More than 200 mobile home park residents indicated with testimony and applause Monday that they favor a County Council bill to prevent park owners from requiring security deposits from existing tenants.
The bill, sponsored by council chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, is designed to thwart plans to obtain security deposits of $350 from residents in two mobile home parks on U.S. 1 by Dec. 1.
The council will have a work session on the bill Monday and vote on it Nov. 4.
The bill is not restricted to Elkridge Mobile Home Park in Elkridge and Midway Trailer Park in north Laurel, but applies county wide. It was supported by officers in both the state and regional mobile home associations.
Leonard S. Homa, executive director and legal counsel of the Maryland Manufactured Housing Association Inc., and Michael Weinman, who identified himself to the council as "one of the principals" in the Deep Run Mobile Home Park, opposed the bill.
"I'm a bit upset the way this matter was handled," Weinman said. "The park owners should have been consulted. It is very poor practice to have emergency legislation without consulting the participants."
Gray interrupted Weinman, saying it was very poor practice to impose security deposit on longtime residents, many of whom are elderly and on fixed incomes, without first consulting them.
In general,most residents in mobile home parks own their homes but rent the land.
"We're taxable serfs, bound to the soil to where our mobile home sits," said Michael Seager, president-elect of the county mobile home association. "There is no place for us to go. My arithmetic says our fees have gone up 400 percent in 15 years, and that's unconscionable."
Carolyn Wilson, secretary of the county mobile home association, told the council more senior citizens than young adults live in the county's mobile homes.
"Our biggest fear," she said, is the "retaliatory threat (if Gray's bill passes) of raising the rent more than normal to make up for theloss of security deposits. We already haveenough homeless people in the county."
Gray said he hoped there would be no retaliatory action if the bill passes.
However, Weinmansaid that if Gray's "hastily drafted, poorly done bill passes," it would be necessary to collect two months' security deposit instead of one.
"It takes 90 days to evict a tenant that does not pay," Weinman said. "It is normal practice on our part to collect a one month security deposit, although if a person has poor credit, we might collect two." Weinman said that of his 700 tenants, only 50 put down a double security deposit.
Homa argued that the security deposits are not entrance and exit fees, but exist to protect park owners from non-payment of rent and damage to their property.
Tenants argued that the deposits were unnecessary, since most cannot move their homes to another park. As for damage to the park, most said they had improved the property during their stay.
Leonard S. Vaughn, the county's housing and community development administrator, proposed a compromise in which tenants who have been residents more than five years would not be required to make a security deposit, while those who have been there less than five years would have to pay. The compromise was not well received by residents.
In unrelated action, the county will attempt today and tomorrow to refinance $98 million in bonds in a negotiated sale. If the sale is successful, the county will raise about $2million for its general fund.
The council will meet at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow to approve the sale or suspend it, depending on the first two days' results. The refinancing is necessary, the county believes, because it is facing a net deficit of $11 million.