Several tenants at a Merced mobile home park say they unnecessarily got eviction notices about two weeks before Christmas.
Tenants said a representative of Storz Management Company, which manages the Sierra Portal park just off of Highway 140, put up at least 18 eviction notices on Monday at the park designed for people 55 years old or older.
Merced police confirmed Thursday they are looking into reports of potential embezzlement and other crimes related to missing funds that may be connected to a former employee of the park. The tenants said they were concerned the missing money is being blamed on them and not on the potential wrongdoing of the former employee.
The management company said it is accounting for the money missing from its books and it does not intend to evict tenants who have paid rent, but that apparently didn’t stop the tenants from getting notices this week.
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Charlie Strother, who moved into his mobile home about seven years ago, said he was surprised to see the notice hanging from his door this week. The retired state worker said he’s never missed a payment.
“The way I see it, I paid them. I have proof I paid them,” 62-year-old Strother said. “It’s not my fault their employee stole from them.”
Strother said the notice he received claimed he owed more than $3,000 in back rent. Tenants at the park pay their base rent and utilities to the park management.
The Sun-Star spoke to five tenants who said they were stressed to receive the letters saying they had three days to pay their back rent or they’d be evicted in 60 days. They also said they had previously shown proof they were up-to-date on their rent.
Resident Mary Ann Woodward, 85, who has lived in the park since 2002, said she lives on a fixed income and would not be able to pay the more than $2,000 she was told she owed despite having already paid it.
“What they’re doing is fraudulent,” Woodward said. “They’re trying to get us to pay twice.”
A dozen tenants filed complaints with police this week, and that number will likely grow, according to Sgt. Rey Alvarez. “We got a lot of calls too so it’s concerning to us,” he said.
Reached by phone this week, a representative from the management company based just outside Folsom said there must be a misunderstanding. Vice President Michelle Reis said the company is going through the logs of the park’s former manager, who is no longer with the company, to determine if money is missing.
“Nobody is being evicted, especially if they’ve provided proof that they have paid. We would not do that to any of these people,” she said. “We are trying to do whatever we can to make sure we are helping out these residents in any way we can.”
After the Sun-Star asked the management for comment on Wednesday, tenants said they got a new letter on Thursday that assured them they would not be evicted. Though the letter did not clear them of the balance previously stated on their accounts.
Strother said he showed bank statements to the company proving he has paid his rent every month, but he got the eviction notice this week anyway. He said he would not be satisfied until the management team confirms he has no balance on his account.
“Now they’re saying we have to pay something we already paid,” he said. “That was very upsetting. I think people need to know what’s happening.”