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OXNARD : Mobile Home Space Rents Decontrolled

The Oxnard City Council has adopted a rent-decontrol ordinance that allows mobile home park owners to increase space rental by an unlimited amount each time a mobile home is sold.

The ordinance, approved by a 3-2 margin late Tuesday, was proposed by City Atty. Gary L. Gillig as a way of settling a $100-million lawsuit filed against Oxnard by park owners who say rent-control practices violate property rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The city’s previous policy limited rent increases to $50 each time a mobile home was sold.

That law prompted suits from six of Oxnard’s 21 park owners, who claimed that the city illegally kept profits from them.

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“This ordinance will put an end to the suits,” Gillig said.

But many of Oxnard’s 6,000 mobile home residents have said the ordinance signals the beginning of “outrageous rent increases” that will make the homes less attractive to buyers.

“It’s absolutely the worst piece of garbage I have ever read,” said Dennis Smedley of Country Club Mobile Estates. Smedley is trying to sell his mobile home so he can move to Arizona. Now, he said, the chances of finding a buyer have diminished.

Some said that already declining property values coupled with the ordinance could result in a 15% to 38% depreciation in mobile home sale prices.

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Marc Rachmuth, who sits on the city’s rent review board, cited a lack of rent control as the reason residents at one Ventura County mobile home park have been unable to sell their homes during the last two years.

He said some space rentals at that park have risen to as much as $500.

Last week, the rent review board voted 5 to 0 to recommend rejection of the ordinance. But only council members Dorothy Maron and Manuel Lopez voted against it Tuesday.

Attorney Robert S. Coldren, who represents the park owners, said a 1987 U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case, which ruled that rent control ended when homes are sold, makes the city liable for damages. Although state courts have supported rent control laws, he said park owners could circumvent them in federal courts.

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