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Rent won't be raised-for now Jon Campbell | Fri, Jun 18 2010 05:52 PM

More than 80 people filled the seats at Chula Vista City Hall Wednesday for a meeting of the Mobile Home Rent Review Commission, where the board considered allowing a rent increase at one of the city's mobile home parks.

The commission decided not to take action but will reconsider the park owner's application in 45 days. The board's decision to postpone action was greeted with applause by some members of the audience, viewing the reprieve as a minor victory.

Chula Vista has a rent control ordinance in place that restricts the amount and frequency with which rents can be raised on the city's many mobile home residents.

Park management is allowed to increase costs up to one percent per year based on the consumer price index, a standardized measure of inflation, but is restricted from raising rents beyond that point without first making their case to the commission.

Park owners are allowed to apply for rent increases when they can show that upgrades to the facilities - capital improvements - warrant additional fees. They cannot, however, pass on basic maintenance and repair costs to their residents, a distinction at the heart of the Brentwood dispute.

The park's owner, Brentwood MHP Investors, has applied for permission to raise rents on the 200 units in the park contending that certain improvements, including new electrical systems, laundry facilities and street paving, need to be recouped with increased rent. The company has sought a $96 increase in monthly rent over three years, at $32 per year.

Some Brentwood residents say the work that's been done at the park amounts not to a capital improvement, but to basic and necessary maintenance, or simply the repair of facilities that violated city code when the park was purchased by the current owners in 2007.

Penny Vaughn, president of the Chula Vista Mobile Home Residents Association, said those living in the parks can't afford an increase of this type. Vaughn said many of the park's residents are senior citizens with very tight finances.

"These people in there are on fixed incomes, they're on Social Security ... it's a David and Goliath. You've got laypeople like myself, and all of us are volunteers and we've put in hour after hour trying to go through this paperwork," said Vaughn. Residents simply don't have the funding or resources to compete with the owners, she added.

When the new owners of the park purchased the property in 2007, it was the subject of numerous city building code violations. As part of the purchase agreement, the new owners were given a grace period to fix the problems.

Residents say some of the costs that the owners are currently trying to pass on are improvements that were mandated, and known, before the new owners made their investment.

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