LaValle working on new bill to protect mobile home owners

05/23/2014 10:00 AM |
State Senator Ken LaValle (Credit: Robert O'Rourk, file)

State Senator Ken LaValle (Credit: Robert O’Rourk, file)

State Senator Ken LaValle is drafting new legislation aimed at protecting mobile home owners because he believes a bill recently approved in the state Assembly won’t pass in the Senate.

In a recent interview with the News-Review, Mr. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) didn’t have many specifics yet, but said one change from the current proposal is homeowners wouldn’t be required to go to court to challenge a rent increase.

“We’re looking for a solution where people would have the strength of law on their side, where they don’t have to do anything to challenge the rent increase,” he said. “We want to get something that is real and helpful to people that live in mobile homes — understanding that we need to stabilize their rents.”

The Democrat-controlled Assembly has passed a bill aimed at protecting mobile home owners from “unjustifiable rent increases” seven times of the past eight years. The legislation has never passed in the Republican-controlled senate.

This year, the Assembly approved the bill by a vote of 94 to 34, with East End Assemblymen Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) supporting it.

Mr. Thiele said the bill would “give counties home rule authority to prevent rent gouging in mobile home parks.”

“Mobile home tenants lack bargaining power because of the unique business arrangement in mobile home parks,” he said in a press release. “Residents own their house, but not the land, which they rent from the park owner. Further, there is a lack of available home sites and moving these homes is costly. Finally, a substantial number of residents are senior citizens on fixed incomes, who find mobile homes to be one of the few affordable options, if they want to stay on Long Island. These factors make them susceptible to rent gouging by the unscrupulous.”

In the Senate, the bill has yet to pass through the Housing, Construction and Community Development committee, where it was sent in January.

Mr. LaValle said he’s working with state Senator Catherine Young — who chairs the HCCD committee — on a new bill because he believes the legislation in its current form has continued to run into opposition in the Senate since it’s perceived as a “rent control” bill.

“You can’t keep hitting your head against the wall and not be moving anyplace,” he said.

Riverhead Town has about 1,900 mobile homes in 24 mobile home parks, according to Town Assessor Laverne Tennenberg.

Joe Kummer, president of the Suffolk County Mobile/Manufactured Homeowner’s Association of Suffolk Inc. and Calverton Meadows resident, said mobile homeowners are in a unique predicament because they own the home they live in, but lease the land it’s located on.

“This legislation is very important to us,” he said. “Unreasonable increases in rent place a great financial burden on our members. We recognize that the land owners are entitled to increases, but when those increase are unreasonable the homeowners should have a way to see relieve under the law.”

The current bill would allow a mobile home owner to go to court to challenge a land lot rent increase that exceeds the Consumer Price Index as “unjustifiable” within 90 days of receiving the increase notice. It also allows multiple homeowners from the same park to join the action together.

Mr. Kummer, who will be stepping down as president of the MMHOA next month after ten years, said several of the mobile home parks in Riverhead offer long term leases in which the increases are tied to the CPI, but other parks do not.

Brian Stark, an owner of Glenwood Village, a mobile home park in Riverhead, said in a recent interview he disagrees with the proposed legislation.

“I think you can argue that it’s un-American, because it tells private business owners how much they can or can’t make,” said Mr. Stark, who’s also a former president of the New York Housing Association, a statewide organization that has lobbied against the law.

Mr. Kummer said that while Glenwood Village isn’t one of the parks his group receives complaints about, he’s disappointed with Mr. Stark’s position on the unreasonable rent increase bill.

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