Imagine working hard all your life, saving your money, buying a modest manufactured home, and retiring to a secluded spot with a mountain view, decent weather and the knowledge that you will live out your golden years in serenity. A few years into your ‘happily ever after’ and in the blink of an eye you’re 96 years old and a very recent widow, an 87 year old retired war veteran battling cancer or a 72 year old recent widow with heart troubles and suddenly everything, house and home, is being ripped away from you. Now, in this very late stage of your life, you have to start over. Elderly, sick and on the verge of becoming homeless because what you’re being offered is a mere pittance of compensation for your life time of hard work and meager savings. Sounds like a bad horror movie doesn’t it?
It’s not a bad horror movie at all it is the real life situation happening to several residents at the Anasazi Palms Manufactured Home Park owned by Owen Equities LLC.; a corporation which exists under the sole ownership of Margaret C. (a.k.a. Peggy) Owen.
The park, purchased in *December 2014 by Owen Equities LLC is closing on May 31 and the senior residents, the ones described above, who thought that they were living their ‘happily ever after’ aren’t and, now, they never will.
How does such a nightmare come to life? The residents say they don’t know for sure but it seems as if it might be a result of some *Clintonesque practices, misguided anger and lack of conscience.
The residents’ side of the story
The MLN spoke with several residents who are presently still in the park and one who is a former resident. All residents, though spoken to separately, told much the same story. They say that they, in good faith, bought into a community that would enable them to live out the rest of their years with little worry about living on fixed incomes because were comfortable with owning their little piece of the pie. Expenses were minimal; they paid better than $25,000 for a share of stock in the company which entitled their home to sit on a small plot of land in the park known then as Canyon View Estates. The cost of the individual homes varied depending on style. Since money was all paid up front there were to be no monthly fees associated with the lots other than water/sewer/septic and garbage.
Some years after purchasing the land the owners of Canyon View approached them about some hardships they were having in developing the community due to the housing market taking a dive. The owners, under advisement from their attorneys, were offering the residents 99 year leases.
With the market crash and the hardships, the company was facing, bankruptcy was a near certainty. The leases were offered to protect the residents’ investments; if the company went bankrupt the stock in the land would be worthless. The leases would protect their investment and afford them the security they needed to continue as planned. All current residents readily signed the leases except for one who just didn’t understand the whole deal and was hesitant to move away from what he agreed to with the original purchase of the home and property. The others explained that although they knew they would never live out a 99-year lease, the leases were attached to the land, not the homes and were transferable by will or by sale.
Most of the current residents and the former agreed that their time in the community worked very well for them, the lots whether occupied or not were kept well maintained by the residents themselves, they lived comfortably within their means and they were happy. Until one day in January 2015 when their lives changed drastically and forever.
Each of the residents talked about their first meeting with Peggy Owen as being confrontational at best. Each describes a slightly different scenario but the common denominator was that she introduced herself simply as “The new owner” who you now have to, “Pay your delinquent amount”, “Get rid of your guests or pay extra for them” or “Tell me exactly how you’re disabled because you don’t look it.” Residents describe the new owner as a very rude and demanding woman who showed up at their door at various hours of the day, even as late as 8 or 9 p.m., aggressively banging on doors and quite frankly startling some of the older women.
Residents say they were leery about giving up any information, money or anything to someone who they’d never met and didn’t know anything about. They’d only dealt with the prior owner and hadn’t even been aware that the park was up for sale. In speaking with six of the residents, not one described Owen’s first individual meeting with them as kind, friendly or neighborly.
Owen began demanding more money than the residents had agreed upon when signing the leases that were sold along with the land and Owen inherited when she purchased the park. The residents had a lease and were holding Owen to it. After Owen took over the residents say the park and their peaceful retirement went south. They were hesitant to sign the new park rules and quite frankly didn’t trust any of the situations they were beginning to see.
Residents said that all landscape watering to the common areas was shut off and trees and flowers died, weeds were never tended, concrete was ripped out of lots that were recently vacated, any access to the clubhouse was taken away immediately and park managers and all sorts of people began coming and going at all hours of the night. One of the residents, a recent widow, was all alone and very scared. She had been a public health nurse for many years and recognized some the signs displayed by the manager at the time and her visitors that she suspected were related to drug activity.
Water mains just happened to break over holidays and the residents were left without water. Managers came and went like there was a revolving door on the place, one of them even took up residence in the clubhouse for some time, others went to jail. With the inconsistency and the quality of people who were hired as the park managers, the residents were hesitant to give up any personal information or sign anything; they just didn’t trust anything that was going on. The park residents say it seemed as if, by what they saw and what they heard from Owen directly, that Owen was intentionally driving the park to ruins because she was angry about their leases. The residents say the harassment, erratic behavior and threats from the new property owner got so bad it began affecting their already precarious health conditions and was disrupting their lives. All she wanted was more money, imposing new rules and regulations that would counter what they had already agreed to and cost them a small fortune which they weren’t willing or prepared to pay.
According to a recent article published in the Desert Valley Times/Spectrum on March 23, “Peggy Owen retired financially comfortable in 2007 and, in 2014, came across the opportunity to purchase Canyon View Estates. She said she met a man in September 2014 and, months later, the two had partnered to acquire the park and rename it.”” Despite knowing the man for only a few months, Owen said she trusted him to work with her to further develop the park.”
In the article, Owen went on to explain that she would not have purchased the park had she known about the liabilities associated with it; namely, several 99 year leases. Owen also went on to explain that she was negligent in properly investigating the man she chose to partner with and she felt that he, along with the prior owners, swindled her and the residents.
During this investigation and a recent interview with Owen on a completely different subject, while asking common questions about this and a non-profit organization that Owen sits on the board of, the MLN discovered and could confirm a good deal of what the residents were talking about when they described the owner’s, “Clintonesque practices, misguided anger and lack of conscience.” Documents uncovered by the MLN counter some claims that Owen made about purchasing the property without knowing about the leases. A document which was signed by both Owen and her then business partner three months before the leases were signed and just a month after meeting Stewart, listed the property known as Canyon View Estates, as being purchased by Owen and Stewart who would both hold a 50% interest in the company. The document stated that the purchase was for the entire parcel of land with the exceptions of the eight lots, the same lots occupied by the now near homeless residents and were listed as “sold” plus Stewart’s then residence which was also in the park.
Stay tuned next week for the interview with Peggy Owen of Owen Equities LLC.’s, additional information the MLN discovered in their investigation and the rest of the story.
*We apologize: A typo in the printed version lists the sale in December of 2015. The correct date is December 2014