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Santee Mobile Home Owners Win the Rent-Control Battle—But Not the War

The owners of Meadowbrook Santee Mobile Estates are trying to raise rent significantly, and the City of Santee and home owners are fighting back.

The residents of heard the confirm the victory they actually won three weeks ago against the company that owns the park, at a special meeting on Thursday.

Three commissioners voted unanimously to affirm that Equity Lifestyle Properties will not get the rental rate increase the company had asked for—a rate increase that would have jacked up space rentals by about $472 a month for the average space in the park.

Given that the average rate the residents are paying now is around $720 a month, it would have represented a staggering increase, especially to senior citizens on fixed incomes.

But park residents did not race home to pop the champagne corks.

They say they know full well this was a skirmish—a minor battle—in the ongoing war between the park owners and the City of Santee.

“We know this is going to go to court, that the owners are going to sue the city over the whole rent-control law” says Joanne Lepur, a Meadowbrook resident.

“It’s all part of the park owners’ strategy, and not just Meadowbrook. The city has spent more than $2 million, so far, defending the rent-control ordinance in court, and the parks are trying to keep suing until the city runs out of money,” she said.

Cynthia Celeste, the assistant manager of the Meadowbrook park, says she’s doesn’t know what the owners might do.

“I know they’re talking about what they might do next, but they haven’t really told us anything.”

Asked if there’s a chance the owners might sue, Celeste says only, “It’s been done before.”

Lepur and others at the meeting fully expect to be in court fairly soon.

They say the only reason the owners haven’t sued is that they tried once, and were turned away by the court, since the owners had not gone through all the legal processes before suing, and therefore didn’t have legal standing to sue.

The appeal for the rent increase was the procedural step the owners had not taken.

There are 12 mobile home parks in Santee, and requests for rate increases have come from almost all of them since the Santee rent-control ordinance went into effect.

A park owner must prove that rental income is less than a published index of returns on similar real estate investments in each of the three preceding years, and that the loss must have increased in each of those three years.

Equity Lifestyle Properties was unable to do that, and their request was denied as a result.

The residents know it’s a win.

They also know the war is far from over.

CJ June 16, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I live in a EL$ owned Manufactured Home Community in Chantilly, VA and we are experiencing such high lot rents that people cannot sell their homes because no one can afford the high Lot Rental and pay a mortgage on top of that. Not only is EL$ causing issues by raising the lot rent, the management office is making it next to impossible for home owners to sell their homes. They are steering possible home buyers to their rental product within the park. Since the criteria to buy or rent is the same, if a potential buyer does not qualify to buy my home, they should also not qualify to rent in the community. Our Lot Rent is now $919/month and climbing every year. Neither the State, nor the County has any rent control. In all our meetings with the county we have been told there is nothing they can do. We have written letter after letter to try and get some attention, without success. We are looking into becoming a home owner association so we have some protection under the law against retribution. We have almost 500 homes in this community and probably half are seniors, disabled or veterans. So when a homeowner goes into the office and turns in his title and walks away because they cannot sell and they cannot afford to stay, these people are losing everything. That is just not right for EL$ to be so greedy on the backs of those hurting the most. Signed, Fed Up, Frustrated and Still Fighting.
Sandra Grace October 30, 2012 at 02:18 AM
We are currently selling our home here in Meadowbrook too. Our home is beautiful, and we want to relocate to NV. The rents in parks there are about the same maybe $100.00 lower. But Meadowbrook is an imaculate park and if you just ignore the rude manager as we have over the years , life is good. Our rent controled Santee area is not ever going to be undersege again, they lost in Superior court too. But remember to sign a Month to month and not a lease when entering the park, they have been trying to get those raised too. But so far they have failed. We feel safe here, unlike other parks where we lived. So keep an open mind and give it a try, close to everything so you don't have to waste gas while driving around.
Virginia Nightengale October 30, 2012 at 10:52 PM
You are definitely right about the rude manager, Sandra, but I disagree about the safety. Where we live in Meadowbrook, there are younger people with police records (drugs) living with their elderly mothers under the guise of being their "care workers". One place has so many "care workers" crammed in it's amazing the office hasn't done anything about. The noise and cigarette smell is overwhelming but complaints do no good. We wish we had never bought in here. We will be putting our place up for sale, too, soon. The extra money we have to pay to NOT live in a trailer park will be well worth it.

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