Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/06/1996 03:10 PM L&C
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 487 - LANDLORD/TENANT TRAILER PARK ISSUES CHAIRMAN KOTT announced the committee would address HB 487, "An Act amending the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and the civil remedy of forcible entry and detainer as they relate to mobile home park operators and mobile home park dwellers and tenants." REPRESENTATIVE CAREN ROBINSON, sponsor of HB 487, said she has given the committee a proposed committee substitute. Number 1455 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON moved to adopt CSHB 487, Version F, Cook, 2/28/96, for the purpose of discussion. CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if there was an objection. Hearing none, CSHB 487(L&C) was before the committee. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said the bill attempts to address problems experienced by some owners of mobile homes which was brought to her attention by residents in Juneau. She noted she has tried to remedy these problems not interfering with landlord's absolute right to collect space rent and balancing the concern of home owners that they may lose their home and their investment in their home without leaving a loophole for deadbeat tenants. Current landlord tenant laws include a special section that relates only to evictions from a mobile home park. The law includes this special section because the legislature recognized that there is a big difference between being evicted from an apartment you rent and being evicted from a piece of land on which your home sets. She explained HB 487 does three specific things. First, it allows the court to take into consideration whether the landlord was adhering to the spirit as well as the to the letter of the law. Currently, courts are not permitted to consider whether or not the landlord was motivated by a dishonest purpose or by a reason different than the one given for the eviction. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON explained the second thing is it requires the landlord to serve an eviction notice in one of three ways. The first is to deliver it in person to an adult member of the household. The second is to post it securely on the main entrance of a home. The third is to send the notice by certified or registered mail. Currently, landlords are allowed to simply post the notice anywhere on the premise and also they can give it to anyone at the trailer, including a child. Finally, it requires the court to ask the homeowners how long it might take to move the home. There is no specific time line set out in the current law. It can be difficult and even impossible to move a mobile home, especially if the home is an older home and/or if there is no place to move it. It also gives you a time to sell the home. Representative Robinson said the court should be able to allow a reasonable period of time to sell or move a trailer. An important aspect of the bill is that the homeowner must pay rent, in full, and on time during this time. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she knows there are deadbeats out there and there are probably too many of them. A majority of mobile home park owners and landlords are honest hardworking people who are trying to do their best for their tenants, but there are some homeowners that have been the victims of the current law and there are certainly some landlords who act with less than honorable motives. Representative Robinson said we all know that life can sometimes deal all of us a wildcard and that we've all probably, at some time, asked for a break from a bill collector or the bank who holds our mortgage or car payments. She said HB 487 attempts to provide those special circumstances and to make sure that people do not lose their homes due to one unfortunate circumstance. The bill also tries to make sure that landlords are not stuck with a bad tenant or situation that they've made every legal effort to correct. In relation to that, she said she wanted to point out that even though the committee substitute is not perfect, both groups will be addressing the committee with some of their concerns. She asked that the committee members work with her in trying to get a fair piece of legislation through that takes into account both the landlord and tenant. Number 1653 CHAIRMAN KOTT asked Representative Robinson to address the changes from the original bill. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON referred to page 2, lines 21 through 23, and said originally she had asked that 120 days be granted to relocate the mobile home after eviction. Now it requires that for an eviction the judge include a specific period of time to vacate the space or to move or sell the mobile home. She said the section speaks to what the judgement must include. CHAIRMAN KOTT asked if those lines also correlated with paragraph 3 on page 2, lines 16 through 18. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON explained that is a new section which also refers back to the (indisc.