Mandatory Minnesota Mobile Home Park Storm Shelters Not Adequate

Did you know that of all fifty U.S. states that Minnesota is the only state to, by law, require that mobile home parks have storm shelters (at least for those built after 1988, which, as we know, is not many)? Here at The McAnuff Group we know that this topic of mandatory storm shelters at mobile home parks, provided by park ownership, is one that graces the news relatively frequently, particularly during tornado season. Storm safety has always been of importance to our clients for their residents, which is why we've started compiling storm resources for their reference. But, it seems that in Minnesota where the law demands on-site sheltering for mobile home parks after 1988 there are still issues popping up.

The complaint to recently hit the news is that the majority of storm shelters provided at mobile home parks are not "adequate", and that others are not being inspected. For one shelter a resident has complained that the shelter itself floods with feet of water. For those mobile home parks grandfathered out of the Storm Shelter Law (pre 1988), they must have an evacuation plan that is approved by local municipality to help residents find shelter off-site. The local Minnesota news station KSTP 5 reported on this issue this morning.

Photo: A Minnesota MHP storm shelter that has been deemed "inadequate", from KSTP.com

August 07, 2017 11:27 AM

A unique and decades-old law in Minnesota that requires mobile home parks to offer storm shelters or evacuation plans for residents is often not taken seriously and is rarely enforced, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation shows.

Minnesota is the only state in the country with a law like it on the books. It requires mobile home parks built after 1988 to have an adequate storm shelter.

Older parks still must have an evacuation plan -- approved by the local municipality -- for residents to seek shelter off site in the event of severe weather.

Despite the law, people living in many of the state's mobile home parks often have nowhere to hide.

NOWHERE TO HIDE

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reviewed thousands of pages of mobile home inspection reports from across the state.

The investigation found at least 60 violations relating to storm shelters, the lack of shelters or the lack of an approved plan for the residents who live there.

Sharon Weber lives across the street from the storm shelter at Pine Ridge Court in Becker.

If a storm hits, her plan is to ride it out in her home instead of the shelter.

“(The shelter) would be the last place I would go,” she said.

That’s because Weber says the shelter floods to the knees every time it rains.

“It just pours in here,” she said.

Yet records show the state hasn’t inspected the shelter in years because it is always locked.

Records show Pine Ridge Court has violated the law every year since 2012 by locking the structure, preventing state inspections and restricting access to residents.

Weber said she is one of only two people with a key to the shelter -- something experts say is a dangerous dilemma in an emergency when people need shelter fast.

The investigation found at least 15 similar violations where a park may have a storm shelter but there’s confusion about who has a key, or it’s in such a sad state people may not want to enter.

“I think there is room for laws or regulations to change,” said Steven Diaz, who is in charge of the more than 60 mobile home park inspectors in Minnesota.

A critical part of his team’s job is to protect the people who live in the more than 500 parks.

Despite the numerous violations the KSTP investigation found, Diaz and his team have only sent 17 warning letters since 2010.

“One of the things that we focus on is the fact that they are affordable housing communities,” he said.

The state has the authority to levy fines of up to $10,000 to enforce the law, but since 2010 they have only fined seven parks and collected less than $2,000.

Diaz justifies the lack of fines, saying the penalties can cripple a park and force hundreds of families out of their homes.

“The public health and public safety risk of closing a park really is in most cases greater than the risk we have with severe weather,” he said.

PLAYING THE ODDS

In other words, the state is playing the odds.

“It’s a gamble philosophy,” said Terry Stoltzman, director of Emergency Management for Anoka County. “Someday it’s going to happen.”

Stoltzman strongly believes protecting life should be a top priority.

“I think we have a system that needs to be fixed and tweaked and customized to fit the right circumstances,” he said.

Instead, park owners are still getting by with the status quo.

“There’s no plan and no place to go,” said Sandy Utke, who takes care of her 92-year-old mother at a mobile home park in Caledonia owned by the Midwest Bottle and Gas Company.

CONTINUE READING AT KSTP.COM

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