Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Miniature Horse Ranch Operators Who Sold, Then Leased Back Property To Dodge F'closure Now Face Eviction; New Owner Says He Needs To Unload Premises

In Penngrove, Caliifornia, The Press Democrat reports:

  • The owners of the Penngrove miniature horse ranch called Lovepatch Farms face a daunting deadline — come up with $500,000 or vacate the 2 1/4-acre property.

  • The Mill Valley family that only two years ago helped Lee Romero and Cory Vandergeld avoid foreclosure by purchasing the ranch and leasing it back to them must now sell the property for business reasons.

  • After 30 years of living on the Palm Avenue ranch, moving all their belongings, 41 horses, numerous indoor and outdoor stalls, paddocks and fencing seems inconceivable to the aging couple.


  • [A]fter refinancing their property three times Romero and Vandergeld, like so many others, found themselves under water and unable to pay their bills.


  • Ray Kaliski, a member of the Mill Valley family that bought the property in 2009 so that the ranch could survive, said his family paid $412,000 in cash for the property to give Romero and Vandergeld time to get their finances in order.

  • Romero and Vandergeld were friends of Kaliski's sister, Barbara Norman, who with her father used to own and run Winners' Circle Ranch on Lakeville Highway. Several of the horses now at Lovepatch were purchased from Winners Circle.

  • After buying the Penngrove property, Kaliski said his family began an expensive remodel of the house, putting in new flooring, a new outdoor bathroom for visitors, new heating, remodeling the kitchen and replacing the siding on the house, among other things.

  • The family asked for $2,000 a month in rent, but Romero said that all the remodeling work affected their ability to schedule tours and they quickly fell behind in their rent payments. And the horses, which cost roughtly $1,200 a month to feed, have increased the couple's financial burden.

  • Last year, Romero and Vandergeld worked out an agreement that would allow them to pay $1,500 a month in rent, with $500 going to cover some of the back rent owed. The two, who have been paying that amount since last September, have been trying to cover their expenses with revenue from several other on-site businesses.

  • Romero and Vandergeld run an online distribution business for building supplies. She also does Web page design and sews and sells halter identification tags. “We've been trying to do everything to make money,” Romero said. “What they're going to do is make us destitute,” said Vandergeld.

  • But Kalaski said his family has been more than generous, remodeling the ranch home and giving them a break on the rent, which he said should be around $2,500 a month. “I never offered to give them the place for free,” he said. “We talked about the fact that we would offer it to them before we would offer it to anyone else.”

  • In an email to the couple sent Jan. 30, the family said it would take $500,000, which is $35,000 less than “comparables.” A 60-day notice asking Romero and Vandergeld to vacate the property expired last week. Kaliski said his family needs to sell the property.

  • We had the money available at the time,” he said. “But since that time, we've made some significant investments with other properties here that's drained our liquidity ... Now we need to convert that property into cash. “It's strictly a business decision,” he said.

  • Romero said the family has given her a “drop-dead deadline.” “They said that if we agree to pay rent February, March and April, they will extend the time we have to leave until April 30,” she said. “We're going to try and get financing. We're going to give ourselves X amount of time to get financing.”

For the story, see Four-legged tenants facing eviction.

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