-coughing). She referred to page 3, lines 1 through 4, and said it adds two additional ways for a notice to be served. One is by securely posting the notice on the main entry of the premises. In talking with landlords, they felt that there are often situations where someone avoids receiving an eviction notice. She said she believes the current practice is that the notice can be placed anywhere on the premise. This change would make it clear that it had to be securely posted on the main entry of the premise or sending it by certified or registered mail. Representative Robinson said the original version gave one means of serving the notice which was in person to an adult. Number 1757 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER referred to leaving the period of time to be determined by the court and said if the court elected to find out how long it generally took to sell a trailer in Anchorage, and that turned out to be six months, would she guess that the court would then allow six months. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said her original language was 120 days, but after talking with the mobile home park owners in Juneau, they felt that it was better to leave the decision in the hands of the judge. She came up with the 120 days originally by talking to different real estate agents where they were asked what the approximate time is to sell a mobile home. Currently, in some cases, people get only 30 days. That is adequate time to move a mobile home if there is a place to move it to. In most cases, especially if it is an older mobile home, there really is only one option and that option is to sell it. Number 1827 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG referred to the committee substitute and said it appears that in order to get any kind of disposition of the property, you'd be forced to go to court and get a judgement. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON pointed out the only reason that would be is if the eviction was being contested. Again, if you own a mobile home and you can't move or sell it within the period of time that you've been given to be evicted, she would assume in most cases it probably would go to court. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG referred to the existing landlord tenant law and said a landlord can evict a tenant, for no cause, from an apartment. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said that is not true for a mobile home. She referred to a person who rents mobile home that may be owned by someone else and said you'd still fall under the same laws as any other eviction regarding owning a piece of property. What is different here is "I own the mobile home and it is on your property." That is where the difference lies. "If you evict me from you're land, if I can't move my home or if I can't sell my home, then I lose my home to you." She said all she is asking for is a fair playing field. Representative Robinson said, "If you evict me, that I have adequate time. First of all I have good notice. I have been noticed that I'm being evicted and that's why we have put please post it, don't just post it anywhere on the property. Please give it to an adult, not a child because this is a very serious matter. And then thirdly, if I am going to be evicted, give me time - adequate time to basically sell and move my home during the time I'm paying the rent. And again, I'm not saying they can do it without paying the rent. As I understand, in some cases, the judge actually has ordered that if they didn't pay their rent that they could be evicted within five days." Representative Robinson said there are people in attendance at the meeting that might be able to give a little more understanding of some of the circumstances and things that have occurred. Number 2004 SHELDON WINTERS, Attorney, Lessmier and Winters, came before the committee to testify on HB 487. He informed the committee trailer park owners have a vested interested in keeping tenants. Mr. Winters pointed out that currently any eviction for nonpayment of rent or violation of a safety rule, etc., requires notice and an opportunity to cure. You don't pay your rent, the landlord has to give you notice. He referred to legislation passed last year and said if you give written notice, you've got seven days to cure. He said he thinks one of the reasons why they gave it seven days was because of you give ten days or two weeks to cure, if they don't cure then you have to go to court. When you get a court date, you could be looking at six weeks. When two or three months go by, you've got someone who hasn't paid rent. Mr. Winters pointed out there is a notice and a cure provision that is already in effect. MR. WINTERS said Representative Robinson told the committee that there are already strict limitations on trailer park owners. You can only evict for four reasons. One is if you decide to change the use of the land. You have to give the tenants six months of advance notice. The second reason is if the tenant has actually been convicted of a crime, that crime continues and it deals with safety and health issues. The third is if you're in violation of the lease rules that are detrimental to the health, safety and for nonpayment of rent. He said absent one of those four criteria, you could stay there forever. MR. WINTERS explained there is a statute in effect, that was addressed in the Sharp case, which is a good faith requirement. In every case the court has to look at it in good faith whether it is an apartment owner or a trailer park owner. MR. WINTERS referred to the bill and said the first two sections deal with the good faith requirement. He referred to being involved in the Sharp v. Trail case and said he would tell the committee some of the facts of that case. The Trails