In an effort to aid mobile home park residents who believe park owners are unfairly raising the rent, the Atascadero City Council will continue its ad hoc committee work with residents and owners.
During public comment on the issue at the March 10 City Council meeting, Kathy Choate, a longtime resident of a mobile home park in Atascadero, said that the park she lives in was owned by a couple for 29 years who "honored the spirit of the family park and who maintained our facilities and our reasonable cost of living."
But about five years ago, she said, a corporation purchased the park and began increasing the cost of living while reducing the amenities provided to residents.
"Our park faces problems far beyond the issue of rent control; the lack of local regulations on this issue have created an environment ripe for exploitation of people who instead should be shielded from this type of predatory behavior," Choate said.
According to the staff report, at the Sept. 24, 2019, meeting, City Council received testimony from several members of the public that requested the council consider a mobile home park rent stabilization ordinance. Mobile home park renters often own the mobile home but rent the land their home sits on.
In October 2019, the council elected not to adopt the ordinance but did appoint an ad hoc committee consisting of Mayor Pro Tem Charles Bourbeau and Councilmember Roberta Fonzi to meet with residents and owners.
Since then, the committee learned that almost all of the complaints came from residents of the Rancho Del Bordo mobile home park.
Bourbeau said the residents have long-term leases that include a provision limiting rent increases to changes in the consumer price index (CPI) and, under state law, long-term leases are exempt from rent control provisions.
The complaints from Rancho Del Bordo residents, he said, centered on the fact that when a home gets vacated, the new owner is subject to a new lease at an increased rate set by the park owner.
According to the staff report, park residents stated that monthly space rents for new owners have been raised considerably higher than the CPI in the last few years. Space rent went from $700 to anywhere between $850 and $925, "with the park ownership purportedly planning to raise rents for new owners to $1,000 in 2020."
"The park owner at Rancho Del Bordo indicated that they did not exercise pass-through provisions that would allow rent increases greater than CPI for major capital expenditures, and they felt it was more beneficial for park residents to raise rents on new owners in the park, rather than on all residents," the report stated.
The second major complaint from residents was that they felt the owners frequently disapproved of prospective buyers and new tenants.
"Rancho Del Bordo requires a substantially higher standard of income than some of the other parks. Our discussion with the park owners tended to confirm this," Bourbeau said.
Other park owners in the area, he said, typically require renters to make at least three times the monthly space rent in income—in some cases, three and a half—but Rancho Del Bordo requires four times the monthly space rent.
"Their premise is that the city should not interfere with what standard is utilized to approve a resident in a park unless the city was willing to guarantee the payment of the rent. In other words, they don't think we should adopt a standard which forces them to rent to certain individuals, then if they fail to pay that, the park owners are left with an unpaid rent situation," Bourbeau said.
The City Council unanimously voted to continue with its already formed committee to bring together mobile home park owners and their representatives along with resident representatives to develop a mutually agreeable action plan—whether that be through a dispute resolution process or a model lease. That information will be brought back to the council at the May 12 meeting.