By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — Town officials are looking to pass an ordinance to establish a fair rent commission after River’s Edge Mobile Home Park residents were hit with a rent increase from new out-of-state owners.
The residents want the town to create a Fair Rent Commission after Fair Rent Commission of Orlando, Fla., raised monthly rent by $50 this year, after increases of $30 and $45 in the previous two years when it acquired the 55-unit mobile home park in 2019 from the community’s current manager, Mark Kudasik.
The Board of Selectmen has begun exploring options to create a fair rent commission by directing the town’s attorney to do some research. The proposed commission would need either seven or nine members of the public who are willing to spend time to be on the board.
The commission also will need its own clerk because there’s a lot of research that goes into what needs to be done when claims are made for landlords adjusting rent, First Selectman Gerard Smith said.
“It’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of expense for a small town,” Smith said at the selectmen’s meeting on Sept. 12. “That’s why it’s a (threshold of) 25,000 (population) and up where they are required to do this.”
Smith said mobile home resident Colleen Dana’s petition of about 35 signatures will get the ball rolling but a proposed ordinance will have to be submitted to a town-wide vote.
Dana said she planned to collect more signatures and submit the petition to Town Clerk Leonard C. Greene by Sept. 16.
“Once we get that back in, I’ll have the attorney get the ordinance ready because we have to then present officially a proposed ordinance to the Board of Selectmen spelling out how this commission works, which it’s very unclear how it works,” Smith said. “So it’s going to take the attorney some time from the research that he did to even form this committee.”
Smith said the town board is going to keep the fair rent commission on its regular meeting agenda.
Dana said residents still want to push for the fair rent commission even though Smith stated the process to form a commission is cumbersome and expensive.
“I know a few people were feeling we’re trying to get brushed off due to funding,” Dana said. “That may well be, I don’t know a lot about this. I’m learning as I go.”
Athena Real Estate CEO Richard O’Brien previously said the rental increases are in line with the inflationary consumer price index increase for the last year and demand at the community is high with occupancy at 100%.
Former first selectman of Oxford, Kathy Johnson, who owns a trailer with her husband and son lives in the park, agreed with Dana.
“He (Smith) mentioned an ordinance but I’m standing firm on the fair rent commission,” Johnson said.
Dana said she planned to talk to some of her neighbors to get their feelings about joining the proposed commission.
“I would very much consider joining that,” Dana said. “I think it’s important.”
Dana said there are a couple of specific complaints that she planned to send by last week to the Department of Consumer Protection.
Residents complained about maintenance related issues regarding water pressure.
Smith said he looked into the water pressure complaint with Aquarion Water Co. and said there’s plenty of pressure at Donna Street that serves the Rivers Edge community.
“A matter of fact they’re concerned that there’s too much pressure at the street because there’s 100 psi at the street which means there’s no reason at all why you’re chocked out at the park,” Smith said.
In the meantime, Smith gave mobile home residents, who packed Town Hall’s meeting room, some options for potential financial relief. These include a Town of Beacon Falls Elderly Tax Credit, a State of Connecticut Elderly Tax Credit and the Town of Beacon Falls Elderly & Disabled Homeowners Tax Relief Program.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and a group of 16 other senators and members of the House of Representatives wrote a letter Aug. 4 to the Federal Housing Finance Agency to call for more protection for tenants in mobile home communities.
Dave Delohery, president of the Connecticut Manufactured Homeowners’ Alliance and a resident of the Cedar Springs mobile home community in Southington, previously said a new state statue was passed in June mandating cities over 25,000 residents need to create a fair rent commission by July of next year.
Delohery organized an event at First Congregational Church of Southington on Sept. 10 which drew at least 100 residents and state officials.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he’s really deeply disturbed by what he has seen and heard on the mobile home issues and is committing to work on legislation.
“I’m not taking no for an answer. I’m not giving up,” Blumenthal said.
“I’m not going away. I’m not backing down.”