Canutillo Mobile Home Tenants Fight Illegal Eviction with Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2019

Contact:
Alan Dicker at (915) 585-5146 or adicker@trla.org.
Nancy Nusser, Press Officer, (512) 374 2764 or (410) 934-9588; nnusser@trla.org
          
EL PASO, Texas – Longtime residents of the Canutillo mobile home park are taking their fight against their abusive landlords to court. Last week, seven residents, who are represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), filed suit against Arturo and Luis Muñoz for trying to illegally evict them from the mobile home park where they’ve lived for years. The landlords have also refused to fix deteriorated infrastructure and utilities in the park, even though making such repairs is required under Texas property law.

“The owners are treating us as if we didn’t have any rights,” said Cruz Arredondo, who has lived for nearly 20 years at the park, located at 6724 Doniphan Drive in Canutillo. “We’ve lived here for decades, but now they’re trying to scare us into leaving with almost no notice. We can’t afford to pick up our lives and leave at the drop of a hat.”

Residents and attorneys will be available for a press conference at 1 pm on April 22 (Monday) at the mobile home park at 6724 Doniphan in Canutillo.

The residents’ suit was filed in El Paso District Court on grounds that the Muñoz brothers twice told tenants to vacate without providing the 180-day notice required under Texas’ property law. The suit also charges that the brothers violated Texas law by failing to provide residents with leases.

“The Muñoz brothers’ have tried to evict their tenants on two-day notice,” said TRLA attorney Paulina Almanza, who is representing the clients. “They never provided them with leases, and they’ve let the park deteriorate to the point where it’s a health and safety hazard for the people living there. Those actions are illegal, and our clients are going to hold them accountable.”

In February, the Muñoz brothers sent their tenants notices that they were to vacate the park and that it was “scheduled to be redeveloped immediately.” In April, the brothers sent a notice telling residents that they had to leave in less than 72 hours. Last week, the brothers filed an eviction suit in El Paso County Justice of the Peace Court, demanding that the residents leave immediately.

Under Texas property law, mobile home park tenants have a right to a six-month initial lease, 60-day notice if a lease will not be renewed, and minimum 180-day notice if the owners intend to change the land use and displace the entire community.

The April notice also falsely accused residents of not paying their rent. In fact, the Muñoz brothers refused to accept rent payments in March and April.

The eviction notices followed longtime neglect of the park. Residents have suffered for years with unsafe conditions, including drainage and electrical problems and discolored, smelly water that they believe is making them sick. Their roads and utilities infrastructure were also seriously damaged by repeated flooding.

Residents have sent formal repair requests to the Muñoz brothers to fix flood-damaged infrastructure and a deteriorating, dangerous electrical system, but they have refused to make repairs or investigate complaints. Under Texas property law, mobile home park owners have an obligation to make repairs to community infrastructure when tenants submit requests.

“The owners have not lived up to their statutory obligations,” Almanza said. “Texas property law gives protections to mobile home park residents in these situations and our clients are committed to standing up for their rights.”

The owners recently put up “For Sale” signs along Doniphan Drive, showing that they plan to use the land for commercial purposes. They also recently signed a lease agreement for the property with a fireworks company.

“The owners have neglected their responsibilities for too long,” Arredondo said. “We just want to be treated fairly.”

For more information or to schedule interviews with residents or TRLA attorneys, please contact Alan Dicker (915) 585-5146 or adicker@trla.org.

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Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to about 23,000 low-income Texans in 68 counties. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and access to justice for low-income Texans by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.

 

 

nancy nusser