Editorial: Mobile home bill deserves support in Albany

Mobile home owner aren’t in the same situation as renters or even the owners of co-ops or condominiums. With only a limited number of mobile home parks in Suffolk County — and no more on the way — many don’t have a real option to pick up their homes and move, unless that means relocating far away from beloved friends and family.

That leaves them extremely vulnerable, and they need the government’s help.

Resist that knee-jerk reaction. A bill currently in the state Legislature that would enable mobile home owners to fight unjustifiable rent increases isn’t about government overextending its reach into private enterprise or otherwise stifling the free market.

It’s about justifiably protecting our friends, neighbors and relatives — many of them of advanced age — who have worked hard to stake a claim here on Long Island but, due no fault of their own, have found themselves at the sheer mercy of a landlord. Mobile home owners own their homes and get individual tax bills, but they rent the land on which those homes sit.

“Right now, if they increase your rent by 100 percent, you have no remedy but to pick up and leave,” Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), a co-sponsor of the Assembly bill along with Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) told the News-Review Saturday. “All the power is with the park owner.”

That’s a situation that screams for oversight.

The bill as written 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 made 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. If one person in a park successfully challenges an increase, all the residents of that park benefit, according to the proposal.

A similar measure passed in the state Assembly in 2009, but died in the Senate.

To avoid the same thing from happening again, our lawmakers must be able to pull themselves away from the state budget battle that is sure to consume Albany, and then take a minute to examine and consider the necessity of this proposed law on its individual merits — instead of dismissing it because of political ideals involving property rights.

A mobile home park is a business like any other.

Our state senator, Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), surely has a tough task ahead of him, but he has vowed to push as hard as he can to lobby his fellow senators to pass the measure through the Senate.  He explained to the editorial board that mobile home park owners lobbied hard to kill the bill two years ago, but this time should be different.

“I think the atmosphere has changed, because I believe the park owners have overreached and have climbed on the backs of people who are down and out in probably one of the worst economies,” he said, pointing to rent increases that will force many mobile home owners to find another $600 each year to pay their monthly rent. “There are a lot of seniors there, and they have not received increases in social security. People understand the park owners have a certain obligation, but when the increases exceed the cost of living, people don’t understand that.”

It takes just one greedy landlord to shatter hundreds of lives; that is what this bill will protect against.

All of our state lawmakers should support it.