SPACE RENT STABILIZATION – YOUR DEFENSE AGAINST PREDATORY INVESTORS
By Hilary Mosher, M.S.
The term “Rent Stabilization Ordinance” or “RSO” traditionally refers to a law that regulates how much rent landlords can charge in mobilehome parks or in apartment buildings. This article is for mobilehome owners, and will use the term ”Space Rent Stabilization Ordinance” or “SRSO” instead. That’s because mobilehome owners have a very different situation than tenants in apartment buildings. It’s important your city council or county board of supervisors understands the difference.
You own your home, but rent the lot it sits on. Unlike an apartment renter, you can’t simply move out if your rent increases. You are a “captive” tenant. If you live in a California city or county without an SRSO, your community’s owner can raise your rent as much as he likes every 90 days.
Predatory real estate investors are coming to the California jurisdictions that don’t have SRSO’s. These corporations, LLC’s and partnerships have one goal: to make lots of money for their investors. If a predator buys your park, your rent will go up – dramatically and quickly. At some point, your rent may become unaffordable. You may lose your home, becoming an economic refugee.
The solution is a mobilehome park space rent stabilization ordinance (“SRSO”) for your city or county. The SRSO will protect you from unfair rent increases, while allowing local park owners a fair return on their investment. About 110 California cities and counties already have SRSO’s in their local laws.
How To Get Rent Stabilization
An SRSO stabilizes MH park space rents in your city or county, by only allowing annual rent increases tied to the Consumer Price Index (usually 2 to 3% per year).
SRSO’s become law in one of two ways:
- By the vote of a city council or county board of supervisors
- By the vote of local citizens, through a citizens’ initiative in a city or county election.
Steps and Timeline
First, homeowners in local parks need to ask local government officials to enact an SRSO. This won’t happen after one or two meetings with officials. If they agree to put the SRSO issue on their agenda, be prepared to advocate actively for at least several months (perhaps a year or more). If you don’t push for action, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed.
Local government officials may decide to not help you. They may not want to step on local landowner’s toes (many of these officials are landowners themselves). They may refuse to put the SRSO issue on their agenda, or vote no on it. If this happens, you’ll need to mount a citizens’ initiative SRSO campaign for your city or county. Looking ahead from today, your campaign’s goal would be to get an SRSO on your jurisdiction’s 2020 general election ballot.
Getting a citizens’ initiative on the ballot takes time and effort. You’ll need to follow specific steps to “qualify” the initiative for the election. Your city or county clerk can tell you about qualification requirements. Ideally, you’d have 24 months to qualify your initiative. However, 18 months before an election is the minimum time you will need. So, if your local officials have not enacted an SRSO by May 2019, that’s when you must start your campaign in earnest.
What To Do Now
Now is the time to start building your SRSO coalition. GSMOL can help. For more than 50 years, GSMOL has advocated for California mobilehome owners. We are the only statewide MH owners’ advocacy organization with a legislative advocate (lobbyist) in Sacramento.
Your GSMOL representatives will help you and your neighbors build a coalition to fight for an SRSO. We’ll put you in touch with resident leaders in local MH parks, and connect you with attorneys, advocates and other SRSO experts. Our Goal: to help build your team to get an SRSO for your city or county, as soon as possible. Contact me if you would like some help.
Hilary Mosher is the chairperson of GSMOL’s SRSO Committee. She led the citizens’ initiative that led to enactment of Humboldt County’s SRSO in 2016. Hilary can be a resource for you and your neighbors, as you organize to fight this battle. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.