News

Mobile home residents ready to sue city over rent control

Rental Housing Committee, against attorney advice, won't include mobile home park tenants under Measure V regulations

Update 03/30: The attorney representing mobile home residents said he filed for a writ of mandate on Thursday. If approved in court, this would force Mountain View to cover mobile homes under the city's rent control program.

Mountain View's Rental Housing Committee could soon be headed back to the courtroom over a decision to exclude tenants at mobile home parks from the city's rent control protections.

Earlier this month, an attorney representing two mobile home residents at Santiago Villa issued a demand letter urging the committee to reverse its decision not to extend rent control to Mountain View's 1,100 mobile homes. If the committee refused, the residents would file a lawsuit to get the action rescinded, said attorney Armen Nercessian of the firm Fenwick & West.

"Mountain View voters provided a clear mandate to the city: protect Mountain View renters, including mobile home residents," Nercessian wrote. "By adding exemptions to CSFRA that have no basis in either law or policy, the RHC has disregarded the terms of this mandate and failed to live up to its express duties under CSFRA."

In his letter, Nercessian said he was representing two Santiago Villa residents, identified as Mariel Bolhouse and Tim Larson. Both his clients have also filed petitions with the city for a rent adjustment, he said.

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The Rental Housing Committee briefly discussed the new legal threat in closed session on Monday. Members later announced they had voted 3-1 not to change their position, with committee member Emily Ramos opposing and member Evan Ortiz abstaining.

The legal basis for bringing mobile homes under the CSFRA is extremely complicated. The voter-approved law never once mentions mobile homes, and attorneys for the city say the language contains numerous conflicts with the state's Mobilehome Residency Law.

Nevertheless, city legal staff advised the Rental Housing Committee members earlier this year to bring mobile homes under the rent control program approved by voters as Measure V. The law explicitly excludes certain types of housing, such as hotels, condominiums and duplexes, but mobile homes are never mentioned among these exemptions. City legal staff explained that it would be hard to argue that mobile homes shouldn't be covered under the law.

Despite that legal advice, mobile homes didn't have enough political support on the committee. A majority of Rental Housing Committee members said they were uncomfortable with various legal tweaks and huge financial stakes at play. In a 3-2 vote, Chairwoman Vanessa Honey along with committee members Matthew Grunewald and Tom Means voted to exclude mobile homes.

Ever since that decision, mobile home residents have warned that they would seek legal recourse. Trey Bornmann, president of the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance, said on Monday that mobile home plaintiffs would first pursue a writ of mandate to effectively reverse the Rental Housing Committee's decision. If that effort is successful, mobile home residents may go further and sue for damages, he said.

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Mobile home residents ready to sue city over rent control

Rental Housing Committee, against attorney advice, won't include mobile home park tenants under Measure V regulations

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Mar 27, 2018, 12:30 pm

Update 03/30: The attorney representing mobile home residents said he filed for a writ of mandate on Thursday. If approved in court, this would force Mountain View to cover mobile homes under the city's rent control program.

Mountain View's Rental Housing Committee could soon be headed back to the courtroom over a decision to exclude tenants at mobile home parks from the city's rent control protections.

Earlier this month, an attorney representing two mobile home residents at Santiago Villa issued a demand letter urging the committee to reverse its decision not to extend rent control to Mountain View's 1,100 mobile homes. If the committee refused, the residents would file a lawsuit to get the action rescinded, said attorney Armen Nercessian of the firm Fenwick & West.

"Mountain View voters provided a clear mandate to the city: protect Mountain View renters, including mobile home residents," Nercessian wrote. "By adding exemptions to CSFRA that have no basis in either law or policy, the RHC has disregarded the terms of this mandate and failed to live up to its express duties under CSFRA."

In his letter, Nercessian said he was representing two Santiago Villa residents, identified as Mariel Bolhouse and Tim Larson. Both his clients have also filed petitions with the city for a rent adjustment, he said.

The Rental Housing Committee briefly discussed the new legal threat in closed session on Monday. Members later announced they had voted 3-1 not to change their position, with committee member Emily Ramos opposing and member Evan Ortiz abstaining.

The legal basis for bringing mobile homes under the CSFRA is extremely complicated. The voter-approved law never once mentions mobile homes, and attorneys for the city say the language contains numerous conflicts with the state's Mobilehome Residency Law.

Nevertheless, city legal staff advised the Rental Housing Committee members earlier this year to bring mobile homes under the rent control program approved by voters as Measure V. The law explicitly excludes certain types of housing, such as hotels, condominiums and duplexes, but mobile homes are never mentioned among these exemptions. City legal staff explained that it would be hard to argue that mobile homes shouldn't be covered under the law.

Despite that legal advice, mobile homes didn't have enough political support on the committee. A majority of Rental Housing Committee members said they were uncomfortable with various legal tweaks and huge financial stakes at play. In a 3-2 vote, Chairwoman Vanessa Honey along with committee members Matthew Grunewald and Tom Means voted to exclude mobile homes.

