Angry mobile home owners pack Town Hall

02/19/2011 2:16 PM |
Fred Theile, mobile homeowners

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Theile addresses mobile home owners in a packed Riverhead Town Hall Saturday.

At least 150 people, most of them mobile home owners, packed Riverhead Town Hall Saturday morning for a meeting to discuss a bill in the state Legislature that would limit “unjustifiable” rent increases in mobile home parks.

The bill, sponsored by assemblymen Fred Thiele (R-Sag Harbor) and Dan LoSquadro (R-Shoreham) and state Senator Ken Lavalle (R-Port Jefferson), comes at a time when residents of MacLeod’s, River Haven and Lakewood mobile home parks, in January received noticed that their monthly rents would increase by $49.75 on May 1, while residents of what used to be known as Thurm’s Estates, a mobile home park in Calverton, were notified Jan. 1 that their rent would increase by $50 per month, according to Joe Kummer, the president of the Mobile/Manufactured Home Owners Association of Suffolk.

Thurm’s Estates was sold by its prior owner, listed as MHC THurms, LLC, to a Chicago-based company using the name Hometown Thurms Estates on Dec. 28 for $10.8 million. The park will now be called Hometown America.

The prior owner, who had it for three years, “kept raising the rent and putting no money back into the park,” said Mr. Kummer, who lives there. “In the three years that they had it, my rent went up $218 [per month]. The first year that they bought the property, they raised the rent twice in one year.”

Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle attended that group’s meeting Saturday to discuss the proposed law and to get feedback from mobile home owners.

The proposed bill dealing with unjustified rent increases passed in the state Assembly two years ago but didn’t pass in the state Senate, Mr. Thiele said after the meeting.

Mobile home owners own their homes, but they rent the land on which it sits, which makes them vulnerable to rent hikes, Mr. Thiele explained. “Right now, if they increase your rent by 100 percent, you have no remedy but to pick up and leave,” he said, adding that since the number of mobile home parks is limited and most towns aren’t permitting new parks, moving the home often isn’t feasible.

“All the power is with the park owner,” he said.

The proposed law would give mobile home owners the right to challenge a rent increase in court if that increase is greater than the Consumer Price Index in New York State and if the mobile home is the person’s primary residence. The challenge must be taken within 90 days of the notice of increase and park owners have the right to make increases that reflect operating costs, taxes and debt service on capital improvements, Mr. Thiele said.

If one person in a park successfully challenges an increase, all the residence of that park benefit, according to the proposal.

Mr. Kummer suggested the increase be limited to three percent.

Pauline Sandmann, a resident of MacLeod’s and the president of that park’s civic group, read a letter from park owner Myron MacLeod regarding the increases at the three parks he owns.

“I am aware of the strong reaction to our January rent announcement,” Mr. MacLeod wrote. “That goes into effect this May 1 . It’s clear I underestimated the negative impact this would have on residents. We have been making extensive capital improvements in the communities over the last three years and I made the assumption that residents would understand the higher increase after such costs.”

Mr. MacLeod went on to write that his company invested about $1.7 million in the parks since 2006. He said the company considered giving residents a one-time bill to cover that work, instead of building the cost into the rent, but that would have cost each resident about $3,000.

“We thought it would be far less burdensome and easier to bear if the cost was spread over time,” the letter read.

In response, residents at Saturday’s meeting insisted that once the capital improvements are paid off, their rents should go back down again.

“Will he stop this $50 after the repairs are done or will we pay $50 for the rest of our life?” one man asked.

A woman who lived in a park in Bohemia told Mr. Thiele Saturday that thanks to recent increases, her mobile home park rent is now $771 per month while her state pension is only $700 per month. “Where do I go from here?” she asked.

Another woman who said she lived in MacLeod’s said “the next thing is I’m going to be living in my car.”

Senator Lavalle said the mobile home legislation takes on greater importance because of the difficult economic times.

“In times of economic stress, you don’t walk on people’s backs when they are down,” Mr. LaValle said.

