A resident who was evicted from the city’s largest mobile home community in North Boulder for late rent has filed a lawsuit in Boulder County District Court alleging the park owner violated Colorado law. The suit marks the latest fight over the rights of those who live in some of the city’s most affordable — and increasingly scarce — housing options.
The April 28 lawsuit alleges that Boulder Meadows, a subsidiary of the Birmingham, Michigan-based real estate developer Uniprop, Inc., violated the Colorado Mobile Home Park Act when it evicted the homeowner without providing written notice.
The argument is based on a decades-old law, the Colorado Mobile Home Park Act, which is designed to prevent the displacement of mobile and manufactured home owners, who are particularly susceptible to housing insecurity because they often do not own the land beneath their homes.
The law has been updated in recent years with the help of Boulder’s lawmakers — Rep. Edie Hooton, who did not seek reelection last year, and Senate President Steve Fenberg. In 2019, it was updated to include a requirement that property owners give mobile home owners a 10-day written notice and opportunity to pay unpaid rent before terminating their lease.
But in late 2022, Raleigh Renfree, a 48-year-old father of two who said he has lived in Boulder Meadows since 2012, was evicted from the community without being provided notice.
In the following days, Renfree, a construction worker and wood sculptor, said he was unable to return to his home to collect his belongings. He said Boulder Meadows called the police when he went to collect his mail. One of his children is in college. The other is staying with his ex-wife.
“Beyond it being a terribly disrupting and emotionally charged and difficult position to place myself and my family in, it is also a difficult position for communities,” Renfree said of the eviction. “I felt I needed to not only give a voice to the disenchanted participants in mobile home parks, but also find a recourse for the humanity that was lacking in the dealings that I have experienced.”
First established in the 1970s, Boulder Meadows is one of the city’s five mobile home communities — a sixth will be annexed into the city under the East Boulder Subcommunity Plan. According to city data, there are about 1,167 housing units in mobile home communities. Some have sold off to developers, others are undergoing transformations.
Roger Zlotoff, the president of Uniprop, told Boulder Reporting Lab in an email that the company is reviewing the lawsuit.
“At this time, we believe that Boulder Meadows has complied in good faith with all state and local ordinances,” Zlotoff wrote.
Renfree’s sudden order to vacate his home last year was the result of a stipulation agreement he signed with Boulder Meadows in 2021 related to a separate eviction case, according to the lawsuit. As part of that agreement, Renfree was allowed to stay in his home if he settled his rent debt with Boulder Meadows. But if he were late in paying rent over the next year, Boulder Meadows could seek an “immediate” eviction order.
Matt Forstie, an attorney with Colorado Legal Services, a nonprofit that is representing Renfree in the lawsuit, said the terms of this agreement were not legally enforceable. He said he has seen similar agreements in other Boulder and Colorado eviction cases.
“This case really is about the important rights afforded to mobile home owners by the Colorado Mobile Home Park Act,” Forstie told Boulder Reporting Lab. “The rights afforded to mobile home owners are stronger than the rights of ordinary tenants because mobile home owners have more at stake: They have the equity that they built in their homes at stake. And it’s a lot more difficult to move a mobile home than it is to move out of an apartment.”
In February 2023, a Boulder County District Court judge vacated Renfree’s eviction, in part because the conditions of the stipulation agreement violated provisions in the Colorado Mobile Home Park Act, according to the lawsuit. As a result, Renfree’s eviction case has been “suppressed” — meaning, it’s no longer a public record and visible to landlords.
But he is still unable to live in his home. After the order was vacated, he said he returned to find his home damaged: the swamp cooler torn out, the porch demolished, the shed missing, the water disconnected, the plants dead. Forstie said he is currently living with family and friends. The lawsuit is seeking damages and attorneys fees.
“I am looking to restore the value and equity in my home to its previous condition,” Renfree said. “Just to return to zero and regain the equity of the space that I built for 10 years.”