Topeka Susan Kennard, frustrated that the city of Lawrence couldn't compel her mobile home park landlord to provide basic water service this winter, asked a legislative committee for help.
"By far, we don't earn $40,000 to $50,000 a year or own nice houses. That doesn't mean we're any less important," said Kennard, president of Green Acres Mobile Home Park Tenants' Assn. and a resident of the park at 1045 E. 23rd.
Kennard and three other Lawrence residents testified Monday before the House Judiciary Committee in support of a bill that would establish the Mobile Home Park Landlord and Tenant Act.
The proposed act, which drew no testimony from opponents, would address the void that exists for mobile home lot renters under laws governing landlord-tenant relationships in Kansas.
Rep. Bill Roy Jr., D-Topeka, a primary sponsor, said mobile home renters are covered under the Kansas Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, but mobile home lot renters are not.
THE MEASURE would establish a set of rules for resolving disputes between mobile home park operators and lot renters. The act would benefit people throughout the state, he said.
Julia Pitner, executive director of the Douglas County Consumer Affairs Assn., applauded Roy's efforts to gain legislative approval of the act. Mobile home tenants need protection now, she said.
"We have been working with mobile home tenants for the past three years and we've been very, very frustrated because we've had to tell them there is very little we can do," Pitner said.
"It has become obvious that mobile home dwellers do not enjoy the same protection under the law as other citizens," said Ed Dutton, a Lawrence resident working to assist Green Acres residents.
No formal action was taken on the measure. Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence, appointed a judiciary subcommittee to study amendments proposed by the 10 people who testified.
REP. BETTY JO Charlton, D-Lawrence, spoke on behalf of the act. She outlined some problems Green Acres residents have had this winter. For months, she said, they had no water service.
"All parties in the Green Acres water problem owners, tenants and city officials would appreciate legislation making clear the rights and responsibilities of each," Charlton said.
In December 1990, a few days before Christmas, water stopped flowing at Green Acres. Some water pressure returned in January, but not enough for residents to take a bath or wash dishes, she said.
Charlton said state environmental officials advised Green Acres residents not to drink the water, because low pressure could allow water to back up in lines and contaminate the supply.
"Tenants signed a letter to the park owners saying they would not pay rent until water was restored," she said. "The owners responded by letter: `We do not intend to provide gas unless you pay rent.'"
MEANWHILE, the Lawrence director of public works said the park's water lines were too small. The city manager said he had no authority to order the lines replaced, Charlton said.
She said park owners then furnished a single source from which tenants could carry drinking water and began to replace the lines.
Normal water pressure was restored March 8 to all park homes.