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Archive for Wednesday, January 20, 1999

MOBILE HOME LOBBY AT ODDS WITH LEASE PROPOSAL

January 20, 1999

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The mobile home lobby is ready to tee off on Rep. Tom Sloan's proposal to alter the way parks do business.

A Lawrence lawmaker has introduced a bill he says would protect mobile home park residents from quick and arbitrary eviction by making their lot leases run year-to-year instead of month-to-month.

But mobile home park operators promise to oppose the proposal, saying it works against them and the good tenants they want to keep.

Rep. Tom Sloan, whose district includes west Lawrence and extends into the county, said House Bill 2041 would make a mobile home park lease more in line with those standard in conventional housing agreements. Current law allows a mobile home park lease to be terminated without cause after 30 days' notice from either party.

"If you go to rent an apartment or a home, the standard lease is a year," said Sloan, whose district includes Pine Hills and Riverside mobile home parks. "People who live in mobile homes for the most part own their dwellings. All they do is lease the ground on which it sits. The industry is moving from the term mobile home to manufactured home, indicating perhaps that these structures are not terribly easy to move. So, people should have a longer lease."

Sloan said he introduced the bill at the request of the Mobile Home Tenants Assn., a group formed last year after Affordable Residential Communities Inc. sent eviction notices to about 45 residents of Pine Hills and Riverside mobile home parks, which had been recently acquired by the Denver-based company.

"With month-to-month (leases) they can throw you out pretty much whenever they want," said Joe Hutchens, a glazier at Kennedy Glass and president of the tenants group. "With an annual lease, it would be harder for them to pitch you out for no reason."

Spokesmen for ARC did not respond to a Lawrence Journal-World phone message seeking comment.

The Kansas mobile home lobby will oppose the bill, which was referred Tuesday to the House Judiciary Committee for study. No hearing date for the measure has yet been set.

"All my members are going to be very concerned," said Martha Neu Smith, executive director of the Kansas Manufactured Housing Assn., which represents about 200 park operators, manufacturers and mobile home distributors. "They want good tenants in there. If they're forced to have a bad tenant for a year, they may lose more good tenants. I would guess good tenants also would be concerned (with the proposal). The goal of the owners of these parks isn't to evict everyone. Their goal is to have a full park."

Neu Smith said park owners are under constant pressure from cities and park neighbors to keep their facilities in good condition. Removing the month-to-month lease provision will hamper their efforts to force bad tenants from the parks to the detriment of all.

"Our parks or communities are under a lot of pressure to improve, not just from people who are neighbors, but from cities and counties," Neu Smith said. "People who don't obey the rules don't get to stay. (Park owners) have neighbors they have to consider, not to mention court orders."

But Sloan said his bill would not alter landlord rights to evict for due cause, such as nonpayment of rent or refusal to comply with lease terms such as trash disposal or lawn maintenance.

"I totally disagree," with the Sloan bill, said Tracey Flaherty, a spokesman for Easy Living, a 263-unit mobile home park near 33rd and Iowa streets. "Most of my tenants like the month-to-month lease terms. I mean, this is a college town. Most college students are only here for a semester and what not."

But Flaherty said only between 5 percent and 10 percent of Easy Living residents have been there less than a year.

Hutchens said the year-to-year lease question is the first of several concerns the tenants group aims to address. Another worry for tenants is the lack of adequate storm shelter space at mobile home parks.

"We gave (Sloan) several items," Hutchens said. "We're starting out with the leases. Another thing we want to bring up is mandatory storm shelters. (Park operators) will spend $40,000 on a fence, but not on a storm shelter. They don't have anything at Pine Hills. They tell people they should go to the hospital for shelter. I know the shelter here at Riverside wouldn't accommodate everybody, if every single person went to it. And they're not handicapped-accessible or anything like that."

-- Mike Shields' phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is mshields@ljworld.com.

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