‘They can play God with your life’: Whitehorse family faces eviction from trailer park after three decades

MLA says tenants act needs changes to protect mobile home owners

Tara Matechuk and her husband Arkell have lived in Takhini Mobile Home Trailer Park since 1989, but on June 15, they were given an eviction notice and no explanation.

When Matechuk read the notice, a brief one-page document that misspells her husband’s name, she phoned the park’s manager to ask what the problem was. She was told she had a year to vacate the park, and that management didn’t have to give her a reason. Matechuk disagrees.

“I think after 30 years I deserve a damn answer,” she told the News on June 27. She sat at her dining room table, turning the eviction letter over in paint-stained hands. She’s been doing renovations since she found out she has to move.

“Never caused a problem here. Never had an issue. Didn’t even know there was a problem and we get that (letter) … at least have the decency to give a reason. If you can’t give a reason, then it’s a pretty piss-poor reason.”

Beverly Gunn, a manager at the park, said she had nothing to add to this story.

Matechuk’s trailer has the lived-in look of a place that’s been home for decades. Dated 80s-era wallpaper in the kitchen that’s being updated now. Framed photos of family weddings. Christmas cards tacked to the wall. A piece of embroidery hanging over the window, stitched with hearts and the names Tara and Arkell.

Thirty years ago, Matechuk and her husband moved into a smaller trailer in the park. They graduated to the larger one in 1997. Their 28-year old daughter now lives in the smaller trailer, though she too has to vacate. The family is hoping to buy a home they can move into together, though the affordability of that depends on selling the trailers. Matechuk’s husband is on disability, so she and her daughter are relying on their jobs, working for the Whitehorse office of the Teslin Tlingit Council.

“Tara is a fighter,” said Kate White, Takhini-Kopper King MLA. “She is resilient, she’s looking at the next steps…. That’s incredible, but not everybody is in that position.”

White said the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act treats mobile home tenants like renters of apartments by allowing for no-cause evictions. She said it’s the government’s responsibility to step in and make a change.

“There has to be a recognition that they are not the same,” White said.

“Mobile homes are different because the person owns the asset. They own the home and they rent a plot of land. It’s a different situation and I think it needs to be reflective that it’s different and that is a government responsibility.”

The Yukon government’s cabinet office did not respond to a request for an interview.

White also thinks there needs to be government intervention when it comes to rent increases on trailer park pads. Right now, owners can only increase the rent once a year (Matechuk’s is $435 per month), but there’s no cap on the dollar amount of that increase.

She said it’s changing the affordability of mobile home ownership.

Matechuk agrees. Not only does she find the uncapped rental increase problematic, she cites the prohibitive cost of moving a mobile home if you find yourself evicted. First off, there are no vacant pads in Whitehorse, so if you wanted to move your home, you’d have to buy a plot of land.

White said she has previously been told there’s land available in Grizzly Valley, outside of Whitehorse, but the cheapest lots she knew of were priced at $122,000. That’s without power and water.

Even if you have a place to put the home, White said, the cost to begin the process of moving a trailer would be $10,000. Mobile homes, as it turns out, are not so mobile.

Because of that, Matechuk plans to sell. She thinks she’ll get $150,000 for the larger trailer, less for the smaller one. She’s not happy about it, but she recognizes there’s no way to fight it. Both she and White think that, rather than eviction, there should be a warning system of sorts in place. If a landlord has a problem with a tenant, the tenant should be informed in writing and given the opportunity to rectify the situation.

“The government needs to take another look at (the act) and review. There’s a lot of concerns,” said Matechuk.

Despite the sudden eviction, she said she has enjoyed living in the park.

“We raised our daughter here, we were able to pay off our homes here, we don’t have a mortgage anymore. The cost of living was cheap and affordable. It was a good place to live and it was usually quiet. People are respectful of each other.”

She feels like there’s nothing she can do at this point. Calls to management go unreturned. The Residential Landlord and Tenant Act offers no recourse. She’s just going to continue with her plan to sell the trailers and hope to find a home.

“The fact that they can do that to just anybody is very disturbing and do I want to own another trailer? Not in a park. Not in a park where they can play God with your life.”

Contact Amy Kenny at amy.kenny@yukon-news.com

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