A pared-back version of HB143 legislation that mobile-home owners believe would be fair to the folks who own the land under their homes as well as to themselves unanimously cleared a House committee Monday morning.
However, mobile-home park owners have lined up against the measure, maintaining that it goes too far.
Competing property rights lie at the heart of this contentious issue, namely land ownership versus affordable home ownership. And these are not the trailers of the 1950s. In recent decades, manufactured homes have grown in size and price, making them a significant investment that can cost up to $20,000 to relocate from one park to another.
"One of the stated purposes is to protect mobile-home owners from actual or constructive eviction," said HB143 sponsor Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper. For those who have their lot leases terminated, home relocation costs can be out of reach, Christensen added.
Citing mobilehomeparkstore.com, Christensen said that the web site's money-making advice suggested that park owners increase lot rents by about 10 percent each year. With the high cost of moving, most residents opt to stay and pay, he added.
Studies show that 90 percent of mobile homes are never moved again after their initial set-up in a park, Christensen added.
Homeowners agreed to some concessions to get HB143 past its initial legislative hurdle.
The original bill requested 120 days for residents to sell their homes after being evicted, but that language was struck.
"We gave up some things we really didn't want to give up," said Lowell Gallacher, longtime member and adviser of Utah Manufactured Homeowners Action Group.
Even so, the revised bill "accomplishes much more than any previous bill has addressed," Gallacher said. "It's toward fairness, that's the bottom line."
The "much more" has some park owners and their representatives worried. The bill requires that park rules be reasonable; that lot leases be annual, renewable contracts rather than month-to-month; and that the notification period for pending rent and fee increases be expanded from 60 to 90 days.
South Jordan-based attorney Robert Poulsen spoke against the bill Monday, saying rules were often generated by park residents to make living conditions better.
"As far as the rules goâ¦they are brought by the tenants in the community for something that another tenant is doing that they want resolved," Poulsen said, to prohibit actions such as speeding through the park, endangering children, shooting a firearm at someone else's vehicle, getting into fisticuffs or having an unkempt yard.
Shellie McHaley, manager of Taylorsville's Monte Vista Park for the past 25 years, also spoke against HB143, saying she's only had to evict one tenant in that time and that rules enable the park to stay nice and well-kept. The average age of residents in the seniors-only park is 72 years, McHaley added.
Gloria and Daniel Feil have lived there for eight years.
"We love it because it's such a family-type park and it's all seniors," Gloria Feil, 77, said, raving about the yard sales and barbecues that take place as the weather warms, and expressing gratitude for the park's rules.
"It would be devastating if we had to move and leave our home behind, and I wouldn't want to put my beautiful home in another community," Gloria Feil, 77, said. "I've heard horror stories, and it's not good."
Steve Anderson, a retired commercial appraiser, has his own horror story to tell. He and his wife, Nancy, spent eight years in Murray's Cottonwood Coves park until recently.
Last June they filed a lawsuit against the park's owner over rising rents and fees. That litigation is still wending its way through Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court.
"My situation within the park became so untenable that we were forced to sell our home at a significant loss" of about $50,000, Anderson said by phone Monday. He and his wife recently moved out-of-state and their buyer intends to relocate the double-wide structure to Tooele, Anderson added.
McHaley said that lot rents in Monte Vista, including water, garbage and sewer, are $365 per month for a double-wide home, and on April 1, they will increase by $15. Anderson's monthly lot rent in Cottonwood Coves was $539, he said.
"The only way we'd consider another manufactured home is if we were in a co-op," Anderson said, "or if we owned the land."
Not just a Utah problem
O Tensions between park owners and manufactured-home owners exist nationwide, spurring AARP to compile its 150-page report, "Manufactured Housing Community Tenants: http://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/consume/d18138_housing.pdf">Shifting the Balance of Power."
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