ABC57 Investigates: La Porte Co. Mobile Home Park hit with multiple violations
MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. -- People living at the Autumn Creek Mobile Home Park just outside Michigan City are fed up after its property management company has defied state orders to clean-up the park for more than two years now. Growing concerns about their health and safety have lead residents to court multiple times and still very little has been done to improve the property.
"This was the nicest park in Michigan City at one time," said Dave England.
That moment is time is but a distant memory for England who has called Autumn Creek home for 19 years.
"It's just gone from bad to worse really," said England.
England moved to Autumn Creek to enjoy a quiet retirement, but That quiet life interrupted by the rushing water of a busted water pipe underneath a vacant neighboring home. That water flooded his driveway and even crept into his shed where he keeps his washer and dryer.
"This was all water coming down this driveway until yesterday when I pulled this pipe and let the water go down the sewer," England added.
A problem Rus Bilek can relate to. He’s lived down the road from England for the last 15 years. He can no longer use his driveway due to the inches of ice covering it.
"All the water that's been sitting here," said Bilek. "This is from that trailer back there's been leaking and it's been leaking for over two years."
There's someone living in the leaking trailer behind his home, but several other empty properties have broken pipes flooding the streets. The water and ice causing huge potholes and even forcing residents to dig a trench to drain the road and make it passable.
That flooding has also taken a toll on the structure of many of the homes.
“It's been pushed up and down so much with all this water and ice," said Bilek. "It's no good. I've leveled this trailer three times since I've been here."
According to Bilek, it’s not just water piling up in his yard but also sewage.
"With the drains backed up you can just imagine how our water is out here," said Bilek. "It's been seeping into the ground for a couple of years now."
One look at the water and it’s clear – or rather not clear at all. Residents showed us a cup of water that was poured earlier in the day. The bottom had a layer of soot at the bottom.
"The drinking water is terrible," said Karen Fields.
Fields lived at the Autumn Creek the longest.
She says, the first of her 20 years were good. Now she fears for her safety and her health.
"There's a trailer across the street over there and it was just walls and there was dirt inside of it and mold and all of that mold was going into the air and people were getting sick," said Fields.
Fields' husband was among them. He was one of two people who have died of respiratory issues while living at Autumn Creek. She can't connect his death to the conditions at the park, but says she has to wonder.
"He had COPD since we got married and he moved here," said Fields. "So I don't know if that had anything to do with it or what, but his health went down."
There’s also concern for the younger members the community after England discovered an uncovered sewer just feet away from a playground where children play.
“If one falls down in there they can freeze to death and no one knows they’re in there," said England. "They couldn’t get out of there. Some of them is three to five years old.”
England and the others have tried for years to get management to address their concerns with no luck.
"You can't get ahold of the owners," added Bilek. "They haven't been out here in I don't know how long. There's no on site management. There's no onsite maintenance."
Since 2015, Autumn Creek has run by a property management company in Michigan called MHP1, LLC. It's located more than 215 miles away in Farmington Hills just outside of Detroit. According to court documents, it operates 60 to 75 other properties.
On June 9, 2016, The Indiana Department of Health hit the company and its owner Austin Shapiro with 12 violations, including operating without a license. That led to a mobile home community inspection by the Environmental Public Health Division.
That report listed another 14 violations.
Eventually the park’s license was reinstated, but the violations continued. Eleven of them repeated during a 2018 inspection.
The residents took the property manager to court, where many of them met him for the first time .
In August, a judge found the company had breached the implied warranty of habitability.
Now almost seven months later and the same problems persist. Many residents now forced to question their future here.
"I've stayed here so long because they kept saying it was going to get better and they were going to fix it," said Fields.
But Fields and the others fear that day may never come.
"I just want the hell out of here," said Bilek. "I want out. I'm done"
The residents and their attorney Judy Fox have filed another complaint with the courts. They are still waiting for a court date.
As for the property management company we reached out to owner Austin Shapiro at the email address they have on file with the Indiana Health Department, but it came back as undeliverable.
ABC57 then called his office and was told he was on a conference call and would call back. So far, that has not happened.