Lawmakers are proposing bills to help Billings mobile home residents

Residents at the Meadowlark mobile home park in Billings continue to have dirty water, a boil order is in place, they have had frozen and broken pipes and the water has been shut off.

And now lawmakers in the Montana Legislature have proposed bills they hope could help in the long run.

Last month’s historic cold snap in Montana brought more problems to this Billings RV park.

Around 20 pipes broke at the end of the year.

“The biggest thing is just the water being turned off, and, you know, not having water and having it turned off all night. Caused a lot of stress out here for a lot of people,” said Gary Deveraux, a resident of Meadowlark.

Devereaux says it’s the worst thing he’s ever seen. The dirty water has been a problem for at least two years. And now he says the crews are looking for a broken water line.

“At worst, it caused massive damage to their lines in our lines throughout the park,” Deveraux said.

But Deveraux and other residents are hopeful that help is on the horizon thanks to two new bills introduced by lawmakers in Helena. One deals with leasing.

“Rental terms ranging from one month to one year, which prohibits the landlord from charging a tenant for unnecessary upgrades,” said Rep. Mike Yakawich, R-Billings.

The other bill would allow trailer park residents to purchase their RV sites.

“That would require mobile home park owners to give residents 60 days notice if they were to sell their communities, and residents would have an opportunity to at least make an offer,” said Rep. George Nikolakakos, R-Great Falls.

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Nikolakakos owns and has sold mobile home parks. He and Yakawich say the proposed legislation aims to be fair to both residents and owners.

“Voters are looking for a little help,” Yakawich said. “This kind of deal will encourage them. But we are trying to work on not hurting or over-regulating the caravan park owners, but trying to find common ground.”

But Deveraux has seen similar bills fail in previous legislatures.

He has concerns, but he is hopeful.

“I really hope they stand up this time and give us a chance here,” said Deveraux.

Josh Weiss, a spokesman for Havenpark Communities, which owns Meadowlark, says the company is positive about the legislation but needs to know the specific language before it can support a bill.

He also tells MTN News that new media filters and new tanks have been installed. Tests have shown clean water and management hopes this solves the problem, he said.

Local residents did not mention being aware of the new equipment.

As for the broken pipes, Weiss said Havenpark is responsible for underground pipes and local residents are responsible for above-ground pipes.