Nearly 300 Quebec snowbirds are preparing to lose their homes in Florida after the purchase of their mobile home fleet by two unscrupulous American companies.
• Read also: Hundreds of Quebecers risk losing their homes in Florida
Two days after the opening of the American land border to Quebec winter visitors, Renaud Bourque is preparing to cross customs at Champlain in New York State.
“It’s my 18e year ”, launches the electrical contractor of Saint-Georges-de-Beauce. However, this year, the heart is not there.
After three days on the road, Mr. Bourque finally arrives at Twin Lakes Travel Park behind the wheel of his van.
“This is my last year coming back here and I’m very emotional. I never thought I would be expelled, ”he laments in front of the cameras. J.E, which will devote a program to this affair this evening at 9 p.m.
NOT ALL RICH
Like nearly 300 of his compatriots, Mr. Bourque learned through a simple Facebook post at the end of October that the Twin Lakes was sold and that mobile home owners who rent space there would be evicted.
On November 13, the septuagenarian came up against reality: an eviction notice was stuck to the door of his mobile home, in which he claims to have invested $ 200,000. Residents must vacate the premises before the end of May 2022.
“There will be tears!” These are people who have put the savings of their entire lives. Not all of the rich people in Florida. Not all houses are $ 200,000 houses. There are $ 7, 10, 15,000, ”he storms.
The Twin Lakes Travel Park was, until recently, owned by two Miami lawyers who decided to sell it.
Josée Brassard lives in a pretty trailer bordered by a small lake, which she bought last April.
“It was my dream to become a snowbird,” says the Quebec resident.
Screenshot of the JE show
Josée Brassard and her dog Chico will have to leave the mobile home park where they live in Florida before the end of May 2022.
She had to borrow $ 70,000 to buy her trailer from another Quebecer. Today, his house is no longer worth anything. No other park of its kind will allow her to move her because she is too old, like many others at Twin Lakes.
” How will I do ? Where am I going? What I am told is: manage yourself, the good woman! »She laments.
While the owners were busy selling the land, mobile home sales continued without Quebecers knowing that their investment would soon be worthless.
“I think that when snowbirds bring in money, it’s fine, but if not, they don’t care,” denounces Josée Brassard.
- Spans 40 acres and owns 360 lots mostly occupied by mobile homes
- 90% of residents are Quebecers
- Landlocked between Fort Lauderdale Airport, Highway 595, and Florida’s Turnpike toll highway
Residents believe they’ve been fooled
Residents of Twin Lakes Travel Park feel like they’ve been duped in the $ 64 million transaction, according to the association representing them.
“Profit came first. This secret was kept so that the residents would not leave. […] It would have been the least of things [de les avertir] », Indignant Me Christian Schoepp, the lawyer mandated by the association of residents.
On the buyers’ side, the two associated companies did not call back our Investigation Bureau.
The majority company, Industrial Outdoor Ventures, is headquartered in Illinois and registered in Delaware, a tax haven; 285,000 other US and foreign companies are registered at the same address in Delaware.
The minority company, Stockbridge Real Estate, specializes in real estate investments and is headquartered in San Francisco, California.
The vendors, Sherrie Marbin and Jay Cohen, are two Miami attorneys who owned the mobile home park for almost 20 years. Mme Marbin reportedly received offers from multinationals like Amazon and Fedex, but ultimately picked buyers from California and Illinois, some US media reported.
Joined at her law firm in Aventura, near Miami, she initially refused to reveal her identity before sending her son, Josh Cohen, to meet the team of J.E.
He maintained that his mother had signed a confidentiality agreement preventing him from warning Quebec snowbirds that a transaction was brewing.
Asked about Quebecers who lose their investment, Mr. Marbin said that anyway the snowbirds “had a home in Canada”.
Buyers do not recognize the legality of the association created by residents to defend their interests.
“They are closing the park to make a big profit and try not to pay Quebeckers,” says Me Louis Saint-Laurent II, the Florida lawyer who incorporated the association in 2011.
Florida law states that mobile home owners who do not own their land in a park that is the subject of a sale are entitled to compensation up to $ 6,000.
But both buyers and sellers of Twin Lakes Travel Park say it is not a mobile home park, but rather a fleet of recreational vehicles, for which the law provides no compensation.
During our visit, however, there was only a handful of this type of vehicle against several dozen mobile homes.
-Félix Séguin and Nicolas Brasseur
Not to be missed, all the details on the show J.E broadcast on TVA, Friday evening at 9 p.m.