Ever since that decision, mobile home residents have warned that they would seek legal recourse. Trey Bornmann, president of the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance, said on Monday that mobile home plaintiffs would first pursue a writ of mandate to effectively reverse the Rental Housing Committee's decision. If that effort is successful, mobile home residents may go further and sue for damages, he said.

Comments

a mv resident
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 3:56 pm
a mv resident, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 3:56 pm

Rent control is often seen as tilting the balance too far away from property owners.
Yet, mobile homes are often misunderstood, since they involve two property owners (both with equity at stake, and both pay property tax too).

One owner owns the mobile home, that isn't actually mobile, the other owner, the landlord that rents spaces. Each space rent increase further diminishes the homeowners' ability to sell. If the space rent goes up beyond a homeowner's means to pay, the homeowner either loses the home they bought or is forced to sell directly to the park at a discount, since in Mountain View, the mobile home landlord not only rents out space, but also rents out entire homes (they own) to tech renters.

If any classification of housing warrants rent regulations, it's mobile home parks.


David
Waverly Park
on Mar 27, 2018 at 4:59 pm
David, Waverly Park
on Mar 27, 2018 at 4:59 pm

The "rental committee" is stacked 3-2 against any rent control. But whether the initiative extends to mobile home parks is not clear (from the artocle). So just litigate it. Meanwhile, the landlord's representatives on the City Council probably are getting ready to place the repeal of the rent control initiative (or a superseding phony replacement) on the November ballot (no voter signatures required).


Rob
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 6:17 pm
Rob, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 6:17 pm

yeah. this town went from a cool place to live to a meat shop of renters that work for google who have pushed the city council into increasing the city's living capacity for google/FB/etc. Owners that don't live here love the increase in rental payments, they care not for the standard of living for the renters.. less shops, more traffic.. higher rent. crowded everything. anyone notice the RVs in the streets too? great place. The city council has only one group in mind even though the majority are renters. Remember that when you are voting.


Jamie
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 11:30 pm
Jamie, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 27, 2018 at 11:30 pm

Want to add that giving up precious land to the corrupt Los Altos School Department is a huge mistake. They need to get their house in order, first, by firing their school superintendent, Jeff Baier. Once he is gone, there is a small chance that other administrators could be replaced. It fits with the housing crisis in our community.many people do not realize how Los Altos deceives its own population and mountain view.dont do business with Los Altos. is.


george drysdale
another community
on Mar 28, 2018 at 1:24 pm
george drysdale, another community
on Mar 28, 2018 at 1:24 pm

With a free market there would be no mobile home parks in Mountain View at all. This is understood in other states where mobile home parks are regarded as land banks to become something better (highest and best use). Now the lawyers are involved flunking out of a basic economics course (no price controls, thank you). The number one lesson plan in economics on its way where this lesson plan will be most appreciated.
George Drysdale land economist and initiator


The Business Man
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2018 at 1:52 pm
The Business Man , Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 28, 2018 at 1:52 pm

MY only comment is that the legal report submitted by the RHC legal counsel clearly stated under the CSFRA the land space rent was NOT exempt of the CSFRA.

My observation was that the RHC did not want to act on its own, it will defer the decision to the courts.

I understand that this will result eventually in a multi year refund of overpayments because of the lack of action done by the RHC.

But that could have been avoided by the mobile home owners adjusting the rents before all of this took place. This was the same mistake made by the apartment owners resulting in the refunds paid to tenants in September and October of 2017.

Those that refuse to adjust pay a heavy price.


Renter
Sylvan Park
on Mar 28, 2018 at 9:32 pm
Renter, Sylvan Park
on Mar 28, 2018 at 9:32 pm

While rent control was well-intentioned it should be repealed. Too many unintended consequences.


LOL
Castro City
on Mar 28, 2018 at 9:56 pm
LOL, Castro City
on Mar 28, 2018 at 9:56 pm

Funny seeing "Renter" come in and regurgitate anti-V talking points. Simply put, Measure V is keeping our neighbors in their homes who would otherwise be forced to leave, and this is in spite of an unfriendly council and a massively unfriendly RHC. It works really well if it can do that in the face of Tom Means et al. trying to undermine it.


fred
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2018 at 12:09 am
fred, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2018 at 12:09 am

Don't back down. If you do not get rent control you will loose your home.
Make sure you check the California laws = MRL governing mobile homes.
Either vote out non supporting council members or get a ballot initiative
and take the decision out of the council member decision / vote.


Ignorance is bliss
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2018 at 8:39 am
Ignorance is bliss, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 29, 2018 at 8:39 am

Once your lease is up, nothing rent control can do if the property management does not want to rent the place out. So rent control is nothing but a bunch of expensive cost that in the end will be placed on the renters. Causing rents to skyrocket even further.

Renters, keep on dreaming of low prices, because if that is what you want, you might as well move out. The people that the high tech companies bring in from all over the world need a place to stay. So don't blame Property management companies for trying to bring there units up to current prices.


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