Mobile home residents at the Colony in Rancho Mirage claim their property owner, Hometown America, is raising their rent incorrectly.
“We submitted initially 21 petitions,” Carol Mulvihill, chairman of Colony’s HOA political action committee, said. “There’s 220 residents we have another hundred ready to go.”
Wednesday morning, the Mobile Home Fair Practices Commission heard from three of those petitioners, including Mulvihill and other residents at the colony at a hearing. Many of the Colony residents are on fixed income and said if rent continues to rise, it’s their livelihood at stake.
“We’re finally having a hearing that they should have had with you as a board, a commission, in 2009,” Mulvihill said at the hearing.
Mulvihill said since Hometown America began managing the Colony more than a decade ago, rent has been going up ‘incorrectly’. She said they have been rounding up when computing the annual CPI. The CPI determines what rent raise residents will have to pay.
“I don’t think the colony has implemented their rent increases incorrectly,” William Dahlin, the Colony’s attorney, said. “Their ordinance is less than clear.”
Dahlin is referring to the rent control ordinance which was proposed by Rancho Mirage voters around 30 years ago. The ordinance has “some room for interpretation” according to the commission’s chairman David Gray.
“It may be that we determine that they did not use the right calculations and they need to be corrected,” Gray said.
The commission will also have to determine whether the colony has been appropriating its funds properly. The mobile home park said it has spent over $1 million in improving necessary infrastructure issues like the bridge and water mote system.
“I don’t think there’s any amenity that was an ongoing amenity that hasn’t been attended to,” Dahlin said.
Mulvihill disagrees and turned over to the commission a list of 30 items she said have been eliminated or reduced. Examples include: pool areas, walkways, flooring, blinds, water fountain, etc. She said section 9.58.050 states no mobile home park owner shall reduce or eliminate any amenities or services.
“When you look at right and wrong and what’s fair and equitable and what the law reads, it’s pretty direct,” Mulvihill said.
The commission will look at everything that’s presented and make a decision on how to move forward.
“Either the rents will stay the same or they’ll go down,” Gray said. “That’s something we haven’t decided yet.”
Rancho Mirage City Attorney Steven B. Quintanilla said the door is open for mediation meaning the parties can come together to resolve the dispute but if a resolution is not found, the next step could be a court hearing.
The next meeting with all parties will be November 12th at Rancho Mirage City Hall.