had a trailer park business and a construction business. Mr. Trail wanted to use part of his land to park his construction equipment on. Mr. Trail gave notice to the Sharps that he wanted to use some of his own land for his construction business. He gave the Sharps 180 days notice. The Sharps abandoned their trailer, they stopped making payments and left. A year goes by and the trailer stays there, no payments are made on the trailer and, of course, their lender says that they are going to repossess the trailer. They repossess the trailer. Two years go by and the Sharps decide to sue the trailer park owners. The trailer park owners go to court and say, "Look, we wanted to change the use of the land, we gave them notice, we did change the use of the land, we've always kept the use consistent, it wasn't any side effort to try to get rid of these people." Mr. Winters said the trailer owners came back and said, "Well, wait a second, we remember a few years ago that you said something like you didn't like the looks of our trailer and that creates an issue of fact and we want a trial on this good faith issue." Mr. Winters said the owners moved for summary of judgement and the case went to the supreme court. The supreme court said, "Yes, there is a good faith requirement and yes it does require objective good faith, and yes, it even requires subjective good faith and you have to look at that, but you have look at it in the context of what was done - the conduct that was taken and if there was a change in the use of land. If in fact the change was in good faith and all evidence shows it was in good faith, we're not going to have a full blown trial just because these people come in and say, `Well I remember a few years ago that you thought my mobile home didn't look good'." MR. WINTERS said that was basically the ruling of the Sharp case which he thinks is good law. He said the bill would require, in every single case, this determination of whether there was any other motive. You will always go to trial. All the tenant has to say is, "I think this is bad faith and you're going to end up in a trial." Mr. Winters said he believes the good faith provision in the bill should go forward. He said there is already a good faith standard. Number 2251 MR. WINTERS referred to Section 2, subsection (2), and said before granting or denying the plaintiff recovery of possession, the court must consider what is equitable to the parties. That basically throws out any standard we have. If someone doesn't pay rent, then the court is going to have a trail on what's equitable, what's fair and whether there was a good reason for not paying rent. MR. WINTERS said the problem with the good faith requirement and the things this bill wants the court to inquire into is that in some cases you shouldn't have to go into the existence of a bad faith motive. If you don't pay your rent and you are two or three months in arrears, that ought to be grounds for eviction. You shouldn't have to have a full blown trial if a tenant says, "Well, I think you're also evicting me because you don't like my looks." He said that is what the bill would require. MR. WINTERS referred to subsection (3), and said before granting the plaintiff recovery of possession, the court should inquire into what would be an appropriate and sufficient time for disposition of a mobile home. He said he has problems with the language. Mr. Winters said this applies to any reason. He said if he has already given six months advance notice, would he have to ask the court to determine how much longer they need. They have already been given six months notice for change of use of land. Mr. Winters said he doesn't think the issue should be disposition. If these people are evicted because they violated a crime or they're committing safety violation, are we then going to allow them a time to figure out how long it takes to sell their trailer? Mr. Winters said the bottom line is that they are evicted, they're out of the park. It doesn't really matter whether they can sell it, transfer to another park or store it in some other place. The issues is eviction, not disposition of the trailer. MR. WINTERS said another concern is the issue of paying rent in the interim. If the court says, "You have four more months to dispose of the trailer," how are we going to ensure that person pays rent? Mr. Winters said the court already, in any eviction situation, doesn't say "You're evicted, get the trailer out of here today." The court always looks at how much time you need. Basically, it's varied, it's been from two weeks to six weeks. They do say, "You need to pay rent during the interim." He noted they very rarely pay rent during the interim. Mr. Winters said if there is going to be a provision allowing these people to stay, there has got to be some remedy for the landlord to receive the rent. MR. WINTERS referred to what type of eviction is at issue and asked: If a person has been convicted of a crime and is violating safety and health regulations, should they be allowed to stay another four months? MR. WINTERS stated there is already a system in place. He said he thinks the system really works and it is fair. There are ways to go about doing this that is more fair to the landlord. Mr. Winters referred to a concern mentioned by Representative Robinson about losing the home. He referred to people who have house payments and said if they miss their payment, they're going to lose their home. That is no different in this situation. Number 2445 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER said if a trailer owner falls behind in their space lease...