LUDLOW — A 150% rent hike has caused residents of a mobile home community in Ludlow to cry foul, not just about the cost, but also the conditions.

On Feb. 5, state Sen. Jake Oliviera (D-Ludlow) and state Rep. Aaron Saunders (D-Belchertown) toured the West Street Village Mobile Home Community, a neighborhood of 44 mobile homes, most dating to the late 1950s and early 1960s. For about an hour and a half, resident after resident told the officials about faulty electrical infrastructure, poorly maintained roads and homes being sold with leaks and inadequate insulation.

The homes were purchased from and financed through Tom Lennon, owner of the mobile home park. The lot on which the home is located is then rented to the homeowner as a separate cost.

Rent increase

Lennon and his lawyer, Robert Kraus of the Plymouth-based firm Kraus & Hummel, went before the town’s Mobile Home Rent Control Board in July 2023 to increase the maximum allowable rent at the park to about $500. They made the case that Lennon was not making a “fair net operating income” from the property because his expenses and investments in the property had vastly outweighed the rental income of $207 per month, per tenant. The rent had not been increased for 16 years, Kraus said. Lennon told the board he was $210,000 “in the hole” on the property.

To support the request, Lennon supplied the board with stacks of paperwork, with figures including the appraised value of the park, the monthly expenses and capital improvements he had made. With the documents provided, Kraus said the rent required to provide a fair net operating income came down to a formula provided by the state.

Tenants argued that the appraisals were incorrect and based on the newest and nicest units. “If you redid your trailer over completely, from the ground up, yeah, it would be worth $100,000. But there are many more trailers in there that are not even close,” one resident said. Board member Tony Goncalves had told him appraisals are based on comparable units in the area and the appraiser was well-credentialed. Goncalves did point out to Lennon that the assessed value of the property had “dropped dramatically from what you’re presenting here.”

The board approved the requested maximum increase and in late 2023, residents were informed that their rent would be more than doubled, to $503 per month.

“Think about what you pay every month to live in your home. Imagine if that doubled. Could you afford to stay in your home? That’s what the homeowners are facing here,” Oliviera said in a prepared statement. “The residents of the West Street Village Mobile Home Community, which isn’t more than a half mile from where I grew up, are facing an unconscionable 150% per month rate increase for lot rentals that puts them at serious risk of losing their homes and being forced onto the street, despite a sewer system in dire need of repair and outdated electrical service that doesn’t allow for the most basic functions. It’s wrong, and it’s disgraceful. Mr. Lennon should be ashamed of himself.”

Some of the residents who spoke at the Mobile Home Rent Control Board hearing and again during the legislators’ tour, said they understand costs have risen across the economy and that a rent increase may be necessary. However, the 150% jump is beyond reason to the tenants. Oliviera called this increase “pure greed.” Saunders, too, characterized the move as “sickening” and “unconscionable … greed.”

Residents said they had been told that, even with the increase, rent would not exceed $399 per month. Tenants Ethan Field, Amanda Sturtevant and Debee Boulanger hired attorney Joel Feldman to file an appeal on their behalf. Feldman, who specializes in housing and mobile home laws, said the appeal is in the early stages.

“It’s happening everywhere,” Feldman said of rent hikes. He called the increase “astronomical.”

The tenants said Lennon has informed them that he plans to raise the rent again in 18 months, to “half the price of an apartment,” which Sturtevant estimates will be $800. Both Sturtevant and Field believe the landlord is planning to price the tenants out of the property and then use it for more profitable, market-rate housing.

Boulanger said she bought her mobile home because it was a less expensive way to become a homeowner than other, more traditional routes. “It was affordable for me,” she said, but added, “I didn’t sign up for this.”

Saunders praised the residents who have banded together to oppose the hike. He said Lennon is raising the rent of “the people who can least afford it.”

Fields, a tenant of 25 years, said, “It’s a financial burden on a community like this where fixed-income and low-income residents are going to be struggling, and even those of us who aren’t on [a] fixed income is going to need to work extra hours. We are going to be seeking public assistance that we wouldn’t have had to. So ultimately, [Lennon] will be making more money, but the taxpayer will have to bear a greater burden because of it.”

The increase went into effect on Feb. 1. New leases were sent out to tenants. If they refuse to sign them, Feldman said the landlord can begin the eviction process. “In the world of affordable housing, mobile home parks are among the least visible,” Saunders said. “I am committed to doing whatever is in my power to ensure this landlord is not able to throw anyone out in the cold,” he said.

