Leg. Romaine pushes for county support of state mobile home law

County Legislator Ed Romaine says he will propose a bill that would allow mobile home owners to legally challenge rent increases they feel are unreasonable.

The county bill in question would be needed if a similar state bill being proposed by Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblymen Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) is approved in Albany, because the state bill would likely give counties the option to “opt in” to the law, said Mr. Romaine, a Republican of Center Moriches.

Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle explained their proposal to the Mobile/Manufactured Home Owners Association of Suffolk — the largest coalition of mobile home owners on Long Island — in February at a packed meeting in Riverhead Town Hall.

Mr. Romaine addressed that same group on Saturday at Town Hall to assure them he will file such a bill at the county level should the state bill be approved.

The state bill, which is expected to meet with opposition from park owners, has yet to be formally filed in Albany.

The mobile home owners’ group renewed its calls for such a law this year after residents in the three mobile home parks owned by MacLeod’s— MacLeod’s in Riverside, River Haven in Riverhead and Lakewood in Calverton— got notice that their monthly rent would increase by $49.75 on May 1, while residents of Thurm’s Estates in Calverton saw their rent increase by $50 on Jan. 1.

Mobile home owners are in a unique situation in that most own the mobile home but rent the land it sits on. And despite the name mobile home, the units generally cannot be easily moved because there is limited space available where mobile homes are allowed. Some older mobile homes made before 1976 cannot be moved according to federal law, Mr. Romaine said.

The proposed state 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, state lawmakers say. 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.

If one person in a park successfully challenges an increase, all the residents of that park benefit, according to the Mr. Thiele.

An almost identical proposal was approved in the Assembly two years ago but didn’t get approved in the Senate.

“What [Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle] said at that meeting was that they are proposing a law that would empower mobile home owners to go to court if they feel their mobile home park was unreasonably raising their rents,” Mr Romaine said in an interview Friday. “I haven’t seen the legislation yet but if that is the concept, I have no problem sponsoring legislation to get this accomplished on a local level.”

The proposed law likely will be written in such a way that the state would have to pass it first, and then each county would have to decide if they want or don’t want the law, Mr. Romaine explained.

“If a particular county doesn’t want the law, then it doesn’t apply,” he said. “The reason they do this is because it makes it easier to pass,” Mr. Romaine said.

Mr. Romaine said he believes there is enough support in the Sufffolk County Legislature for such a law to pass. He said most mobile home park owners are reasonable, but there are some exceptions, which makes such a law necessary.

Riverhead Town has the most mobile home units in the state.

Mr. Romaine told the group on Saturday that he would support efforts to increase the amount of land available for mobile homes, although he said this would be a town zoning issue.

“Rents are determined by supply and demand, and if you increase the supply of mobile home parks, then you have an opportunity to keep down the rents because you have more options when you go to buy,” he said. “Mobile homes are part of the affordable housing market, but for some reason, some towns have discouraged them in their zoning.”

He even agreed with a suggestion by an audience member that the county buy land to create more mobile home parks, a move that would require the town it is located in to change its zoning to allow a new park.

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