Ed Speraw, advocate for manufactured home owners, dies at 81

DOVER — Manufactured home owners advocate Ed Speraw died early Saturday morning after a battle with pancreatic cancer that lasted several years, said his friend, Dover City Councilman Fred Neil.

Mr. Speraw was 81.

“The road has ended for Edwin (Ed) Speraw … the tenacious defender of our nation and for beleaguered tenants who own homes on leased land,” said Mr. Neil. “He leaves a yawning chasm in the ranks of Davids battling the Goliaths, in fighting for the American dream.”

Mr. Speraw had been the president of the Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association (DMHOA) for nearly 14 years until retiring in 2016. Mr. Neil says he worked tirelessly to change “predatory practices, inequities and injustices permitted by landlords under State Law.”

In 2010, Mr. Speraw was among the recipients of the Governor’s Outstanding Community Volunteer Service Award during the Markell administration.

Mr. Speraw himself made frequent appearances in the pages of this newspaper — sometimes being thanked for his work in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section and others in coverage of his exploits on the capitol building steps.

In a 2002 letter, Georgetown resident Kent Gory explained how Mr. Speraw interceded on behalf of an elderly, blind neighbor to have a hazardously deteriorated electrical box replaced in her mobile home community.

Though electric service providers had told the woman the costly replacement of the box was her responsibility, Mr. Speraw negotiated with the mobile park’s management to promptly had the issue addressed.

“Thanks to Mr. Speraw, who’s intervention quickly solved this problem and made an elderly lady in Sussex County feel safe again in her own home,” reads the letter.

Not only coming to the aid of embattled homeowners himself, Mr. Speraw helped encourage them to stand up on their own behalf as well. During a manufactured home owners’ rally in 2008, Mr. Speraw helped lead more than 200 demonstrators to pressure legislators to pass bills giving mobile home owners priority buying rights over the land their homes occupied and restrictions that would force landlords to justify rent increases on mobile home land.

“Let them know that you’re here, and you’re here for a reason,” Mr. Speraw said, addressing the crowd in front of Legislative Hall. “And you’ve got the signs, you know why you’re here and it’s your life and your life savings that you’re concerned about.”

A native of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Mr. Speraw joined the Air Force at 18 in 1955, says Mr. Neil.

“He had two tours in Vietnam with the Special Forces TAC Fighter Command until his discharge in 1968,” he said. “He was a graduate of Penn State University, and worked in the construction business for 40 years. He was available 24/7 as home owners called him about problems at his home. It was not uncommon for

“Ed, who was licensed, to slide under a home of a Senior, who was unable to pay, to fix a problem. He would even correct a problem that was legally the responsibility of the landlord who refused to fix it.”

Mr. Neil notes that he first crossed paths with Mr. Speraw shortly after moving to Delaware.

“When I moved here in 2003 after living in homes in Baltimore which had ground rents, I never thought I could lose my retirement nest egg and the new home I bought because state law permitted it to happen,” said Mr. Neil.

“Fighting for change were a handful of home owners in Sussex County led by Ed Speraw, Bill Reed and Charlie Gallagher. Founded in 1982 as the Sussex County Mobile Tenants Association, the advocates expanded statewide as DMHOA in 2002.”

Well-known in Legislative Hall, Mr. Speraw stumped constantly for policy changes regarding manufactured homes.

“As president of DMHOA, he advocated for every beneficial law passed by the General Assembly since 1982,” said Mr. Neil. “For more than a decade, his home was the

DMHOA office, except for a few years. From time to time, he funded the organization from his own pocket. The Title 25, Chapter 70 law to protect home owners on leased land is peppered with loopholes leaving the Judges of the Delaware Court to define the law. Otherwise, leased land home owners would be bereft of any protection.

“As it is, the value of their homes continues to drop as rents rise. Before Ed and his colleagues became involved Rents could be raised anytime. Now it can be raised only once a year. A change of land use could force the home owners off the land rapidly. Now, a one year notice is required.”

The Relocation Trust Authority, another law advocated by DMHOA, created a fund from additional rents paid by home owners and landlords, said Mr. Neil. The Authority provides money to move homes in a change of land use or a small stipend for those who can’t move their home.

Over the course of his career and advocacy, Mr. Speraw fought hard for what he believed in, made a difference for disenfranchised homeowners and earned the respect of stakeholders, Mr. Neil said.

“He earned the respect of elected officials and even the grudging respect of some of the bigger community owners,” he added.


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