Minnesota Attorney General sues Marshall mobile home park owner

·3 min read

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit Friday against the owner of a mobile home park in Marshall, Minn., for unlawfully high late rent fees and chronically poor upkeep of the properties.

Broken windows, frozen pipes, holes in exterior walls, and damage from falling tree limbs were just some of the examples provided by residents living in the Broadmoor Valley manufactured home park, which is owned by Paul Schierholz, a Colorado Springs, Colo., property developer.

The park's privately-owned road is in such poor shape that school bus drivers require schoolchildren to walk out to a busy roadway near the park's entrance for morning pickup, according to the suit.

"Manufactured home park residents, like all Minnesotans, deserve to afford their lives and live with dignity and respect. But that's difficult when park owners charge illegal fees and neglect to maintain their parks," Ellison said.

The suit filed in Lyon County District Court asks the court to order Schierholz to fix unlawful conditions and seeks permanent injunctive relief, restitution for harmed residents, civil penalties, and attorney's fees.

Schierholz was not immediately available for comment, according to a woman who answered the phone at his office. Schierholz is affiliated with several mortgage and real estate companies in Colorado and is an officer in Schierholz and Associates, which does business as Broadmoor Valley.

Schierholz's negligence is in violation of state law that requires manufactured home park owners to maintain their park in a clean, orderly, and sanitary condition, Ellison said. Schierholz's alleged practice of charging excessive fees for late rent is in violation of state law that limit such fees to 8% of the amount overdue, Ellison added.

Complaints about the park go back several years, and in 2018 residents organized a "Walk for Dignity" and complained to local and state officials about what they said was harassment from the park's on-site managers and Schierholz.

Ellison, in a statement Friday, said Schierholz has sent threats of legal action or banishment from the park to people who were organizing to fix the park's problems. He has also threatened to close the park, according to Ellison. It is the lone trailer park in Marshall, and home to mostly Hispanic and some Karen families.

A resident who wrote to park management in April 2014 about safety issues, including broken windows, frozen and burst pipes and an electrical short that sent sparks flying from a light fixture was told a month later that the park's owner had directed local managers to evict her.

The woman, Susan Verschelde, sued, and a Lyon County judge later found records of broken windows repaired with plastic sheets or boards, a leaky roof that lead to moldy carpeting, and dangerous electrical issues. The judge ordered the park's owner to make repairs, cut the woman's rent until the repairs were finished and pay $1,000 in damages.

A recent report from the Minnesota Housing Partnership found that over 550,000 Minnesota households spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

The attorney general's suit follows action earlier this month from the Marshall City Council to order the removal or repair of four vacant residences in the park that have been deemed hazardous. One of the vacant buildings caught fire in June.

Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329