A proposed class action alleges a coterie of real estate companies have conspired to fix and raise mobile home lot rental prices, devastating many elderly and low-income individuals by overcharging them for “what used to be affordable housing.”
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The 82-page antitrust lawsuit, which is heavily redacted, alleges Datacomp Appraisal Systems, the largest provider of mobile home data nationwide, and the owners of several large manufactured, or mobile, home communities that use Datacomp’s reports have illegally coordinated their prices by sharing non-public, competitively sensitive data.
Datacomp’s co-defendants, Equity Lifestyle Properties, Hometown America Management, Lakeshore Communities, Sun Communities, RHP Properties, YES! Communities, Inspire Communities, Kingsley Management and Cal-Am Properties, are among a wave of corporations who have scooped up manufactured home communities across the country, only to implement “steep, annual rent increases” on residents, the case claims.
Possessing access to non-public, competitively sensitive data, coupled with the knowledge that competitors access and use the same information, allows the community owner defendants to “reduce or eliminate competition amongst themselves on price, services, and quality for manufactured home lots,” the case summarizes.
According to the suit, mobile home lot rents have increased significantly across the board in recent years. The case alleges the community owner defendants “could never have demanded these rental price increases unilaterally” without conspiratorial action. The lawsuit accuses the companies of exchanging sensitive data by way of Datacomp’s JLT Market Reports, which RHP CEO Ross Patrich reportedly called “extremely helpful for rent increases across our portfolio throughout the country.”
The filing stresses that should the defendants be permitted to “continue their anticompetitive scheme,” proposed class members will continue to pay “supracompetitive” rents for mobile home lots. According to the complaint, roughly 20 million Americans live in manufactured homes, including a high concentration of individuals with disabilities or mobility issues and other vulnerable groups.
“The large corporate owners of manufactured home communities have been clear about their intentions to turn manufactured home communities into cash cows, and manufactured home community managers and investors have been hugely successful in accomplishing this,” the case says.
The lawsuit looks to cover all persons and entities who paid rent directly to any of the mobile home community owner defendants, or any unnamed co-conspirator, for a manufactured home lot located in a mobile home community that was included in a JLT Market Report between August 31, 2019 and the present.
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