Proposed mobile home legislation is bad idea, say some residents
It was a bill that was designed to help residents ensure their mobile home communities were kept up in appearance, but the sponsors and other backers of the legislation have come to agree that the language left the door open to possible abuse of power.
Senate Bill 1262 and House Bill 1023 have been dropped by their sponsors, according to the bill’s primary backer, the Florida Federation of Manufactured Home Owners, or FMO.
The FMO sent a letter out to its members on March 19 confirming it has been withdrawn.
Jerry Durham, president of the FMO state board of directors, wrote in a letter to members: “I am writing to inform you that House Bill 1023 and Senate Bill 1262 have been removed from 2019 legislative consideration. This was agreed to by both FMO and FMHA and the sponsors of this legislation.”
Durham said further discussions with residents, “caused me to consider how rules enforcement can be abused.”
Two points voiced by the opposition and outlined in a Bradenton Herald story earlier this month, led to Durham’s decision. He said considering there were not enough checks and balances in place on who would enforce potential violations and the “divisiveness this created among our membership and mobile home owners,” it was best to drop the legislation.
“It was horrendous and would have had an impact on so many older people,” said Jan McMeans, a mobile home owner and founder of Networks for Progress, a grassroots organization that looks out for mobile home owners’ rights. McMeans opposed the bill, noting, “It scared the hell out of me. Now hopefully we can work together as long as they support their members. They got off course there, but I’m happy they pulled it.”
The bill would have allowed park owners or their management companies to enter a homeowner’s property to perform work and then bill the homeowner after a set amount of time was established to have it remedied. With the majority of mobile home owners being fixed income senior citizens or temporary residents, the bill raised more questions than it attempted to solve.
One of the biggest complaints from mobile home owners is the personal disputes between residents and management companies that sometimes lead to vindictive behavior. Fear arose immediately that the new law would open the door to abuse by certain park managers. Ultimatel,y Durham agreed.
The bill also didn’t potential issues that arise when the park itself may have caused the damage to a home. Eleanor Kelly is 76 years old and has lived in Colony Cove for 10 years.
New construction around her mobile home has caused flooding and her home is starting to sink into the ground. Kelly said management has verbally acknowledged their mistake, however, they are otherwise fighting her and thus far has refused to correct the issue.
Under the new bill, the management company could have come onto her property to do the repairs and turn around and bill her for the damage it caused.
“I’m 76 and have nowhere else to go,” Kelly said. “They want the lot. I have a prime lot on the curve and this is a disgrace. They have been tearing up this property before Thanksgiving and I’m not the only person. According to your article they could come onto my property and bill me. Are they going to bill me for what they caused?”
Fortunately, that won’t be the case now, but Kelly said, “Unsuspecting seniors have no idea what’s going on.”
It’s not the first time the issue of trying to force more rules compliance has come up. Jack Latvala, a former senator from Clearwater, sponsored several mobile home bills over the years until his resignation over sexual harassment last year.
Durham said he wanted to move the bill forward last year but feared it would become a “political football” in the wake of the scandal. Following the Bradenton Herald article, Durham said he felt like the bill was the right step but acknowledged the concerns of McMeans and Kelly.
“This actually started from the residents,” Durham said. “They would come to us and say the park manager is not enforcing the rules. The managers would say the only option is eviction and no judge is going evict if someone is not cutting their grass or pressure washing their home. The whole point was to help the the neighbors to keep their homes up to standard.”
Durham initially said cases of abuse are the exception and not the rule, but acknowledged those kind of issues do exist where a manager, “can turn out to be a tyrant. We deal with that quite a bit and there is only so much we can do. But yeah, we’ve heard some horror stories.”