by Michael Lyle, Nevada Current
For the last decade, Jeanneil Marzan paid $645 a month to rent a space for her manufactured home at Sierra Royal Mobile Park.
When the first rent increase of $40 came in September 2022, the Sparks resident found it reasonable even living on a fixed income.
Everything changed in December after a multi-billion dollar global private equity investor, Carlyle Group, bought the park and notified its residents of the 151-home community that rent would be increasing to $1,010 per month.
Marzan, along with residents of her community, pleaded with state lawmakers Monday to consider rent stabilization legislation for mobile home parks to regulate how much can be charged each year.
“Quite frankly, our legislature is our lifeline because we have nowhere else we can go,” Marzan said. “We have no control over what is happening to us. I implore the legislature to look at this closely. We are in dire need.”
Senate Bill 275, brought forth by Democratic state Sen. Skip Daly, would prevent landlords of manufactured home parks from raising rents higher than the “maximum annual rent increase percentage calculated by the (Nevada) Housing Division.”
The bill, which was heard by the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor on Monday, limits annual increases to be 60% of the yearly Consumer Price Index, the main measure of inflation.
Landlords could apply for exemptions and the cap wouldn’t apply to “pass-through expenses,” such as the cost residents pay for sewer and garbage services.
While SB 275 currently has an effective date of Jan. 1 2024, Daly said he plans to introduce an amendment to move that date up to July 1 of this year.
Daly said in the past many of the manufactured home parks in Nevada have been managed by smaller companies and families.
More parks, he said, are being bought by corporate investors who “are only looking at the bottom line and not the effects” rent increases have on the residents.
“The people we are talking about in these mobile home parks are often seniors, (people with) single incomes and the most vulnerable people unable to adjust unless they get some help from the legislature,” Daly said. “Without some help from the legislature, the most vulnerable people are going to be pushed out of these places.”
Jonathan Norman, the statewide advocacy, outreach and policy director for Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, told lawmakers there is a rising national trend of private investors purchasing mobile home parks.
Those purchases are driving up rents and forcing people out of housing.
“I think with this type of investing if we don’t put a stop to it now it’s just going to increase,” said Norman, testifying in support of the bill.
Nationwide, mobile home parks have been getting gobbled up by investors because land is increasingly in demand for other projects. Park owners propose major rent hikes or changes in leases, and residents have few protections under a patchwork of state laws.
Several residents spoke to Nevada lawmakers about their unease following their community being sold in December. For years, most have relied on month-to-month leases without a problem or without previous owners drastically increasing rents.
“We could be handed a piece of paper next week that says our space rent is $1,200 a month and there is nothing we can do to keep them from doing that,” Marzan said.
Reed Anderson, who lives in Sierra Royal Park, said all residents received after the park being sold was a single piece of paper notifying residents about the new ownership and instructing people how to pay rent.
In the three months since the purchase, he said speculation has brewed among residents about what additional costs could come.
“We have no voice in these matters,” he said, calling the bill “our only assurance” that rents won’t continue to skyrocket and drive them out of their homes.
Karen Louton, another resident at Sierra Royal Park who lives on a fixed income, said most of the people in the community are living in fear.
She and her husband have become recently stretched thin financially after needing to replace a furnace and air conditioning unit, but worried one medical bill or car problem could further jeopardize their financial security..
“We are cutting back, not traveling, not eating out and not buying things other than necessities,” she said. “Is that going to be enough? “What happens when we are forced out of our homes and there is nowhere else to go in this economy? This is what we live with every day.”
The legislation was opposed by the Manufactured Home Community Owners Association.
Mackenzie Warren Kay, a lobbyist for the group, said that rent stabilization policies “may provide quick relief at the onset but ultimately could quickly lead to downstream economic consequences that harm housing markets.”