Community leaders in Delaware would like to take this moment and share our analysis of the 2014 Delaware legislative session in which a number of manufactured housing issues were advanced. We are hoping that by sharing this analysis and the lessons learned that a movement to push for the economic and retirement security can continue to grow and expand.

Legislative Agenda for 2014

In 2013, homeowners in Delaware were successful in getting passed into law SB-33, a rent justification bill, based on the CPI-U rate in our area of the country.  While far from perfect, it is a big step in the right direction to bring a measure of fairness and balance to homeowners living in leased land communities.

Since this was a major issue that literally took years to bring to fruition, our legislators requested that  for the second half of GA Session 147 in 2014, we limited our agenda to  bills from last year that were carried over along with several “clean up” bills which we were assured “would be simple to get through”. Unfortunately, we all know that with manufactured housing issues nothing is ever simple and we have experienced the usual difficulties. The following four bills passed the House and the Senate this session:

*  HB-233 – This was a clean-up bill for DEMHRA  (DE Manufactured Housing Relocation Authority) who is charged with the oversight of the rent justification program.

*  HB-106 w/A (Right of First Offer changes – revisions requested by the Attorney General’s office) – This bill extends the time frame of a HOA’s alternative purchase offer so that it remains valid for 6 months. If the community is still for sale after the initial 6 month period, the HOA can refresh their alternative offer, and such offer will be valid for another 6 months. The HOA can refresh their offer every 6 months up to 18 months. The bill further permits a HOA to amend its alternative offer at any time and allows a HOA to match a third party’s lower price offer and all of the material terms and conditions of the lower offer.

* HS-1 for HB-234 (Clarifies DEMHRA abilities to regulate their new responsibilities) – SYNOPSIS – This bill: (1) Provides clarification for how market rate is based and must be documented; (2) Allows DEMHRA to request a list of affected homeowners; (3) Provides that community owners proposing increases above the CPI-U should suggest to DEMHRA a date, time and place of a meeting and the Authority shall affirm that meeting if it finds it to be reasonable; (4) Allows homeowners or a homeowners association on behalf of a homeowner to file for arbitration if no agreement is reached at the informal meeting; (5) Makes a technical change to the effective date of Senate Substitute NO 1 to Senate Bill NO 33 of the 147th General Assembly.

*  SB-238 –  A true “consensus bill” crafted by members of the homeowners groups and the landowners groups, it addresses the disclosure problem (transfer of lease will remain as currently established with option the choice of the seller). This legislation will require manufactured home community owners to provide prospective tenants with a copy of the proposed rental agreement, a copy of the rules, standards and fee schedule of the manufactured home community, a copy of the Manufactured Home Owners and Community Owners Act, and a summary of the Act written by the Attorney General at the time the prospective tenant obtains an application for tenancy in the community, to ensure that prospective tenants have ample time and opportunity to review the documents prior to entering the community.

Moving Forward:

In 2015, we’ll be pushing for some very needed changes that include: 1) strengthening and clarifying our state’s ‘Tree’ law to ensure that community owners are responsible for the care and maintenance of trees from root to branch, 2) ensuring that enforcement of standards on upkeep are fair and reasonable and take into account the age and value of the home and 3) that homeowner insurance products are accessible and affordable for all in order to protect our investments.

Closing:

All of the above and more are indicative of our desperate need for a State Agency to oversee manufactured housing and the wide variety of issues involved. In Delaware, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Attorney General’s office is charged with our protection. We have had 12 attorneys in that position in the last 12 years – this is simply not acceptable. Retaliation is occurring in many communities, leases are rolling over with serious questions left unanswered, the list goes on and on. We view many of these cases as wide spread senior abuse since so many of those affected are in that category.

Again, what we do have access to is taking these lessons and fighting on to ensure that the retirement and economic security of manufactured homeowners are protected and strengthened.   If you would like further information, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Bobbie Hemmerich on behalf of the Delaware Advocacy Team