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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Owner Of 'Disgraceful' Mobile Home Park To Pay Up, Make Repairs

Washington Attorney General's Office
This file photo shows the condition of one of the mobile homes at the Sun & Sand Mobile Home Park in Mattawa, Washington.

The owner of a decaying central Washington mobile home park has agreed to make repairs and pay restitution to his mostly Latino farm worker tenants as part of a settlement in a two-year old lawsuit filed by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Under the consent decree announced Friday, Gary Chavers of the Sun & Sand Mobile Home Park in Mattawa, Washington, did not admit to any violations of the law. But he did agree to address a long list of health and safety concerns, including broken plumbing, electrical defects and holes in floors and windows.

“Mr. Chavers deceived a vulnerable population to avoid his legal responsibilities as a property owner,” Ferguson said in a statement. “The condition of his properties is disgraceful, and this agreement obligates him to fix them.”

According to the original lawsuit, some Sun & Sand residents were living in mobile homes infested with cockroaches, bed bugs and mold.

Chavers will have 180 days to fix the most pressing health and safety issues at the mobile home park, including electrical and plumbing problems. Other repairs will be completed over the next four years. Chavers has already made some fixes, according to a press release from the Attorney General’s office.

In addition to the unsafe and unsanitary conditions, the lawsuit accused Chavers of forcing his mostly Spanish-speaking tenants into “sham” purchase agreements of their units as part of a scheme to evade city of Mattawa inspections of rental properties. The rental inspection program was implemented after a 2009 fire in Mattawa killed a mother and her two children at a different location.

The consent decree allows the tenants to rescind those purchase agreements. It also prohibits Chavers from raising rents for the next four years while repairs are completed.

If Chavers fails to comply with the terms of the consent decree, he faces an additional $200,000 in civil penalties. Chavers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."