Despite the term “mobile home,” the dwellings do not have wheels beneath them and cannot be easily moved. “There’s nothing mobile about them,” Saunders said. Because of this, homeowners who no longer wish to rent at their location must sell the home. But with the condition of the homes and the park itself, selling may be difficult.


Several tenants told the legislators and Mobile Home Rent Control Board about unsuitable living conditions in the park.

When Sturtevant, who relies on a wheelchair for mobility, purchased her home a year ago, she said Lennon told her he would install a ramp. He later told her his lawyer had advised against it. While she looks for other ways to have a ramp installed, Sturtevant must climb six stairs to enter her home.

Boulanger explained that some of the homes are connected to the sewer, while others are on septic systems. She said Lennon does not pump the septic tanks, a routine maintenance task that is generally performed every three to five years. A tenant told the Mobile Home Rent Control Board that the smell from the septic tank was so strong she could not sleep in her bedroom, located near the tank. She reported that a service technician from Fletcher Sewer & Drain had found the tank had been compromised by roots but told her Lennon had said he would not remove the tree. Lennon denied that the company had been on the property when the tenant specified.

Erica Moore told Reminder Publishing that she had purchased her “supposedly rehabbed” home about a year ago. During the first rainstorm, she said an improperly vented roof caused her kitchen to flood and new appliances were ruined. She also said she has been fighting to have the underground electrical infrastructure replaced, as the outdated 40-amp service is insufficient and leads to outages. Moore said she was without electricity, the only source of heat, for seven out of 14 days in late November and early December.

Moore added that Lennon has had professionals examine the system and has disregarded their assessments that the problem lies with the in-ground infrastructure, which is Lennon’s responsibility.
Because of this, Moore explained, she has been withholding rent and placing it in an escrow account.

The state Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that withholding rent for a breach of habitability is a legal tool for tenants, provided either the landlord has been appealed to in writing for the repairs, the local Board of Health found health code violations upon inspection, or the rent was paid up to date until the landlord was notified of the problem, the tenant did not cause the problem and the unsanitary conditions do not require the apartment to be vacated to make repairs. Lennon’s reaction was to threaten eviction and try to intimidate her by phone, according to Moore.

Other issues cited by residents included the landlord retaining a key to tenant mailboxes, a lack of insulation beneath some homes leading to cold and moisture-related mold problems and an area where people come to dump trash that has attracted rodents.

The improvements Lennon has made to the park include tree work, installation of a fence along West Street and paving. Lennon and Kraus presented those improvements to the Mobile Home Rent Control Board as evidence that Lennon’s return on investment was not what it should be, but the tenants argued that the improvements have been cosmetic and have not increased their quality of life.

However, Goncalves told the residents, “When there’s any type of beautification to the park, there’s an assumption that everyone benefits from it,” in terms of home values.

When tenants complained at the hearing that the streets are not properly plowed and the maintenance of the grass and leaves is left to them, Goncalves joked, “He’s making sure you guys get your gym memberships right in your own yards.” Lennon said he mows the strip of grass by the fence, and shot back at the tenants, “I can let it all grow.” Kraus insisted that his client was responsive to tenant complaints. Goncalves later said the tenant concerns were “duly noted.”

Homes, mobile or otherwise, are inspected when a permit is pulled for construction, explained Kelly Strempek of the town’s Department of Inspectional Services. After construction is completed, the building inspector ensures that all work done on site is up to state codes. Continued maintenance of those standards is not monitored by the town unless further construction requires another permit.
When Oliviera addressed the tenants, he told them that many mobile home communities have amenities, such as a pool, a clubhouse or other community spaces. West Street Village has none of that. Field said a small building on the site used to contain a washer and dryer, but Lennon removed them, and they have not been replaced.

Lennon bought the 3.6-acre mobile home park in July 2021 for $450,000. The property value was $496,700, according to Ludlow’s geographic information system records. The mobile homes that Lennon currently has on the market range in asking price, from $125,000 to $150,000.

Sturtevant showed Oliviera an ad Lennon had posted to his Facebook page. The ad encouraged people to attend a Jan. 25 workshop on real estate investment, including the seller-financing model. The ad said real estate investment was a key to becoming a millionaire and described the highlighted investment strategies as “legal insider trading.” Oliviera called the ad “nauseating.”

“We are investments. We are not people,” Sturtevant said. Referring to Lennon’s position as home seller, financer and landlord, she asked, “What do you do when someone owns your life? No one deserves to feel this way.”

Oliviera assured the tenants, “This is the start. We’re going to be with you every step of the way.”

Reminder Publishing reached out to Lennon and Kraus for a response to the tenants’ statements. While Lennon responded with “No comment,” Kraus did not respond by press time.