Mar. 19—A Jackson County Small Claims Court judge last week awarded compensation to a family who planned to move into a manufactured home in Medford Estates last summer but ended up having to opt out of the deal after a bevy of unexpected and unadvertised fees.
Jesus and Stephanie Espinoza said they were surprised to find out, among other things, that costs were higher than advertised and that the dwelling wasn't ready for them to move in on the date promised by the company.
According to court documents, the Espinozas were advised by Medford Estates to make unnecessary and detrimental choices. For example, they were told by a company representative they had to be living in Oregon and employed locally before they could apply for home financing.
That advice was inaccurate. Jesus Espinoza quit his job earlier than necessary, which caused the family financial damage, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Laura Cromwell wrote March 11 in her decision, which required Medford Estates to compensate the family more than $6,200.
The money is meant to partially make up for expenses they incurred as a result of the move-in price being higher than they anticipated and the home not being ready to occupy by the date noted in the agreement.
The judgment covered such expenses as gasoline for the trip as well as living expenses from their day of arrival to when they moved into an alternative dwelling.
Damages included lodging, storage and a post office box. They also had to spend more money for food than what they would have paid if they hadn't moved to Southern Oregon to buy the home. Lost wages were included, as well, the court decision stated.
Small claims court awards don't exceed $10,000.
The Espinozas, who were living in the San Diego area before moving to Southern Oregon, contacted Medford Estates after seeing an ad on Zillow.com.
"The ads said, 'All you need is $5,000.' No extra fees. Nothing," said Stephanie Espinoza. "We thought it was the only way for us to have a home."
The Espinozas said they had an online meeting with Joshua Salyer, sales manager of Medford Estates, which is owned by Cal-Am Properties Inc., of Costa Mesa, California. They asked Salyer whether it was truly going to cost only $5,000 to move in, and he said yes, she explained.
The Espinozas had saved some money before attempting to pursue their fresh start in Southern Oregon.
They were told it would take a little more than a month to have the home ready for them and two daughters, ages 17 and 22, one of whom is disabled. So they budgeted for the $5,000 cost and enough additional money to pay for a few weeks in a local motel as well as their other living and moving expenses.
Jesus landed a local job soon after they arrived Aug. 19. He applied for it while they were traveling here from Southern California.
They paid the company the $5,000 — as advertised — soon after they arrived, but the Espinozas found out the company had neglected to file their finance application.
They contacted the mortgage company to find out whether their application had been approved, and they learned they would have to pay for a variety of fees they hadn't been told about.
By mid-September the dwelling still needed a retaining wall and had no "carpet, flooring or steps."
The couple asked to void the agreement after Medford Estates told them Sept. 27 they would need to pay a "park application fee" — another surprise.
"We lost trust in Joshua (Salyer)," she said about their decision to back out of the purchase.
The Espinozas had invested at least $16,000 by that time, and only $5,000 was for the down payment that was supposedly enough to allow them to move in.
The $5,000 was reimbursed by the company. But the family also had to continue paying for food, storage, lodging — they had to spend some nights in their car — before they could find a suitable rental in early November, a court document stated.
Cromwell's decision determined it was wrong for Medford Estates not to have had a disclaimer in the contract advising that the construction work might not be finished on time because of a local labor shortage. There was so much construction occurring at the time because of the Almeda fire in September 2020.
Cromwell also questioned why there was a need for the couple to obtain park approval and pay a fee for it. Not only was the fee separate from the $5,000 advertised move-in cost. It seemed unreasonable to ask for such a fee because the park was also part of Medford Estates and Cal-Am Properties.
The Espinozas now live with family in central California.
Phone messages left with Cal-Am offices in Medford and Costa Mesa, California, were not returned.