Mobile home dwellers seek fair warning

They lobbied for earlier notices from landlords who want them to move out.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:44 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Dozens of mobile home residents came to Missouri’s Statehouse on Monday to tell legislators that mobile homes aren’t so mobile.

The residents are promoting legislation to give more rights to residents of mobile home parks.

When it comes time to move, mobile home residents say it can cost several thousand dollars to uproot — and that can be hard to come by on short notice.

Two bills before the Missouri legislature would make state laws governing mobile home parks more specific, and one of those requires park owners to give 120 days’ notice if a park will be closing. Under current law, a park landlord can give 60 days’ notice.

“We desperately need this bill,” said Lana Wiseman, who was one of more than 80 people lobbying Monday at the Capitol. “We need the protection it will provide.”

Wiseman, 41, has spent most of the last 14 years in mobile homes. She lives in northern Columbia but declined to give the name of her park, saying she feared eviction.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Maida Coleman, D-St. Louis, would require park landlords to give a reason for eviction, while placing other restrictions on lease agreements and setting rules for the upkeep of parks.

Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, and Rep. Mike Sutherland, R-Warrenton, are sponsoring identical bills that would require landowners to provide 120 days’ notice if a park is closing. A hearing on Sutherland’s bill is scheduled for today.

Wilson has sponsored similar legislation at least four times, she said.

“This isn’t just something we pulled out of the air,” Wilson said. “Many other states have this.”

The proposed legislation falls in line with an ordinance in Columbia that requires 120-day notice of evictions from mobile home parks.

Other cities and counties have passed ordinances governing mobile homes as well, said Sam Licklider, lobbyist for the Missouri Association of Realtors. He said that’s sufficient.

“I don’t know what the state gains by giving in to it,” Licklider said, “unless they establish a whole trailer police.”

“We just don’t feel there’s any need to revisit the entire landlord/tenant law,” said Licklider, who represents licensed real estate brokers and salespeople.

Park owners and mobile home manufacturers also oppose Coleman’s bill.

Pettina Duenckel, executive director of the Missouri Manufactured Housing Association, said the bill’s requirement of 12-month leases for park residents would drive up costs for owners and residents.

“We’re all in the business to provide affordable housing,” Duenckel said.

Both Licklider and Duenckel said they support Sutherland’s bill, which would give park residents 120 days’ notice if their lots are going to be used for a new purpose. Sutherland said the notice should help those in the difficult situation of having to move their mobile homes.

Low-income homeowners and renters are not the only ones affected by sudden changes in the use of mobile home park land, Sutherland said. Some mobile home parks are retirement communities, which means residents aren’t planning to move anytime soon.

“They’re very concerned that the owner could change the use of the property,” Sutherland said.

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