Last October a number of Homeowner’s Associations in San Marcos were contacted by an attorney representing the City of San Marcos to explore the possibility of formulating a San Marcos Lease Accord (an agreement). San Marcos mobilehome owners have been under the protection of a rent review ordinance enacted in 1978. The ordinance does not establish a rent control on annual increases, it only allows homeowners to protest any increase they feel is unreasonable. If they file a protest, the City conducts a rent review with input from both the Park owners and the Homeowners.
In prior years, the cost of such a review process was funded with Redevelopment Funds, and could run between $50,000 and $75,000. With the State having taken over the redevelopment funds, the City would now incur these costs, which they would like to avoid. If a Lease Accord could be hammered out and the Park owners and the Homeowners could agree, the City would be off the hook.
After several meeting of the Homeowner representatives with the Attorney and one meeting with Park Owner representatives also in attendance, the Attorney presented both parties with a “draft” containing suggestions she had received and possibly some nomenclature from other such accords or agreements. As the Homeowners reviewed the draft document, another meeting was scheduled for mid-March.
The general consensus amongst the Homeowner was that the 26 page document is oppressive, controlling and unacceptable. Anything remotely close to this document will most likely be rejected. One substantial obstacle being the relinquishment of the City’s Rent Review protection. Once the suggestions by the Homeowner groups are made, it is unlikely that the Park Owners will be willing to accept such changes, leading to a probable impasse.
Homeowners do not have to allow the City to impose an Accord with which they do not agree and which removes protection from unreasonable rent increases and allows an escalation in rents that result in financial hardship for many of the Homeowners. Homeowners, as a rule, are reasonable and understanding, something that is rarely said of Park Owners.
Many Homeowners have, over the years, been subjected to various offenses by Park Owners covering many subjects, such as Rent increases, evictions, interference with sales, harassment, failure to maintain and protection of the investments of the Homeowners. Speaking of investments, in most parks the homeowner’s collective investments are greater than those of the Park Owner.
Unfortunately, the Housing and Community Development (HCD) does very little, if anything, to enforce the MobileHome Residency Law ( MRL) and the contractual rights of the Homeowners. Their usual response (and the City’s) is to advise that “you need to retain an Attorney”. A resolution by the City of San Marcos back in 1970 was recently unearthed and it was a notice to HCD that the City would be take responsibility for enforcement. The big question is why doesn’t HCD do their job and enforce the MRL? If they do not have the authority to do so, then why the hell doesn’t our State’s elected representatives enact legislation to give them the authority? The MRL is a toothless tiger! Of course the answer to these issues is that Park Owners have their substantial profits with which to elect and control the Assembly and Senate members. We have the votes and our representatives need to understand that our support may be what keeps them in office.
Mobile home owners are systematically denied their civil rights, economic rights, and other property rights enjoyed by other citizens. While there are many thousands of us, we do not have the deep pockets of corporations and individuals that make up the park owners. Hiring an attorney is not an option for the majority of mobile home owners. Knowing what to do and knowing what rights we have is beyond the ability of most of us. Even when a homeowner thinks he knows , he is more often than not, faced with intimidation, and even harassment or threats by the Park managers or Owners. Let’s face it, how many Homeowners even read the MRL, or the Park rules and regulations? Any real push back by Homeowners that comes is usually through the Home Owner’s Association (HOA) or a regional association such as San Marcos Mobilehome Resident’s Association (SMMRA), Oceanside Manufactured Homeowner’s Association (OMHA), or Coalition of Escondido Mobilehome Voters (CEMV). Unfortunately most of these groups do not have a large number of volunteer activists working on behalf of all of us.
Getting back to this draft/ lease, there is likely to be strong opposition to “pass through” expenses being included in any agreement. Some Park Owners believe that increases in taxes or insurance costs qualify for additional fees to be paid by the Homeowners. They even believe that ruptures in utility lines in the common areas , or a new roof on the clubhouse and other such costs ought to be paid by the Homeowners via a pass through charge. This is because they take their profits without funding a reserve account for such expenses like most businesses and common interest subdivisions (Resident owned Parks) are required to do under law.
Capital Improvements that could qualify for a pass through charge would be a new security gated entrance into the park, or a new basketball court, or a new fitness facility, and having been approved by a majority of the Homeowners.
There are many other sticking points in this draft, and coming to some agreement will not be easy. While a long term lease accord has possible mutual attractions for both parties, often the devil is in the details and Homeowners need to be extremely cautious with any agreement that effectively eliminates rent control protection. The next few months should be very interesting. Article by Lloyd Rochambeau