Rancho Fullerton Mobile Home Park, owned by the Nicholas Family, has sued an elderly couple. The senior couple, the Kims, will have to pay the lawyer fees and also have been threatened with eviction. So how did this happen, and what could have been done differently?
The Kims moved to Fullerton on May 26, 2022, to escape the Texas heat. They retired to the 55+ community of Rancho Fullerton (no, not the infamous Rancho La Paz with its predatory owner John Saunders – this is a different senior mobile home park on the southwest side of town). The Kims purchased their mobile home and never failed to pay the park’s $950 monthly space rent. The couple are American citizens, but their first language is Korean.
Mr. Kim applied on June 7, 2022, for a building permit to expand his home’s California Room (also known as an enclosed porch) and add stairs front and back. He obtained the permit from the Department of Housing and Community Development (the State agency that oversees mobile home regulations). Rancho Fullerton park operator Andrea West signed the application on June 9, 2022. The permit showed an expiration date of December 6, 2022. It was a big project, but having the required skills, Mr. Kim, at 76 years old and living on a fixed income, proceeded with the construction plans, cutting costs by doing the work himself. As you can imagine, progress was slow, but he was meeting his inspection deadlines.
As with all construction projects, equipment, supplies, and demolition debris waiting to be removed were stored in the yard. Unfortunately, the park operator apparently expected that the construction would be faster and less messy and, in September 2022, enlisted the park’s lawyer to send the Kims notification that they had seven days to clear the yard of all the construction debris, including saw horses, plywood, wooden beams, shingles, paint, building supplies, etc.
Under pressure to clean up the property and finish the construction, Mr. Kim severed his thumb and ended up in the emergency room on October 10, 2022. The doctor issued a temporary no-work disability notice to December 2022 and a second extending the no-work period through March 28, 2023. Despite the doctors’ disability note, the park management issued a second and final seven-day notice on November 14, 2022. This time the notice cited that the construction debris, stored items, and a homemade trellis needed to be removed, and the safety handrails for the stairs and porch had to be completed. In December 2022, the Department of Housing and Community Development inspector Deyvisonn Martins extended the building permit expiration date to June 2023.
On December 5, 2022, Mr. Kim called Gregory Beam, the park’s attorney, telling him that he had remedied the violations and was unclear about what more had to be done. The attorney told Mr. Kim that various improperly stored items needed to be removed and the handrails were still not in compliance with state law, and the terraced planter next to the steps had to be removed.
“All of the tools, including but not limited to a shovel and broom, have to be in a proper place inside the shed or home,” the letter read. Mr. Kim told the attorney that the HCD had granted an extension of his construction permit to June 2023.
A December 6, 2022, letter to Mr. Kim from Attorney Beam informed him that he would be recommending his clients “seek a court order forcing you to comply with the rules. Govern yourself accordingly.”
Rancho Fullerton filed a permanent injunction against the Kims in Superior Court on April 12, 2023. The framing passed inspection and was approved by HCD inspector Martins on June 13, 2023. The inspection record featured the new permit expiration date of November 21, 2023. Also, on June 13, California Fish and Wildlife issued an order to not disturb the active nest of birds in the arch of the trellis that the park management had demanded be removed. Mr. Kim had called the agency for advice about how to deal with the birds.
The ruling on the case brought by Rancho Fullerton against Mr. and Mrs. Kim took place on June 15, 2023, in Superior Court at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. The Kims were disappointed by the court-appointed Korean language translator they had relied on to relay their evidence to the judge. Mr. Kim said that, except for the Fish and Wildlife order protecting the nesting birds, none of his other evidence made it to the judge, including the lack of date and time stamps on the park’s photos which misrepresented the current state of the property, information about his accident that delayed the project and clean-up, and more.
Judge Cramin granted Rancho Fullerton a permanent injunction requiring the Kims to immediately remove all items stored outside the home except items stored inside an approved storage shed and to remove the wooden arches installed over the steps. The judge also ordered them to bolt down all handrails to the landing and steps, install handrailing around the entire perimeter of the porch, and attach endcaps to all handrails. Most of these things had already been done at the time of the hearing. However, the injunction is to remain in place for three years pursuant to Civil Code Section 798.88(d)
“If the court, by clear and convincing evidence, finds the existence of a continuing or recurring violation of a reasonable rule or regulation of the mobile home park, the court shall issue an injunction prohibiting the violation.”
The amount of attorney fees to be awarded to the park’s lawyer, Gregory Beam, will be determined by the court upon the filing of a motion. After the case, Mr. Kim was verbally informed by the Rancho Fullerton attorney to look for the eviction notice, which would arrive soon.
At the June 20th city council meeting, the Kims told their story in Korean during the public comments portion, asking the city for help. There was no official Korean/English interpreter available at the session though a member of the audience stood and repeated the story in English.
Mayor Jung did not explain what the Kims had said to the council, but after they spoke, he left the dais to meet with them in his office. Stay tuned for updates as we continue to investigate and, hopefully, a happy outcome.