Mobile homeowners still seeking relief from ‘unjustifiable rent increases’

03/18/2014 8:00 AM |
North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo at Saturday's meeting in town hall. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo at Saturday’s meeting in town hall. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Owners of mobile homes are hoping the state will approve a bill described as preventing “unjustifiable rent increases” at mobile home parks this year.

The legislation has been proposed each year since 2007. In six of those seven years, it was approved in the Democratically-controlled state Assembly, but not in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

During the Mobile/Manufactured Homeowner¹s Association of Suffolk Inc. meeting on Saturday at town hall, North Fork Assemblyman Tony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said he believes the Senate often views the bill as a form of “rent control.”

“Your fight is in the Senate,” he said. “You don’t even need to waste your time with us [the Assembly].”

Mr. Palumbo is co-sponsoring the bill with Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

If approved, the legislation would allow a mobile homeowner to go to court to challenge rent hikes that exceeds the Consumer Price Index within 90 days of receiving notice about the increase. It would also allow multiple homeowners from the same park to join the action together, officials said.

Under the proposed law, a rent hike could be justified if the increase doesn’t exceed the tenant’s share in operating costs and property taxes.

Although a homeowner usually owns their mobile home, they typically rent space at a mobile park and, therefore, isn’t able to control a substantial portion of their housing costs, said Joe Kummer, the president of the MMHOA and a resident of Calverton Meadows mobile home park.

The MMHOA covers all of Suffolk, he said, adding all ten town boards located across the county have passed resolutions in support of the unjustifiable rent increase bill.

“This legislation is very important to us,” Mr. Kummer said. “Many of our members are seniors on a fixed income. Unreasonable increases in rent plank a great financial burden on our members.”

He said several mobile home parks in Riverhead, such as Glenwood Village, Foxwood Village and Calverton Meadows (formerly Thurms) already use the CPI as a limit for lot rent increases, but there are other parks that don’t put any money into the upkeep of their park and still issue unreasonable rent increases.

Brian Stark, an owner of Glenwood Village mobile home park in Riverhead, said he opposes the proposed law, as does the New York Housing Association, a statewide organization representing manufactured home builders, retailers and community owners, of which he is a former president.

“It’s poorly written and I don’t think a lot of thought went into it,” Mr. Stark said of the proposed law. “It’s short sighted and, in the long run, it doesn’t solve what they think is the problem, which is a lack of affordable housing. I think you can argue that it’s un-American, because it tells private business owners how much they can or can’t make.”

Mr. Stark added Sen. Lavalle’s office never asked him for any input into the bill.

“They are placating the residents, I get that. But there is nothing in this law that addresses capital improvements,” Mr. Stark said.

Mr. Stark said that if the town, hypothetically speaking, suddenly required him to connect his park to the town sewer district, it might cost him $1 million, but he would not be able to pass that cost on to the tenants because it the rent increase could exceed that of the CPI.

“Where is the inducement to buy a park and make it better?” he asked. “This will discourage future people from wanting to invest in affordable housing.”

Mr. Stark said he also believes the legislation would make homes in parks with “rent control” more expensive to buy.

Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone also addressed the MMHOA at Saturdays’s meeting.

He disputed the argument that the bill is a form of “rent control” and described passage of the legislation as an uphill battle in Albany because he believes about 400 bills aren’t approved each year and many of the legislators would simply vote those down again the following year without putting much thought into it.

“We feel mobile home owners should have the same rents as owners of regular homes,” he said. “I own a home, and I can grieve my property assessment. But a mobile home owners doesn’t have that right because the property you’re based on is beyond your control.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

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