2010-10-14 / Front Page

Mobile home park tenants fighting rent increase

Public hearing has been delayed
By Nancy Needham

A hearing set for Monday to decide whether the owner of a Thousand Oaks mobile home park for the elderly can increase rents has been postponed to a date yet to be announced.

“The applicant changed the way the application will be calculated, and we need time to analyze the new information,” city housing and redevelopment manager Russ Watson said.

The tenants of Thunderbird Mobile Home Park—whose average age is 80—say they received a letter from City Manager Scott Mitnick in August telling them the city has accepted an application to increase their rent by $322.52 a month, which for some is double what they’re paying now.

“The new calculation sets the annual rent increase at $260.62 per month per space,” Watson said.

In response to the original increase, the residents formed Thunderbird Oaks SOS, which stands for our Save Our Seniors, and are asking the community for help.

Marilyn Aurand, newly elected chair of the group, said what the landlord is doing is wrong.

Thunderbird Mobile Home Park has 161 units and is across from The Lakes on Conejo School Road near the 101 Freeway.

The property owner’s application is subject to a public hearing and determination by the city’s newly formed rent adjustment commission.

The commission is made up of five members: a tenant, a landlord and three others who are neither tenants nor landlords.

Once the hearing is rescheduled, the commission will take testimony from both sides and will render a written decision within a couple of weeks.

The rent commission’s decision can be appealed to the City Council.

“When I moved here a year ago . . . I was assured this park was totally rent controlled,” Aurand said.

Mobile home parks in Thousand Oaks are rent controlled by the city. The law allows for yearly cost adjustments for inflation based on the consumer price index and for rent increases when a new mobile home owner moves in.

According to Mitnick’s letter, the landlord’s justification for the increase is that it is “necessary for the park owner to achieve a just and reasonable return.”

In the application, the owners declared they didn’t make a permitted rent increase from 1980 to 1983. Cost-of-living rent increases have been allowed every year since the rent control ordinance was first passed in the 1970s.

Gretchen Carter, Thunderbird property manager, offered no comment when asked about the proposed rent increase. Requests to speak with the property owners were also denied.

A letter from the applicant’s attorney, Boyd Hill, to assistant city attorney Christopher Norman, states that the city should be required to render a decision by Oct. 20, 75 days after the city accepted the original rent increase application.

“The hearing will clearly be past the Oct. 20 date,” Watson said.

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