[END OF SIDE A] TAPE 96-16, SIDE B Number 001 MR. WINTERS said, "assumed that has progressed down where they can't move that trailer, then the trailer park owner obviously has a space that's not collecting rent. And so they declare the trailer abandoned, they put it up for public sale. Anybody can bid on it, including the owner, to pay the back rent, and then whoever ends up owning that trailer, even the current owner, has to get it out of there. And more often than not, you find a situation where no one shows up for public bid and it's the obligation of the trailer park owner to move it out of there, $500 to haul it out to the dump or wherever. And they've just lost -- they don't recover the space rent and they don't recover the cost of moving it. REPRESENTATIVE PORTER asked if there is a requirement in any of the scenarios where the original owner would receive the balance of funds. MR. WINTERS said it is a public sale and the owner of trailer would receive the balance of the funds. First, the back rent is paid and the cost of the sale, etc. The law requires them to receive whatever that balance is. Number 046 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked Mr. Winters if he has a problem with the notice requirements in the bill. MR. WINTERS said he and his clients do not have a problem with the notice requirements. REPRESENTATIVE ELTON said there may be a determination where the court says you have six months to sell or move the trailer. The way he reads the bill is that a trailer owner is required to keep paying their space rent and if they don't, there is every opportunity to use the remedies Mr. Winters was talking about earlier. He said a landlord wouldn't lose rent under the provisions of the bill, as he reads it. If you don't pay your rent, you're out of there. MR. WINTERS pointed out the bill doesn't provide for that. He said the way he reads the bill is if the court gives you six months to try to dispose of your trailer and the court will say, "And I hereby order you to pay rent." It is just an order and even the court can not get blood from a stone if the guy doesn't have money to pay rent. The question is, "What happens then?" This bill doesn't address that. He questioned whether they go back to court and go through the same thing. Mr. Winters said the courts already do give a period of time, but if they want to make it say, "The court shall consider," and give it a period of time, he would suggest that if they are given two months, the court should also require that they pay a month in advance. Number 125 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON referred to page 2, lines 23 and 24, and said the way he reads those lines is if the rent isn't paid when due, then the provisions allowing the extra time for moving or selling the mobile home are kind of null and void. The park owner then has the option of just telling those people, "You're gone!" MR. WINTERS said Representative Elton's point is well taken in the sense that this has some doubt in it. He said it should be spelled out. REPRESENTATIVE ELTON asked Mr. Winters if he is saying it should be paid in advance rather than when it is due. MR. WINTERS answered in the affirmative. Number 169 REPRESENTATIVE ELTON referred to there being a public sale and asked if some park owners don't just take over the trailer and then rent it out to somebody else. MR. WINTER said if they do, they're doing it illegally because they don't have possession of that trailer. He said you have the right to evict the trailer, but you don't have a legal right to go in and occupy and re-rent it. If the park owner bought the trailer at a public sale, then they could rent it. Number 208 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Mr. Winters if that is the only way an owner can take possession. MR. WINTERS said that is the only way he knows of legally. He said it is not the mobile home park owner's property to take. Number 231 BRAD BRINKMAN, Attorney, Botelho, Brinkman and Pearson, was next to address HB 487. He noted he represents Switzer Village Mobile Home Park. Mr. Brinkman said he has been an attorney for 19 years and used to work for Alaska Legal Services. He informed the committee Switzer Village Mobile Home Park has 300 trailer spaces and HB 487 would have a large impact on running that operation. Mr. Brinkman said he agrees with Representative Robinson that the bill is not perfect. It needs an awful lot of work. MR. BRINKMAN said the legislation was for the purpose of agreeing with the dissent in the Sharp case. The problem is that the Sharp case is not a breach case, it is not really the normal case for landlord/tenants. It is where a trailer park said, "You're not in breach, you paid our rent, you haven't had loud parties, we haven't been getting phone calls from your neighbors, you don't have trash all over the household. What we do is we want your space, you've been paying everything - get out. He said that is a totally different situation, but that is what the purpose of the legislation is about, and it has no bearing on what the issues that the committee is talking about. MR. BRINKMAN said, "In a breach situation there is a contract, a lease, that says `Don't have loud parties, we don't want phone calls