West Stockbridge OKs rent control compromise for mobile home park
WEST STOCKBRIDGE -- Residents of the community’s lone mobile home park are a step closer to paying lower rent.
A special town meeting Monday night unanimously adopted rent control bylaws that include establishing a $325 monthly fee -- or base rent -- for tenants of the Mill Pond Mobile Home Park, who currently fork over $365 to the landlord.
The new municipal regulations governing the 35-lot housing complex on Route 41 take effect upon approval by the state Attorney General Office.
The Board of Selectmen, acting as the newly formed Rent Control Board, last month proposed the regulations after the state Legislature and Gov. Deval L. Patrick approved the town’s request to establish the rent control authority in August.
The board views the $325 base rent as an initial compromise to the ongoing rent dispute between the tenants and landlord.
"This is a starting point, as [rent control] is new to us," said board member Karen Zick, after the brief 10-minute meeting.
Park residents had wanted the rent based on figures as of March 2011, the month Bay Plum bought the park from the Gennari family. Under the new management, led by Eric Levesque, Mill Pond residents have seen a 40 percent spike in monthly rents from $260 to $365.
Nevertheless, Nancy Hale, president of the Mill Pond Tenants Association, says rent control at least stems the tide of the fee hikes that she believes are unsubstantiated.
"It feels safe knowing we can’t get another letter about a rent increase without a hearing," she said.
Under the proposed bylaw, the tenants and landlord can petition the Rent Control Board to raise or lower the base rent figure. Town officials noted the proposed regulations automatically call for an annual review of the monthly rent every January.
The landlord had wanted to maintain the current rent, saying the additional income will continue to pay for major upgrades to the park, such as water, septic systems, gravel roads and rehabilitation.
The tenants claim Bay Plum is overcharging them and plan to petition the Rent Control Board for a further rent reduction, possibly to the $260 level of three years ago, according to Hale.
"The landlord deserves a rent that will cover his expenses and make a fair profit -- the $325 is over and above that," she said.
Meanwhile, Bay Plum is seeking to sell or lease the housing development to an investor -- but Levesque said that has nothing to do with the shift to rent control.
"I’ve reached our goal of investing in the property and it’s now time to sell," he told The Eagle over the weekend
Levesque wouldn’t divulge how much the owner has spent upgrading the mobile home park since purchasing it nearly three years ago for $625,000.
In a recent letter to the Mill Pond Tenants Association, Levesque suggested the group look into buying the park; a move he says would save members money in the long run. Hales says the tenant’s group is considering the idea.
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