Country Courts tenants find leases terminated, forced to find new homes

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Friday, January 14, 2011
— The owner of Country Courts mobile home park had no choice but to issue notices for tenants to leave by Jan. 31 because he could not collect rent without a license, the director of a state housing trade organization said.

Ross Kinzler of the Wisconsin Housing Alliance said he and his organization have been working with E. James Skarda at the state’s request to help Skarda operate his park after the town pushed Skarda to bring the park up to local and state regulations.

Tenants started moving out last week after Skarda issued the 28-day notices.

Kinzler said the notice was the only option Skarda had left because the town “put him in a position” where he could not collect rent without a license.

Town Chairman Larry Harding said it never was the board’s intention for the two-year struggle to improve the park to end the way it has.

If he lived in the mobile home park, Harding said, he would stay in his home and force Skarda of Sussex to initiate eviction proceedings.

“I’m appalled at Mr. Skarda’s actions against these innocent people,” Harding said.

If tenants in the park don’t leave within the 28 days, Skarda would have to evict them by going to court, said Michelle Reinen, director of the state Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Without knowing specifics about the case, Reinen said she could not comment on what rights the tenants have. She said if tenants feel they are being wrongfully terminated, they could file a complaint with her agency or talk to an attorney.

No complaints about Country Courts have been filed, she said.

The town board last summer revoked Skarda’s permit for the park after officials said he failed to bring the park up to local and state regulations. Skarda appealed the decision in Rock County Court, where a judge last fall granted the town’s motion to dismiss the case.

Skarda appealed that decision to the state Fourth District Court of Appeals, where the case still is active. Skarda failed to file proper documents, and the court issued a notice of delinquency for the documents, said Linda O’Dell, assistant deputy clerk for the appeals court.

Harding and tenants said they don’t understand why Skarda still is appealing the case if he’s closing the park and selling it, as he stated in a letter to the tenants.

Neither Skarda nor his attorney could be reached Thursday.

Town officials stated throughout the process that they wouldn’t take actions that affect the residents until the court proceedings were finished. Harding said he’s told residents throughout the last year to continue to pay their rent and utility bills.

Kinzler said his understanding is that Skarda had signed one-year leases with tenants last year.

Under Wisconsin statutes, the permanent closing of a mobile home park can be a reason to terminate a lease, he said.

But why did Skarda force the move in the middle of winter?

Kinzler said there was no way for Skarda to economically meet the requirements to regain the license. Each resident still has a chance to stand before a judge, and eviction proceedings would likely take into spring, he said.

He said his organization advised Skarda to give tenants the longest amount of time—28 days—allowed under statute to move.

Last updated: 4:05 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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