from your 14 neighbors, don't throw trash all over the place, don't leave your boats and cars parked at an angle, don't fight with people, don't have your dogs bite people, pay the rent on time.' There is a breach, then the landlord must already, by law - - this is why I don't think that this bill is necessary, but by law and I refer to Alaska statute 34.03.220 (a), that says, `If there is a material noncompliance by the tenant of the rental agreement or by statute, then the landlord must give a written notice specifying - specifying the acts and the omissions (indisc.) breach and shall specify that the rental agreement will terminate upon a date not less than ten days after service of the notice.' Now if the breach is not remedied, not cured, the rental agreement terminates and, of course, the person can go in and ask for an eviction order by the court. Section (b) of that same statute says the same thing only it refers to rent. So we've got a lease that says pay the rent by the first of the month. That goes by, at least in our case, we give them five days grace period. We send out a notice. It may be four or five days to get that done. We tape it on the trailer - the door. Then they don't pay or another party occurs or the cops show up again. And so we've given them time to cure and they don't cure and then we go to court and have a hearing to evict the trailer. Why I disagree with the first section of this bill is, for example, it says `The court shall, notwithstanding any provisions of the contrary, inquire into whether the plaintiff has acted in good faith.' Well out of default the plaintiff knows he didn't pay the rent. The plaintiff knows they've had the cops there five six times, the plaintiff knows they're in breach. Why then does the court have to inquire whether the plaintiff acted in good faith when the defendant hasn't even shown up." Mr. Brinkman suggested that should probably be changed to a "may." MR. BRINKMAN explained that the bill says the court should inquire into the good faith of the tenant, anytime, for any reason set out in AS 34.03.225 (a) which discusses when you can evict a mobile home. Mr. Brinkman said since this talks about the Sharp case, the only portion of that statute the Sharp case addressed was AS 32.03.225 (a) (4). That is the change of circumstances where the landlord can say, "Get out, we don't need a reason. We just want to change the park." Mr. Brinkman said, "But in this case, because the prior statute says, `O.K.' and this is what the language I don't understand in this says `The court should look at the motive of the plaintiff and you should not have - do an eviction for any reason not expressed in the notice and you should not do it for any dishonest motive.' But in all landlord/tenant cases the notice has to say, `Here's the breach.' You have to specify it. Secondly, you have to give them an opportunity to cure the breach. Thirdly, if the breach is cured, you cannot evict." MR. BRINKMAN referred to the second point and said, "If the notice does not specify the reason why they're being evicted and give them the opportunity to cure, if for example, there is some unexpressed or some ulterior motive, then the tenant has not had an opportunity to cure, the court will not grant the eviction, and in fact the court will turn around and order attorney fees assessed against the mobile home park operator. So what I'm saying is the bill is already addressed with regard to these breach provisions in AS 34.03.220, and it's not necessary with regard to that portion of the bill. MR. BRINKMAN said, "With regard to the second section, `before denying or granting the plaintiff recovery of possession, consider whether plaintiff's recovery of possession is equitable to the parties,' that is a Pandora's box. I mean gee, I admit I didn't pay the rent, and you probably will hear single horror stories from individual tenant around the (indisc.). But frankly, I've done perhaps 100 eviction notices in 20 years and I've heard a lot of things and it is much like this: `I got back to drinking last month, I lost my job, I drank up all the money, I didn't pay the rent for the last couple of months but - and I admit all of these things - and the cops came and everything else, but gee it would be equitable if you would let me stay there because I got a couple kids to take care of, it's the winter time - and if you do this to me you're gonna ruin my recovery.' I mean if that's what provision 2 is, you have listed a Pandora's box that you're gonna have differing judgements from differing judges through every judicial district throughout the state. And I would ask that the committee simply contemplate wiping that out because that's no standard whatsoever." MR. BRINKMAN said he agrees with Mr. Winters in that if you're going to inquire into someone's subjective intent or whatever, you're going send everybody to the court house and you're going to send them there for a day or two of trial. If there is a breach and everybody admits it, then there should be an eviction. MR. BRINKMAN referred to granting the plaintiff recovery of possession as to inquire about appropriate and sufficient time for disposition and said he has a couple of points to address. Mr. Brinkman said, "I think the committee was saying `Well, gee, if they don't move the trailer, then I think there is a misunderstanding that the park ends up owning it.' That's not true. Mr. Winters was correct, there