PITTSBURGH – The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has closed a civil lawsuit it filed versus the owner of an Allegheny County manufactured home community, which had accused him of engaging in “unlawful and deceptive business practices.”
Besides being subject to a permanent injunction from violating laws related to the alleged misconduct and from owning a manufactured home community, defendant Bill Chen was ordered to pay $45,000 in restitution costs to residents of the home community he once owned, Twin Circles Mobile Home Park.
The Bureau of Consumer Protection originally filed the litigation against Chen, who did business as Twin Circles Mobile Home Park, in July 2016 in the Allegheny County Court of Common pleas.
The suit was first brought under the tenure of former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane and continued under current state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and alleged “violations of the Manufactured Home Community Rights Act and the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.”
“This is a clear case of a property owner failing to meet his legal obligations and denying residents payments to which they are entitled. This lawsuit is a necessary step to ensure the interests of the current and former residents of this community are protected,” Kane said at the time of filing.
Per the lawsuit, Chen and his wife owned a manufactured home community property located on Steubenville Pike, in Robinson Township. On Oct. 1, 2015, Chen allegedly sent a notice to residents informing them the property would be closing on April 15, 2016, and that residents would be required to leave by March 31 of that year.
The suit claimed Chen’s notice omitted the fact that, by law, he was required to pay up to $4,000 to his residents’ home relocation costs. Chen also allegedly failed to disclose that current state law mandated he pay residents who are unwilling or unable to move at least $2,500 or the appraised value of their manufactured homes, whichever is greater.
According to the lawsuit, Chen then sent a second notice to residents on March 21, 2016 which again allegedly did not inform residents of his financial responsibilities as owner and operator of the property. The suit said a number of residents left the premises after receiving these notices, and were unaware of their rights.
The suit sought payment under state law for the displaced residents and others who look to relocate. It further sought civil penalties of $1,000 for each alleged violation of both the MHCRA and the UTPCPL, and $3,000 for every alleged violation involving a victim age 60 or older – and moreover, the suit looked to prohibit Chen and any of his agents from continuing to engage in the alleged “deceptive business practices” described in the complaint.
On May 13 of this year, a mutual agreement was finalized between the parties in the form of a consent decree, and issued by Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alan D. Hertzberg.
According to its terms, Chen is permanently enjoined from violating both the MHCRA and UTPCPL and from owning a manufactured home community.
Furthermore, Chen was ordered to pay the Commonwealth $45,000 in restitution for consumers who were harmed by the conduct alleged in the complaint. The amount, timing and manner of distribution to consumers was to be at the sole discretion of the Commonwealth.
The plaintiff was represented by Jesse F. Harvey, Senior Deputy Attorney General in the Office of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in Pittsburgh.
The defendants were represented by Gary Kalmeyer of Kalmeyer & Kalmeyer and Clifford L. Tuttle Jr., both in Pittsburgh.
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas case GD-16-013133
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org