Corona Trailer Parks Might Get Voluntary Rent Control

Saturday, March 25, 2017
Suzanne Hurt

Corona officials could pursue voluntary rent control for trailer parks in an effort to help elderly and impoverished residents facing 30 percent rent hikes over two years. The City Council is expected to have an April 26 study session after individual members tried for a year to find a compromise between those living at Corona La Linda Mobile Home Park, where most residents are low-income Latinos, and Kort & Scott Financial Group in Anaheim, which bought the trailer park in June 2015. Riverside County weights and measures investigators have found that Kort & Scott, doing business as Sierra Corporate Management, overcharged Corona La Linda residents for water but undercharged for electricity, new county Agricultural Commissioner Ruben Arroyo said Wednesday, March 22. Officials are now investigating whether the company has been overcharging for gas, said Arroyo, who’ll then decide whether to send the findings to the District Attorney for a possible civil penalty. Kort & Scott/Sierra Corporate Management officials didn't respond to requests for comment. Council members are reluctant to enact rent control. But unless a solution is found, the council may consider a “worst-case scenario” adopted by Modesto in 2007: passing rent control for trailer parks that don’t voluntarily agree to lower rent increases, said Councilman Eugene Montanez. “Right now, in my mind, everything is on the table,” added Montanez, who began working on the issue as mayor. Sierra Corporate Management raised monthly mobile home space rents at Corona La Linda from $650 to $779, or 20 percent, last year and plans to raise rent by $79, or 10 percent, this summer and then at least 5 percent each year, said Montanez and the Corona La Linda homeowners' association president. That means existing tenants -- including retirees, disabled people on Social Security and low wage earners -- would pay $1,044 in five years and $1,331 in 10 years, on top of trailer mortgage payments. Residents flagged down a county weights and measures official at the park in July after making three prior requests for an investigation into utility charges. They told the City Council some were threatened with eviction and having water and electricity shut off if they didn’t pay the bills. For 12 months, tenants were undercharged about $5 per space per month, or less than $8,000 for the park. Those who went above baseline water amounts were overcharged less than $1 to $450 in that period, totalling $7,028, said county Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Ron Bray. The company, which does its own meter reading and billing, is refunding tenants for water overcharges, Arroyo said. Lawmakers eye rent control Riverside County and about 12 California cities including Riverside, Redlands, Yucaipa, Fontana, Palm Springs and Los Angeles have rent control. Last month, state legislation was introduced to repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act limiting cities’ rent control, as high rent and aggressive landlord practices are displacing low-income and middle-class tenants throughout California. Tenants Together, a San Francisco-based statewide renters’ rights group, has gotten reports that landlords and real estate speculators all over the state are charging 10 to 50 percent and even triple-digit rent increases. That amounts to eviction notices for those who aren’t wealthy, said attorney Dean Preston, the group's executive director. “These rent increases drive folks out of their homes and, often, out of their communities,” he said. Residents at Kort & Scott’s Corona West Mobile Home Estates on Lincoln Street, whose residents are nearly all Latino, already pay at least $1,300 a month. At Corona La Linda, the company raised monthly space rentals for new tenants to $1,300 but cut that to $950 after residents began protesting monthly at City Council meetings and twice-monthly at downtown rallies to demand fair rent increases,sa id tenant Lydia Heusner, president of the Corona La Linda Mobile Home Park Homeowners Association.

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