is a public sale done. In the majority of cases, the bank owns the trailer. There is a lien, there is UCC financing lien on this property. So if the owner is not paying the rent, they're usually not also paying the bank. The park just can't come in take the bank's trailer or the person's trailer. All they're entitled to possession of the land underneath - their land underneath. The mobile home operator can take it and store it some place until another opening opens up in another park. They can sell it, but it's not the park owners right to go back in take possession of the trailer." MR. BRINKMAN referred to Section (b) and said, "The courts already do this. I had an eviction last month and the court said, `How long is it gonna take you to move the trailer?' And he said `Oh, two months or whatever.' And I said `You know, we're trying to get the months down -- the next rent down the line. Could we perhaps do it in six weeks or whatever?' And the court inquired to the parties and I think the court gave him the six weeks to move the trailer. But the court already does that on a case by case basis." MR. BRINKMAN said he has the same problem as Mr. Winters with the statement about the rent should be paid when due. He said in 80 percent of the eviction cases, it is for nonpayment of rent. Mr. Brinkman said they've already served notices, paid processors and filing fees, and have already gone through a trial. The person didn't pay the rent. The courts already found that. Under the legislation we would be saying, "Well, lets let them stay." Then it will be the landlord's responsibility to incur further legal fees to go back in and have another hearing about whether or not rent was paid for month three, four, five, six or however long it takes to either move the trailer or dispose if it. Mr. Brinkman said they've already had that hearing. The tenant has already breached and the court has already made findings. Now it is incumbent upon the mobile home park operator to go back in and get another fine that was already done in a previous hearing. Number 698 MR. BRINKMAN referred to the notice provision and stated he doesn't have a major problem with it. He noted they do it by posting it on the door. Mr. Brinkman said he has a problem with the main entrance as on some mobile homes there are two or three doors. The park operator may not know which door is the main door, so maybe it should be posed on all three doors. Mr. Brinkman said certified mail doesn't work because if a person knows they haven't paid their rent or there are bill collectors, they're not going to sign for the certified copy of the mailing. MR. BRINKMAN said he has a very strong problem with the equity argument. He said he thinks that if a court says, "Well gee, this person has more money than this person, so lets let the other person stay in there even though they haven't been paying rent," that would be unconstitutional. It is a taking without just compensation. MR. BRINKMAN said, "The last point I would like to make is that this bill - the effect of this bill, if you're going to put trailers in who are not paying rent and let them stay for five or six months and put in provisions about how long a trail is and everything else, the ultimate affect of that is that the mobile home park operator is gonna have to recoup his cost. He's got a mortgage, he's got employees, he's paying for sewer, on going to the tailer while it is still in eviction statutes, water electrical lines to it usually, snow plowing and everything else. And if you put onerous provisions upon his ability to get out breaching bad tenants, people who have the police show up, people that don't pay their rent, people who have garbage everywhere, then the ultimate victim is not the park owner. The ultimate victim are the 295 other good tenants at Switzer Village Mobile Home Park who pay their rent on time, who don't get into fights, who don't have problems. And that is where the cost is going to be passed on to. So I would ask that the committee take a hard look at this bill." Number 847 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG referred to the statute in the supplement and said he noticed that Section 34.03.225 was amended two years ago. He asked Mr. Brinkman to comment on what was amended. MR. BRINKMAN explained the amendment says, in subsection (a), you cannot evict unless the person hasn't paid rent. It says that mobile home park tenant has been convicted of a federal or state law and that the violation continues. The third part is that it is detrimental to the health, safety and welfare of the tenants. Number 1003 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON referred to Mr. Brinkman's testimony where it could be five or six months for the eviction and asked if he sees anywhere in HB 487 where she wants somebody to have five or six months before they would leave. MR. BRINKMAN referred to HB 487, paragraphs 2 and 3 (b), and said they indicate that the court can make any determination it wants as to what is appropriate and sufficient in a disposition by sale or by moving. He referred to Representative Robinson saying that she spoke to realtors who said it takes 120 days to sell a trailer. That is four months. He pointed out in a recessionary period it may be longer. Number 1084 KAREN MORGAN came before the committee to testify in support of HB 487. She explained she was 14 days late on her space rent in January, 1995. Her check