When a mobile home park resident moves into a park, they are required to
sign a lease. This is the only lease a resident is ever required to sign
and it should be the only lease ever signed.
It may not shock you to learn that the lease offered by the mobile home
park owner is very one-sided, and it does not slant the resident’s
way. Often, these leases are chock-full of nasty surprises designed to
take away your rights.
The biggest nasty surprise found in the leases is a mandatory requirement
that you arbitrate any dispute with the park. While arbitration may seem
like a good idea in theory, in practice, it heavily favors the park owner.
Many of these agreements require you to pay all the arbitration fees up
front. Arbitrators can charge over $500 per hour. The upfront fee can
easily total over $100,000. If you cannot pay, you lose your case. Is
this legal? Probably not. But you will spend $100,000 fighting it in court
to find out. So, never sign a lease after you move in and when you move,
sign the shortest term lease you can.
The park owner tricks residents into signing long-term leases, saying that
these leases offer lower rent than month-to-month agreements. They argue
that under a month-to-month agreement, the park can raise your rent every 90 days.
What the park owner fails to tell the resident is that under a month-to-month
agreement, California law restricts the amount the park owner may charge.
In such a case, a park owner may only charge a reasonable rent.
Now here is the real kicker. If you sign a lease and agree to unreasonable
rent, you are stuck. It is very difficult to challenge a lease you have signed.
Finally, the long-term leases compound the rent; a 5% increase every year
is a compounding increase. These types of increases over time become very
dramatic and easily outpace any concept of a reasonable rent.
The moral of the story is when you move into a park, sign the shortest
lease possible. If the landlord only offers a long term lease, you may
not want to move into that park. In any event, you should not sign another
lease after your first lease.
The law does not require you to sign a new lease and the park owner does
not create a lease to protect you. It is designed to protect the park owner.