Rent-control issue simmering |

Rent-control issue simmering

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune Issues concerning rent increases at Tahoe Verde will be brought up at the South Lake Tahoe City Council's March 4 meeting.

A dispute between residents of a South Lake Tahoe mobile-home park and their landlord that sparked discussion of a rent-control ordinance has yet to be resolved.

Tahoe Verde mobile-home park residents and Newport Pacific Capital Company still are negotiating terms of their leases.

The company owns the mobile-home park and is represented by Lew Feldman of Feldman Shaw LLP.

“We’re trying to drill down and narrow the areas of disagreement,” Feldman said at the Feb. 12 South Lake Tahoe City Council meeting.

The disagreement prompted Councilman Ted Long last year to begin discussion of a rent-control ordinance, which he says would put tenants on a more level playing field with landlords; for example, by limiting rent increases to the rate of inflation.

Seniors who live on a fixed income in a mobile-home park have a difficult time meeting rent increases, he said.

Rent control could benefit all the mobile-home parks in town, Long said. People renting an apartment can move easily if the rent is too high. But those living in mobile homes don’t have that option, because it costs much more for them to move their home.

“The raise-rent-or-I’ll-move argument doesn’t carry the same weight,” he said.

Feldman said if the city wants to administer rent control for all the mobile-home parks, a detailed analysis would need to be completed so the rate would be fair for everyone. Also, the city would have to administer the rent control, and all these things take money, he pointed out.

Long said he plans to bring the issue back for discussion at the March 4 city council meeting.

During the Feb. 12 council meeting, Feldman said Newport Pacific agreed to reduce a cap on rent increases from 6 percent to 5 percent, thereby limiting rent increases to between 3 percent and 5 percent.

The tenants wanted to limit rent increases from 2 percent to 5 percent, so no agreement was reached.

Feldman said the cap is the protection factor for rent increase, not the floor. The company is under no obligation to limit rent increases, Feldman added.

Mike Gwin, spokesman for the Tahoe Verde Community Council, also spoke at the Feb. 12 meeting. He said he has corresponded with Newport Pacific for the past three years about rent control, but it wasn’t until the issue went before the city council that the company started working with the tenants.

“They need to correct what has been wrong from the beginning,” Gwin said.

During the meeting, Gwin said his rent was raised more than the consumer price index. In 2005, the CPI was 3.4 percent, and his rent was raised 5 percent.

If an agreement on rent control is reached, the rent control would not apply to Tahoe Verde if the property is subdivided, as is being considered.

Feldman said the 265 spaces residents are renting would change to parcels, which residents could opt to buy. If they didn’t want to buy their parcel, California state rent control would take effect to protect residents who did not buy their parcel. This pre-empts local rent control.

The proposed subdivision and conversion to resident ownership still is in the informational stages, and nothing is in definitive terms, said Hilary Hodges, South Lake Tahoe’s city planning manager. Public hearings won’t be held for a few months.

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