A New York state senator is urging the owner of a mobile home park in Orange County to withdraw a rent increase that he says is unlawful.
Democratic state Senator James Skoufis recently joined residents of Silver Stream Village Mobile Home Park in New Windsor, declaring that a nearly 6 percent rent increase over the prior year violates the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act passed in June and enacted in July. The law mandates that mobile home lot rent increases are capped at 3 percent, barring extenuating circumstances such as a significant property tax increase. Silver Stream Village is owned by RHP Properties. Skoufis says there were no extenuating circumstances.
“In this case, in Silver Stream Village, the town and county property taxes for this owner actually decreased from 2018, and the school property taxes only increased by 1 percent. There were no major capital improvements. There were really no minor capital improvements at Silver Stream Village over the past year,” says Skoufis. “And so a number of the tenants have already initiated their own private right-of-action lawsuits against the park owner vis-à-vis this new law that was enacted this year And they will be successful because this is a very clear violation.”
Skoufis cites a letter sent to residents by RHP, in which the property owner acknowledges the new law. Skoufis read a sentence from the letter that says the New Windsor mobile home park’s community is impacted by increased expenses, requiring a rent increase above the allowable 3 percent. Skoufis says the letter did not include justification. Joel Brown, president of RHP Properties, Inc. issued a statement saying RHP communicated rent increases to residents in a timely fashion and the increases are within the new law. His statement says that while the newly enacted law states that rents may not increase more than 3 percent a year, it also allows for up to 6 percent in increases when the landlord’s expenses have increased in certain categories such as property taxes or capital improvements. He says, “Unfortunately the community has been impacted by these increased expenses which has required a rent increase above the three percent. We have sent residents a publication from the Housing division [Division of Housing and Community Renewal] that explains the new law to prevent further misunderstandings.” Again, Skoufis:
“Let me be clear. RHP will lose in court. Let’s save the time and the energy and we are calling on them, we’re demanding that they withdraw this unlawful rent increase,” Skoufis says. “Similarly, I am calling on, short of a withdrawal of those rent increases, I am calling on the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to intervene immediately and negotiate a lawful rent increase with the owners of this park.”
The rent increase is for the lot that contains the home. Several of the residents of the 138-lot Silver Stream Village Mobile Home Park are on fixed incomes, including Yvonne Maldonato.
“I’m not only advocating for myself, I’m advocating for the whole community because I’m not the only one that lives here, okay. All these families here live here, okay,” Maldonato says. “They cannot, they do not get a lease that they can understand. They get a lease in English; 90 percent of the park are Hispanic.”
She says when she moved there at the end of August 2016 her lot rent was $695. Now, it’s close to $1,000. She’s afraid she’ll have to move. Skoufis says RHP took over Silver Stream in late 2017, and this increase is the second of its size.