He said the Legislature will be working to pass a budget by April 1, but promised mobile home owners he would “push as hard as I can to get this bill through the Senate.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

8 Comment

  • We have been complaining about this situation for years………I guess people have to hit rock bottom to get them off their butts to do anything….when it’s almost too late. Mr. MacLeod should have been up front and told us we would have to pay for the “beautification” of the parks BEFORE he did it ….I am sure in light of the economy we would have opted for lower rent. You shouldn’t ASSUME….It makes and ASS out of U and ME.

  • Riverhead at one time had the highest number of trailer parks per capita in the state. It probably still does. When housing is becoming less and less affordable, more people end up in mobile homes, whose acquisition cost is less than stick built or today’s modular homes.

    Unfortunately, many local governments have banned mobile homes on private property, limiting them to trailer parks, where the residents are subject to lot lease increases, with no say. In the past, there have been abuses where elderly residents were evicted but could not move their aging trailers. Others were advised they had to by trailers from the park owner, or could only move in trailers which met with park approval.

    That might have been all well and good esthetically, but now we’re in a bind.

    Remember the small park on Route 58 where aging residents, who could not afford to move or buy a new trailer,were evicted when a drugstore chain bought the property out from under them? What happened to those folks, some of whom had lived there for decades? That could have been your mother or father.

    If you need affordable housing–say Granny becomes infirm and you’d like to put a trailer in your back yard to give her a convenient place to live–you’re out of luck.

    We need creative solutions, and trailer park ghettos don’t seem to be a satisfactory answer.

    Perhaps if manufacturers could build more affordable small homes, and regulations were changed so they wouldn’t have to be jammed together in aluminum jumbles, we could better afford comfortable places to live. As our population ages and the elderly become less independent, we need to work on this problem now.

  • as misdirection goes, yours isnt very good. Fact is suffolk real estate taxes are 8% of household income .
    2/3 of taxes go to schools. nationwide avg is 3%. LI teachers are extremely well paid relative to nationwide. So, your proposal is ??? let me guess, tax the rich? maybe cheaper chinese made trailers ? in rented backyards?

  • LAKEWOOD PARK , WHAT IS “MAGREED” TALKIN ABOUT? THE FEDERAL GOV’T ( H.U.D.) GIVES THIS GUY A TAX BREAK FOR A SENIOR CITIZEN “CENTER” AT EACH LOCATION . I THINK MAYBE I’LL GIVE THEM A CALL.THIS IS SUPPOSE TO BE A RETIREMENT COMMUNITY FOR PEOPLE WHO OWN THEIR OWN HOME. HEY! MAGREED! WHILE YOUR VACATIONING IN SUNNY CALIFORNIA, YOUR MANAGMENT IS STEALIN ALL THE PROFITS, I DONT SEE NOTHIN HERE WORTH $1,000,000 . BETTER TAKE THE NEXT “RED EYE”& COME HOME! YOU GOT LOTS A S”PLAININ’ TO DO! “TREAT ‘EM LIKE “TRAILER TRASH”,THE’LL TREAT YA LIKE A “SLUM LORD”

  • I just stumbled upon your site and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your opinions.

  • Why won’t Mr. MacGreed give any body a lease? I AASUME because he won ‘t be able to increase rent yearly as he has been doing since taking ownership. Are you aware your competition ensures leases for its residents. No body wants to move into the parks owned by Mr. MacGreed and as a resident of Lakewood I encourage prospective buyers to pass up this park because of arbitray rent increases. By the way I certainly don’t benefit from the upgrades at MacLoed’s Park. I am a senior citizen and don’t drive. The recreation center in Lakewood is a joke as the heat and air conditioning do not work, there is no equipment, window treatments are either missing or outdate and it is unsanitary. The only imnprovement over here was some landscaping in front of the park after your busines manger removed protected tree species and was fined by the Town of Riiverhead. I ASSUME our rent increases are also paying for his stupidity. Your management staff treats residents with punitive disdain. Do you want to have a successful business or do you want your staff to run it into the ground. People are not going to move here when they can get a fair shake at other parks in vicinity. I think you need to reconsider the people who are working for and representing you if you are interested in long term ownership of a successful, enduring business venture.

  • Thank you for this great post! It has been extremely helpful.

  • what april was he talking about you should see the problems we are having in bath pa greenbrier village guess who ows it hometown america the sameonens that spent 1000000 plus to keep bills from being passed contat our asso the village we can talk gha610@yahoo.com