While neither upscale nor new, the Quail Hill Mobile Home Community, off Galley Road on the city's east side, is certainly pleasant on a summer afternoon.
Most residents are 55 and older, and have long since dispensed with the demands of jobs and children. Thus, their little yards are neat; their single- and doublewides tidy on the development's roughly 550 lots.
Darcy Marquis, a widowed 59-year-old part-time teacher, is relaxing on her porch, her short auburn hair and cat-patterned skirt catching the breeze. A fresh pitcher of fruit-flavored green tea is on her patio table, which is surrounded by gnomes, animal sculptures, knickknacks and clanging windchimes. An easel holds a nearly finished painting of a brightly hued tiger ringed by blooms. In her little yard, some rather strained-looking rose bushes are tucked in fresh mulch, surrounded by pale rock.
A sedan slowly pulls up, and an older neighbor steps out. Marquis seems tickled to see him, but as the conversation drags, her cheerful expression fades.
More eviction notices have been tacked to neighbors' doors, the man says.
Since receiving her own notice a month ago, Marquis has worked hard to avoid eviction. She's ripped up most of her dozens of cherished rose bushes, and transplanted others. She's covered a mural of flowers and animals she'd painted on a wall of her trailer. And she's paid $6,000 to have rock laid in her yard, with money borrowed from her elderly father.
Those changes represent just a few of many that Quail Hill's owner, California attorney and property manager Harvey Miller, has required of some residents.
It's about all the residents seem to talk about anymore.
Turning to leave, Marquis' neighbor stops and turns to her.
"You doin' OK?" he asks with gentle concern.
"I'm really upset about the mural, I didn't think it would affect me the way it did," Marquis replies. "But it has. And, like I said, I still don't know if I'm being evicted. I've done everything they've asked."
A sudden change
There's no question that mobile home parks like Quail Hill have the right to demand residents do routine maintenance, and threaten eviction if they don't follow through— which is all Miller says he's doing. But residents say management is demanding much more than a little tidiness; instead dictating the tiniest details of their landscape and threatening them if they don't comply. Such a scenario is questionably legal.
Not long ago, Quail Hill resident Tina Scharron, 72, and her husband received a notice. As did their adult daughter, who lives in a tidy-looking trailer. Scharron hopes she and her husband can stay, but their daughter likely will move to avoid eviction.
"It's not good; it makes us feel very insecure," Scharron says. "And it's hard on us because we have to go out and buy the paint and do the work ourselves, because we can't afford to hire someone."
The park rules only list general "landscaping" requirements, but Marquis and others say management's demands have been much more specific. Marquis says one neighbor was forced to paint a blue house in "earth tones;" another was instructed to mow down bushes because they had spiders. Others, like Marquis, say they have been asked to install rock or sod. Marquis' "English garden," included bushes planted more than a decade ago.
The rash of notices has some whispering of a racket, especially since management has offered to install rock for residents at a lower cost.
Reached by phone, Miller agreed to issue a statement to the Independent via e-mail.
“The Quail Hill Mobile Home Park is trying to improve the appearance of the Park,” his e-mail read. “A small number of tenants have failed to maintain their yards and the exterior of their homes. We have given out notices to those tenants. If any of those tenants have extenuating circumstances, such as financial hardship, illness, or are elderly, we will work with them to come up with a reasonable solution. We are not requiring the tenants to conform with any specific landscaping plan, we only want tenants to have a clean, neat and well maintained yard and home. The majority of tenants want this for their community. As an alternative to maintaining and watering grass, the Park will install rock landscaping. The Park pays for all of the labor and the tenant only pays for the actual cost of the rock. However, rock landscaping is not a requirement.”
Marquis, however, says many of those with notices, herself included, have tried to work with management and been rebuffed.
One neighbor, Rita Hagedorn, is in her 80s and has been in a care facility for the past year since losing a leg to diabetes.
Though neighbors say they protested to management on Hagedorn's behalf, she too got a notice.
Colorado's Mobile Home Park Act is murky as to whether the actions at Quail Hill are legally justifiable — even if the neighbors' extreme description is accurate. At one point, the law states a landowner can change written rules and regulations unilaterally. Residents get 30 days' notice to meet new requirements and 60 days before an eviction. Quail Hill has provided such notices.
But the same law later says landlords can require cleanliness and routine lot maintenance, but not "major landscaping projects." State officials could not provide guidance on interpreting the law.
But local mobile home park workers say that while requiring routine maintenance is typical, it's highly unusual to make specific demands such as installation of rock or sod. Rich Smith, a maintenance worker at Holiday Village on Sinton Road, says, "We basically tell our residents whether you want rock or native grass or rose bushes, it's up to them."
Margery Young, manager of A1 Mobile Village near West Cimarron Street, says, "Our owner owns seven parks between Denver, here and Pueblo, and I've never heard of anything like that."