Del. Lawmakers Pushing Again for Rent Justification - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Lawmakers Pushing Again for Rent Justification

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DOVER, Del.- A group of Delaware lawmakers are once again pushing for rent justification rules for manufactured home communities. A bill on this passed the state Senate last year but failed in the House.

The bill stems from the split ownership situation in these communities. A manufactured homeowner owns their home but not the land it sits on. The community itself owns that and has the ability to change how much it costs to rent that land.

Dawn Arlia-Benton lives in a home in Kings Cliffe Mobile Park in Dover. She worries a lot about rent increases.

"You get yourself set there and then you get an increase. That takes from another area, like our food or gas," Arlia-Benton said. "If it comes up and they decide one year they're going to raise it up $25 or $50 dollars. That makes a huge difference. That's every month."

"You lose a great deal of control and freedom over your life that you don't anticipate losing," said Fred Neil, with the Manufactured Home Owners Association.

Supporters of the bill introduced Tuesday say it would create more predictability. Communities could only increase rent each year by the average of the urban consumer price index over the prior three years. That is a change from last year's version. If community owners feel a need for more, bill sponsor Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, says they would go before a state board for approval.

"If there is capital improvement, increase in taxes, increase in employees, general upgrade of the park - other than normal wear and tear - justification could easily be obtained."

Community owners opposed the bill last year and appear ready to oppose it again this year.

"The basic premise here is can we price our product at the market or should the government tell us we have to charge less than it's worth?" said Andy Strine, who owns communities in all the Delaware counties. "And to that simple question was uniformly then and will continue to be - no."

Arlia-Benton says she's just looking for a little flexibility.

"If they could put a cap on something, at least we'd know we weren't going to be hurt too much at the end of the year."

Ennis says he believes the changes made to the bill since last year give it a better chance to pass this year. That will require a sizeable swing in the House, where a bipartisan group of 22 representatives voted no last time around.

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