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Hillside Valley, 229 Miller St., is one of the mobile home parks owned by Thomas Lennon, who has had several complaints filed against him with the state attorney general’s office.
Reminder Publishing photo by Sarah Heinonen

LUDLOW — Tenants at two Ludlow mobile home parks are taking the legal route in fighting back against the owner, Thomas Lennon, who they say has failed to uphold his responsibilities as a landlord.

While some tenants are appealing a 150% rent hike that took effect in February, others have contacted the state attorney general’s office, which has 10 open complaints about Lennon, ranging from tenant/landlord disputes to discrimination.

Three of the complaints were not made available to Reminder Publishing by the attorney general’s office. They were withheld because they “relate to an ongoing deliberative process, in that they reveal legal strategies, policies and procedures, such that their disclosure would impact current and future complaint mediations,” according to Hanne Rush, assistant attorney general in the general counsel’s office. Those that are available date from August 2021 to August 2023.

Emily Hart, a tenant at the Hillside Valley mobile home park on Miller Street, which Lennon purchased in 2021, has submitted official complaints to the state. The documents she filed alleged retaliation for refusing to sign a lease she described as “illegal” because it called for a rent increase without going through the town’s Mobile Home Rental Control Board. After refusing to sign the lease, the complaint states “he threatened to take our pool and dog away.”

Another person who refused to sign the lease Lennon sent to Hillside Valley residents is Russ Lemon, who is a lifelong resident of his unit. He said he lived in peace until Lennon purchased the park. Lemon contacted the attorney general’s office about two separate issues regarding Lennon. In one instance, he said Lennon sent an email to the Post Office stating that Lemon did not live at his address and not to send his mail there. Lemon also accused Lennon of accessing tenant mailboxes and intercepting his mail.

The second complaint that Lemon made came after Lennon installed a fence in the front and back yards of the unit next door, but used the side of Lemon’s home as the third “side of the fence, effectively blocking Lemon from accessing the exterior of his home where his hot water tank access panel, window air conditioning unit and garden hose faucet are located. Lemon said the attorney general’s office attempted to mediate and he offered to pay for the installation of fence away from the side of his home, but Lennon refused. The situation remains unchanged.

Complaints have also come from the West Street Village mobile home park where Kelly Sholunas lives. She accused Lennon of dubious business practices, including doubling the square footage of units on documentation to inflate the value. She said the attorney general’s office has agreed to take her case.
When Sholunas purchased her mobile home a year ago, she said the listing stated the rent for the lot would be $399. “I thought, okay, I can do that. When he turned around and did $503, it threw a wrench into everything,” she said, referring to the February increase that brought the rent from $207 per month to $503 monthly.

Sholunas had agreed to a “owner financed” personal loan from Lennon for her unit because she could not get a mortgage. Several of the residents that Reminder Publishing spoke with had similar loans from Lennon. After moving into the home she bought from Lennon, she said a foul smell in the rear bedroom alerted her to a mold problem that had been painted over. She said the mold ruined all of her shoes and she cannot not store anything less than two feet from the floor. She also said there is no subfloor under the bathroom and moisture comes up through the floor.

“If I put a sweatshirt on the floor at night, it will be wet in the morning. He sold me a song and a dance,” she said, describing the work he had done in the unit prior to her purchase as “putting lipstick on a pig.”
Sholunas said she is afraid that calling the Health Department will lead to her losing her mobile home, which would leave her with nowhere to live. Instead, she said, “I basically just bleach the hell out of my house every couple days.”

Aside from seeking help from the attorney general’s office, Sholunas also contacted the Internal Revenue Service, asking them to investigate his filings. She said there have been two incidents in which Lennon has come to her alleging she did not pay her rent, which she pays quarterly. After sending him the receipts each time, she said Lennon told her his accountant had made a mistake.

When asked what she would like to see come from her suit against Lennon, Sholunas said that she wants the lot rent to be lowered to the $399 she was promised when she purchased the home. “I own this unit. I am renting a tiny little sliver of land. You can’t tell me that’s worth $503 [per month].” She said that she has given up on the possibility of receiving compensation for the condition of her home or of Lennon repairing the issues. “I just want to get the rent lower so I can save up and get the hell out of here. You can only take so much,” Sholunas said.

Another West Street Village resident, Amanda Sturtevant, has taken a different approach. Rather than contact the attorney general’s office, she and two neighbors jointly hired a lawyer to appeal the rent increase.

“We’re in that whole appeal process, which takes time. We’re very hopeful, but we’re cautious,” she said. Since the appeal was filed and tenants garnered the attention of state legislators and the media, Sturtevant said “[Lennon] avoids us like the plague.”

Sturtevant understands the need to raise the rent to keep up with inflation, but said the hike was untenable. “If he had gone for a reasonable increase, or a staggered increase, we probably wouldn’t have fought him,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ludlow is not the only place where Lennon’s tenants are fighting back. Mary Patella, a resident at The Residences on Mill Pond in West Stockbridge filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office after the water was shut off to the neighborhood without notice on June 13, 2023, and not restored until July 12, 2023. The complaint states that there were several efforts to contact Lennon with little response.

People living at The Residences on Mill Pond are facing a more extreme rent increase than West Street Village, with the town’s Rent Control Board considering allowing the rent to be raised from $241 per month to a maximum of $797 per month. Evie Kerswell, the tenant’s association spokesperson, has been vocal in her work to prevent the hike. Sturtevant said she and some neighbors have been in touch with Kerswell to coordinate their efforts to fix the rent situation for all three parks.

Sturtevant said, “We’re now a community of mobile homeowners working to fight what Tom is doing.”

Reminder Publishing reached out to Lennon for this story, but he declined to comment.

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