was sent on January 14, however, the following Monday was a holiday and her rent check didn't get postmarked until January 17. Ms. Morgan explained an eviction notice had been given to her thirteen-year old daughter at her home. She pointed out the assistant manager did not tell her daughter that the document was an important document. The notice fell behind the telephone stand until she had a knock on her door where she was served with eviction papers. Ms. Morgan said her litigation has continued for a year. Her daughter, feeling distraught and responsible for not giving her the notice, tried to commit suicide. Ms. Morgan said the decision was reversed by a judge in that the eviction notice was not sufficient delivery to a thirteen-year old. She said the notice should be handed to an adult at the mobile home or it should be sent by certified mail. MS. MORGAN stated she would also like to discuss the issue of reasonable time to move. Ms. Morgan said if she had been evicted in October, November or December, even if she found a space to move her trailer to, it probably couldn't be done during those months because of weather. During those months the ground is frozen and her trailer couldn't have been set up for sewer and water. She noted she has called several trailer parks inquiring about space and there wasn't any space available. One trailer park manager said if she were ten feet shorter, they would have given her a space. MS. MORGAN referred to another option which was to purchase private land. She noted there are zoning problems with moving trailers on to private land. Private land is very expensive in the Juneau area. Number 1328 MS. MORGAN explained when she bought her trailer in 1989, it was a foreclosure and one of the clauses in her contract was that she pay the back space rent. Ms. Morgan stated her rent was 17 days late and she included her late charges in her rent check. MS. MORGAN noted many mobile home parks won't take 15 plus year old trailers. Her is 20 years old. If she can't purchase private land, her only other option is to abandon her trailer. Number 1429 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA asked Ms. Morgan if she believes there was another motive for eviction besides being late with her rent check. MS. MORGAN said she believes her park owner has a very hidden agenda. He has been forcing people out and has been buying brand new mobile home. There is a manufacturer who has been giving people good deals on mobile homes. REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA referred to the time while Ms. Morgan was in court and asked if she paid her rent. MS. MORGAN said she paid it to the court. Number 1533 REPRESENTATIVE SANDERS asked if before Ms. Morgan was served with the eviction notice, did she pay her rent on time. MS. MORGAN explained she had been late before. She pointed out when she signed the lease it said, "If you are late, if you do not pay by the fifth, there is a $25 charge and then it is $5 a day after that." She said the lease didn't state a cutoff time. The late charges were always included. She said she would say they were late maybe once every two years. MS. MORGAN explained she received a packet of information from the manager of her trailer park that stated, "Oh, we understand that you're interested in selling your mobile home. If you'd like to sell your mobile home, here are some applications because in order to sell your mobile home, that's fine, you can sell it but we've got to preapprove your buyer to rent the space." Number 1970 SHEILA FOULKS was next to address HB 487. She referred to housing in Juneau and said there are more and more park owners who are now also selling trailers. she said she feels more people are being evicted to make more room for the new trailers. Ms. Foulks said she has at least a $30,000 investment on someone else's land and the land investment is a month to month tenancy with rules that seem to change. The landlord/tenant laws are to protect the tenant, but there is not enough protection or reasonable time to do anything. Currently, there are no spaces in Juneau to move trailers to. MS. FOULKS indicated that trailer parks don't always meet some the city and borough ordinances. It seems the city and borough ordinances seem to go one way - against the tenants. Trailers get evicted for not being up to city and borough codes. She explained she had received some "fix up notices" and said when she replied to some the things she didn't feel should be applicable, she received another notice, "Notice of Intent to Terminate." This was not because she was behind in her rent. She felt she shouldn't have to do some of the things she was asked to do. MS. FOULKS said if you own a trailer and you rent it out, the notice would be tacked on the door and the owner may never know. The management knows who owns the trailer because you have to notify them that you're renting your trailer. Ms. Foulks said the bill is not a perfect bill, but she feels there needs to be some added protection. Number 1970 CHRISTINE BRITZA was next to address HB 487. She explained she bought herself a trailer in Sprucewood Mobile Home Park in February, 1993. Ms. Britza noted she works for the state. She said she rents a room out in order to help her pay space rent. On November 11, she was given a notice of termination of tenancy because she paid her rent late. The reason was because she to make payments for car insurance, IRS, her