Mattawa landlord settles with state for $500,000 - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Mattawa landlord settles with state for $500,000

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MATTAWA, WA - A Mattawa landlord will have to pay around a half million dollars in restitution and repairs for his 53-unit mobile home park. This will settle a two-year-old lawsuit with the state attorney general's office.

When reporter Rex Carlin spoke with Attorney General Bob Ferguson about just how bad the living situation has been for the tenants of Sun and Sand Mobile Home Park, Ferguson simply said, "atrocious." 

Bed bugs, cockroaches, broken steps, front doors, and name it...and Ferguson says the landlord knew exactly what he was doing.

AG Ferguson says a 2009 fire in Mattawa that killed a mother and her two young children prompted the City of Mattawa to tighten local housing rental laws.

AG Ferguson says that prompted Sun and Sand's owner to take a shortcut to save money and exploit the residents...most of whom speak little to no English.

"This individual who owns Sun and Sand, he didn't want to make those repairs, so he entered into 'sale' agreements with everybody," said AG Ferguson. "That way they 'purchased the property', they really weren't purchasing it. But then he could say they were no longer renting from him, and he did not have to make the repairs. But that was all a sham. It was all a sham. Those folks did not really own those properties, they were still renting. So that's part of our lawsuit as well."

A man named Gary Chavers is named in the AG's release as Sun and Sand's owner. Rex couldn't reach him today and the phone number for the mobile home park was disconnected when he called.

AG Ferguson says the conditions were horrid.

"He was just getting away with not doing basic, basic repairs. It was really bordering on the unlivable."

But with this settlement, AG Ferguson says that will change at Sun and Sand.

The settlement forces Chavers to pay $100,000 in restitution to the affected residents, and spend $100,000 a year for the next four years on repairs and improvements to the 53-home park.

The state will oversee those improvements.

Chavers also can't raise rent for four years, has to provide interim housing for tenants who have to be displaced during repair work, and has to provide quarterly reports to the state documenting progress.

The agreement also places a $100,000 lien against the property to secure payment of the restitution money.

"The bottom line, though, is that this guy engaged in a very complex scheme to evade local requirements that he bring up his rental units to basic standards," AG Ferguson said. "He didn't want to do that. He didn't want to pay for that. He's paying for that, now."

If Chavers doesn't hold up on his end of the settlement, he'll have to pay the state $200,000 more in civil penalties.