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Mobile home park owners and tenants perpetually do battle in the Utah Legislature. But in a rare joining of forces, both groups are now supporting a bill to better define the rights of each group.
HB236 was endorsed on an 8-1 vote Wednesday by the House Business and Labor Committee, and was sent to the full House for consideration.
"As further proof the day of miracles is not over, we are in full support of the bill," said Mike Ostermiller, representing the Utah Housing Alliance of mobile home park owners.
Connie Hill, representing the Utah Coalition of Manufactured Homeowners, said her group also supports Hb236 and feels it clarifies some rights of tenants, including the right to sue park owners and collect attorneys fees if they win.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bruce Cutler, R-Murray, said it takes some small steps that all sides agree on, but not the much larger steps that both sides have sought through the years.
He said he started work on the bill seeking "a home run, but that's not going to go anywhere. So let's see if we can at least get halfway to first base. And I think that's about where we are."
Among its provisions is requiring a written lease between homeowners and park owners. "That way everyone knows what is expected," Cutler said. Recent court decisions ruled existing law did not mandate written leases.
Failure of a homeowner to negotiate and sign lease could be grounds for eviction. If a park owner fails to live up to promised terms, homeowners could sue for damages and attorney fees.
Hill said being able to collect attorney fees is important because most mobile home owners do not have much money, and have been unable to pursue such legal action.
It also outlaws "unconscionable" actions and rules by park owners. As possible examples, Cutler said some tenants report their park owners blocked sale of their homes to new owners by refusing to rent to them, because they wanted to buy and rent the trailers themselves at lower prices.
The bill also does away with a legal help line for park owners and tenants that had been operated for two years by the University of Utah law school. Those running the help line recommended its termination, saying it was not accomplishing much and found tenants often were afraid to seek legal action for fear of retribution.