Response sought to rent increase at Beacon Falls’ mobile home park

First Selectman Gerard Smith speaks at the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, September 12. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma citizen news

BEACON FALLS — City officials are looking to pass an ordinance to establish a fair rent commission after residents at River’s Edge Mobile Home Park were hit by a rent increase from new out-of-state owners.

Residents want the city to set up a Fair Rent Commission after the Orlando, Fla., Fair Rent Commission raised monthly rent by $50 this year, after increases of $30 and $45 in the previous two years ago when she acquired the 55 unit mobile home park in 2019 from the current community manager, Mark Kudasik.

The Board of Selectmen has begun exploring options to create a fair rent commission by directing the city’s attorney to do some research. The proposed commission would need either seven or nine members of the public willing to invest time to be on the board.

The commission will also need its own caseworker because there’s a lot of research being done on what needs to be done when making claims for landlords adjusting rent, First Selectman Gerard Smith said.

“It’s a lot of work and a lot of expense for a small town,” Smith said at the Sept. 12 electoral college meeting. “So it’s a (threshold of) 25,000 (population) and up where they have to do this.”

Smith said Colleen Dana’s petition from the trailer, with about 35 signatures, will get the ball rolling, but a proposed ordinance must go through a citywide vote.

Dana said she plans to gather more signatures and submit the petition to City Clerk Leonard C. Greene by September 16.

“Once we get that back in, I’m going to have the attorney finalize the regulation because then we have to formally bring a proposed regulation to the Board of Selectmen that spells out how this commission works, which is very unclear,” Smith said. “So it’s going to take the attorney some time from the research he did to even form this committee.”

Smith said the City Council will keep the Fair Rents Commission on its regular agenda.

Dana said residents still want to push for the fair rent commission, although Smith said the process to form a commission is cumbersome and expensive.

“I know a few people felt like we were trying to get brushed off about funding,” Dana said. “That may well be, I don’t know much about it. I learn as I go.”

Richard O’Brien, CEO of Athena Real Estate, previously said the rent increases are in line with last year’s CPI inflation and demand in the community is high at 100% occupancy.

Former Oxford First Selectman Kathy Johnson, who owns a trailer with her husband and son and lives in the park, agreed with Dana.

“He (Smith) mentioned an ordinance, but I stand firm on the reasonable rent commission,” Johnson said.

Colleen Dana in front of her RV in Beacon Falls in August. Rent payments from tenants at Rivers Edge Mobile Home Park have risen sharply. Steven Valenti Republican-American

Dana said she plans to speak to some of her neighbors to get their views on joining the proposed commission.

“I’d very much like to consider joining,” Dana said. “I think it’s important.”

Dana said there were a few specific complaints she planned to send to the Department of Consumer Protection by last week.

Local residents complained about maintenance issues related to the water pressure.

Smith said he investigated the water pressure complaint at Aquarion Water Co. and said there is a lot of pressure on Donna Street that serves the Rivers Edge community.

“In fact, they’re concerned that there’s too much pressure on the road because the road is 100psi, which means there’s no reason at all for you to be stuffed in the park,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, Smith gave the mobile home residents who packed the town hall boardroom some options for possible financial relief. These include an Elderly Tax Credit in the City of Beacon Falls, an Elderly Tax Credit in the State of Connecticut, and the Tax Relief Program for Elderly and Disabled Homeowners in the City of Beacon Falls.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal and a group of 16 other senators and members of the House of Representatives wrote a letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Aug. 4 to call for more protections for renters in RV communities.

Dave Delohery, president of the Connecticut Manufactured Homeowners’ Alliance and a resident of Southington’s Cedar Springs trailer community, said earlier that a new state statute was passed in June, requiring cities with over 25,000 residents to create a fair rental commission by July next year .

Delohery organized an event at Southington’s First Congregational Church on September 10, which drew at least 100 residents and state officials.

Senator Richard Blumenthal said he was genuinely deeply troubled by what he had seen and heard about the RV problems and was committed to working on the legislation.

“I don’t take no for an answer. I’m not giving up,” said Blumenthal.
“I’m not going away. I’m not backing down.”