildings and common areas, and ignoring a failing stormwater drainage system causing severe flooding during ordinary rainfall.
Heritage Plantation is located in Vero Beach and has over 400 homes across its nearly 70-acre campus.
"It is abundantly clear that ELS has made a deliberate, conscious decision to starve this property of even the most rudimentary maintenance for almost 20 years," said Elizabeth Fegan, founding partner and managing member of FeganScott and lead attorney representing the residents. "It is also clear to me that the intent of this willful neglect is to bolster profits, knowing that typical residents don’t have the resources or the ability to organize and fight for their interests."
Fegan noted that cases such as this are specifically why the State of Florida has defined the duties of mobile home park operators and owners, recognizing that mobile homeowners are often at an economic disadvantage in their ability to defend against large, corporate owners, and inability to move their homes if they are dissatisfied with the corporation’s maintenance and upkeep of the property. Many of the residents in Heritage Park are retirees with low- or fixed-incomes.
"It’s unacceptable for retirees to be routinely forced to wade through hip-deep, fetid water to leave their homes, and we intend to use the law to compel ELS to fulfill its obligation to provide residents with a safe living environment," Fegan added.
ELS owns and operates over 400 communities in 33 states and British Columbia and has been the subject of legal action in several of those communities across California and other states.
The complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, notes that ELS has been put on notice of the park’s various deficiencies, including citations and fines by Indian River County concerning the failed stormwater system.
"When it rains, our properties almost immediately flood, making it difficult and dangerous to leave our homes. I know seniors who have been cut off from going to doctors’ appointments or picking up prescriptions," said Michael Noel, resident and homeowner. "Once the water recedes, that’s just the beginning of the problem – we are left with slime and mud covering almost everything the water touches."
Residents and homeowners at Heritage Plantation mobile home park have suffered economic damages, according to the suit. At least two homeowners have incurred more than $10,000 in fees replacing their flooring that is persistently damaged by the three-feet high floodwaters that enter the home, only to find that their floor will need to be replaced again after the next bad flood.
"Repairing floors even once is unreasonable and out of financial reach for most residents, who are seniors and on fixed incomes," said resident and homeowner Kathleen Wiksten. "And all the while, homeowners are also seeing their homes’ resale value diminish."
In addition to the stress of frequent household damages, residents face the physical impact of injuries caused by muddy accumulations. Heritage Plantation is an age-qualified community, meaning its residents are over the age of 55 and face additional risks in the park’s slippery and unsafe environment, frequently riddled with sink holes and exposed electrical wiring.
"My mother and I tried to hold ELS accountable years ago to provide a safe and livable environment for all residents. It is now time for ELS to fulfill their legal obligations and provide the most basic services to which all residents are entitled," said resident and homeowner Claire Ladouceur.
The lawsuit seeks to represent all former and current residents who leased a lot in the Heritage Plantation mobile home park.
About FeganScott
FeganScott is a national class action law firm dedicated to helping victims of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Beth Fegan, the firm’s founder and managing member, represents the group of survivors suing criminally convicted movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The firm, championed by acclaimed veteran, class-action attorneys who have successfully recovered $1 billion for victims nationwide. FeganScott is committed to pursuing successful outcomes with integrity and excellence while holding the responsible parties accountable.
Case No. 2:21-cv-14492
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