Sometimes rent increases can be tricky, but often necessary. In the following story, the rent increases were necessary at this senior designated mobile home park, but the residents fought the increase and demanded rent control. The ultimate decision came down to a rent review commission. As investors/owners/operators we've all seen what happens when rents are not increased over time. We've seen what happens to the community and what happens to the investment. It becomes unsustainable and expenses start to overcome the income, which leads to major problems. Communities can not run on empty. The following was originally published at sbsun.com.
YUCAIPA >> Rent will be going up for residents of Carriage Trade Manor senior mobile home park.
The Mobilehome Rent Review Commission on Tuesday approved a city-recommended monthly rent increase of $95.94 per space, rejecting the property owner’s request for a $165.01 increase. The commission also approved a five-year $10.45 monthly charge to allow the owner to recoup costs associated with applying for the rent increase.
“This whole process is a difficult one and there’s not going to be a decision that we make that’s going to make everybody happy or even anybody happy,” Commissioner William Mecham said.
The commission’s decision came after nearly 10 hours of testimony and discussion.
The commission heard from the attorney and experts hired by the property owner, as well as several park residents and their attorney, before voting to support the city’s recommendation. City-hired experts contended the owner was entitled to the increase.
The commission also heard from many residents of other mobile home parks in and outside of the city who were opposed to the increase.
“I have neighbors that are experiencing extreme anxiety, depression and just a sense of not feeling grounded and not feeling safe,” said Brenda Mitchell, a Carriage Trade Manor resident. “Just a great fear of economic eviction.”
The park, at 12874 California St., is subject to a city rent-control ordinance that was adopted in 1991 to protect mobile home tenants from excessive rents.
The Mobilehome Rent Stabilization Ordinance, however, does allow park owners to raise rent for tenants with month-to-month rental agreements once a year by the lesser of 5 percent of the current rent or 80 percent of the increase in the consumer price index during the previous year.
Peter Wang, managing partner of Wang Discovery LP, the company that purchased the park in 2015, filed an application to raise rent in order to cover costs to operate the park.
Wang also claimed that rent at the park in 1987, prior to the adoption of rent control, was below market value, and should be adjusted.
The 97-space park includes 85 spaces subject to rent control, according to the city staff report.
Prior to Tuesday’s vote, the average monthly rent was $238, not including utilities.
The residents pay an additional $15 per month for road paving done in the park.
Mark Alpert, an attorney representing Wang, said the city’s recommendation does not take into account all of the repairs Wang has made to the park.
“Here’s the reality: The current rent level is not sustainable for a new owner operating this park,” Alpert said. “As painful as it may be for these folks to face a rent increase like this, it’s the reality.”
Had Wang not made improvements, Alpert said, he would still be entitled to the $95.94 rent increase under the city’s ordinance.
“What staff is recommending to you is that you treat Mr. Wang here as though he were that park owner who just came in and took things over and didn’t make these improvements,” he said.
Before taking ownership of the park, Wang said, the park was operated at a basic level.
“Our objective is really to bring the quality of the park to reasonable standards,” Wang said. “It takes a lot of investment and work.”
Several residents questioned the $87,000 worth of repairs and improvements Wang claims to have made in the park. Residents also claimed the roadwork was poorly done.
Michael Pritchard, a resident, said park maintenance has not improved under Wang’s ownership.
Pritchard said the driveways, shuffleboard courts, RV parking and car wash area remain in disrepair.
“Overall the condition of the park I think has really not gotten better,” Pritchard said. “There’s just no way and I actually think it’s gotten worse.”
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