Parting Ways With Staff

Community owners often provide their on-site managers and maintenance workers with “free housing” in a park-owned home as a type of employee benefit.  This housing arrangement usually works well for both park owner and park employee. The “free housing” allows owners to attract good employees in what can be a challenging job market, and the manager or maintenance worker gets “free rent” while they are working.     

Issues can arise, however, when the employee is terminated.  Sometimes, an employee will refuse to leave, arguing they have a tenancy and cannot be forced to go.  So, the question that owners frequently ask is:“When I fire an employee, how can I remove them from the park?”   

The short answer is that when the employee is terminated and refuses to leave, the employee may be “evicted” in the court system just like tenants in the park.  Under California law, employees whose tenancies arise out of their employment with the landlord can be evicted upon termination of their employment because their discharge terminates both the employee relationship as well as their right to tenancy.  Legally speaking, the discharged employee immediately becomes a “tenant at sufferance,” and usually no prior eviction notice to terminate such a tenancy need be given.  Although no eviction notice is necessary, the owner will still need to file a court proceeding (unlawful detainer) to obtain a judgment for possession and then have the sheriff lock out the employee. 

The situation, however, is different if the manager/worker had previously been a rent-paying resident in the park pursuant to a rental agreement before being hired and provided free housing.  When such an employee is terminated, due to the fact that the person still has a rental agreement with the park, the landlord is required to evict the employee according to the normal landlord-tenant rules applicable to the situation.  For example, if the discharged employee is deemed a “resident” under the RV law, then the person can only be evicted if there are grounds for doing so, such as failing to pay rent or violating park rules. Absent such grounds, there may be no way to evict the employee who likely will be disgruntled and perhaps want to cause disruption in the community. 

To avoid such pitfalls, owners should try to avoid hiring existing residents to work for them.  Owners should also consider using employee-housing agreements that specifically provide that (1) the employee can be terminated without cause, (2) the housing being provided is merely incidental to their employment for the convenience of the employer, and (3) that the employee must leave immediately upon resignation or termination.  The hope is that by using such an agreement, the employee will understand that while housing comes with the job, losing the job means losing the housing.

By: Steve Pornbida