Bills would affect owners of manufactured homes
By LEN BONIFIELD
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 12, 2003
This is a good time for residents of manufactured homes to write to and/or talk with their legislators. Important bills are being considered in the state Legislature now that will affect all manufactured-home owners. Whether you are a permanent or seasonal resident, let your local legislator know how you feel.
Many of us living in manufactured homes are senior citizens and the legislators know that senior citizens vote. The Lakeland Ledger recently quoted Bentley Lipscomb, state AARP executive director, as saying that 57 percent of the votes cast in the state's most recent general election came from voters older than 60.
The most important bills are FS 1944 and FH 1065, which are identical. The state FMO board of directors has voted to support this legislation. These bills create a new section (320.08015) that imposes a $1 license-tax surcharge to be paid by owners of manufactured housing. It amends Section 723.007 to require a $1 surcharge on the $4 annual fee paid by the park owner for each leased lot. Neither of these surcharges is applied if the trust fund exceeds $10-million. These funds are to be used for the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Trust Fund. This section is important for communities where the owner is selling the land to developers and forcing the residents to move.
The trust fund provides funds to assist those forced to move. Often this takes place in older communities with many single-wide homes where the land is more valuable than the rental income. It is impossible to fault the owner, who bought land, developed the community with the purpose of making a profit, and now can make a large sum by selling the land. FMO is to be commended for getting the Trust Fund established and now for supporting a bill that will provide funding to assist the residents forced to move.
The bill amends Section 723.037(6) to require mediation of any dispute regarding an increase in lot rent, reductions in service or utilities, and changes in rules or regulations before any action can be filed in court. Requiring mediation would impose hardship on many communities, especially large communities, and the costs incurred might be a burden on small communities.
Another section, 723.061(1)(e), permits the owner to evict a purchaser or prospective tenant who fails to obtain approval for occupancy, and allows only seven days from notice of failure to obtain approval to vacate. The approval-for-occupancy provision allows for the signing of the lot lease and gives park management a chance to run credit checks to confirm ability to pay and to conduct background checks for criminal records.
Sometimes the home is sold by the owner and the sale closes, but the new owner is unaware of the requirement to obtain approval. The new owner immediately returns up North to sell a home before moving into the park. This could be abused by a few park owners.
A number of other provisions in these bills favor the park owner more than the residents. I urge readers to go to the Internet and search for these bills, read them and decide if you want to see them pass or fail. Go to www.leg.state.fl.us/. Then click on either the House or Senate, type in the number of the bill, and you will be able to study the legislation. Time is short, so it is important that you take action soon and call or write your legislators and let them know how you feel after you have personally reviewed the provisions.
Another issue under consideration is a telecommunications measure that could lead to higher charges in basic service. This proposal, SB 654, would permit phone companies to decrease charges for long distance and give them the chance to apply later for increases in the charge for basic service. The majority of residents in manufactured housing are senior citizens who typically are not big long-distance users. But the potential for an increase in the basic rates could have an impact on those on fixed incomes. Go online to read this proopsal and decide for yourself if you support it.
More than 3-million people live in manufactured homes in Florida. It is time for them to take action on legislation that affects them.
WINTER RESIDENT NOTE: Follow this column online while you are up North this summer. Go to www.sptimes.com. In the upper right corner ("search the archives") type in "Len Bonifield" and click on "search."
-- Send comments or questions to Len Bonifield at email@example.com, or fax to (863) 853-8023, or phone (863) 858-1557. Please include your e-mail and mailing address. Bonifield is a manufactured-home resident and a past HOA president and former officer of the FMO District 1 board of directors.
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