mortgage payment, trailer insurance and property taxes. Ms. Britza said she tried to get in touch with the owners of the trailer park on November 16, and couldn't reach them. She said she called the Coogan Development office in an effort to obtain the telephone number for Sprucewood Park. She obtained the number and called twice and her phone call was never answered. Ms. Britza said she mailed her check on November 20, which was the last day for her to make her payment. She said she put it in the mail at 4:30 p.m. and had thought the sign on the mail receptacle had stated that the last pick up was at 5:00 p.m. Ms. Britza later found out it said, "In this area." She stated she finally found where Coogan Development's business trailers were. She noted in the area of the office there are two streets with similar names. MS. BRITZA explained James and Sheila Wilcox owned Sprucewood Park when she moved in, she and her lienholder had to sign the lease agreement. They considered the lienholder an equitable interested party to the property. When the new park owners took over, they didn't notify the lienholder of taking over the park. They didn't get the lienholder to sign the lease agreement and didn't give him notice of eviction. MS. BRITZA referred to the check she mailed to the landlord and said it was one day late, post marked for November 21. The check was sent back to her and she was notified that her landlord was taking her to court to evict her. Ms. Britza informed the committee of the different ways she had tried to satisfy the landlord. She stated she believes eviction notices should be posted on the front door and also should be sent by certified mail. TAPE 96-17, SIDE A Number 001 MS. BRITZA discussed her experience in attempting to find land to put her trailer on. She pointed out everything was due to being one day late on a notice of termination of tenancy even though she took good faith action to try to rectify the situation. Her landlord isn't giving her any alternatives other than to move the trailer. Number 102 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA asked Ms. Britza if she is still in court. MS. BRITZA said she went to court on December 8, they granted the order to vacate. She was told by Coogan Development, on December 7, that they were willing to work out something reasonable about whether or not she intended to sell or move. On December 13, she called Coogan Development to set up an appointment to discuss what her options were. She said she spoke to Lloyd Coogan and he told her he would check with his attorneys to find out the legal ramifications of allowing her to stay. Ms. Britza continued to inform the committee of her dilemma. She told the committee she missed her 30 day time period to appeal the decision, but is still going to appeal under Court Rule 60 B, because she believes they breached the contract and there is a premeditated intent to upgrade the park. Number 350 KAY MONTES was next to testify. She informed the committee she works as a paralegal for Alaska Legal Services. Ms. Montes explained she has been an owner of mobile homes for approximately the last 16 years. She discussed a situation that occurred in Juneau where over 100 low income families were evicted from their homes. She indicated very few of the mobile homes were ever actually moved to new mobile home parks and the ones that were moved were the newer homes. Almost of all the homes were stored and were eventually destroyed for scrap metal. The reasons other mobile home parks refused these trailers was due to the lack of space and the age of the trailers. MS. MONTES informed the committee she currently has a mobile home in Sprucewood that she rents out. She said at one point in time she received a notice to quit because of some technical things that needed to be done as the owners were making an effort to upgrade the park. However, despite the fact that she had notified the owner of the park she wanted all notices sent to her at her address, the notice was given to the ten year old son of her renter. The child didn't give the notice to his mother until two days prior to the expiration of the notice period. Ms. Montes said the notice needs to be given to the owner of the mobile home and not to the tenant of the mobile home. MS. MONTES referred to owners of trailer parks being in the business of keeping tenants and said that is true, but they're not necessarily in the business of keeping the tenants they have. To her knowledge, there is not one trailer park in Juneau, with the exception of newly developed parks in North Douglas, that actually meet current City and Borough of Juneau (CBJ) mobile home park codes. However, all of the parks are grandfathered in under the old code as long as they don't increase their number of spaces. She said it was explained to her by the CBJ Planning and Zoning Commission that if a mobile home park owner were to actually add a space, then they would be required to bring the entire park up to code including playgrounds, lighting, etc. Therefore, a mobile home park owner may be highly motivated to evict an older mobile home in order to have the ability to move a new trailer in. It is becoming more common for mobile home park owners to purchase new trailers and as soon as they can seize the opportunity to get rid of one tenant, they move a new trailer in for their financial gain. MS. MONTES pointed out a mobile home park owner has the right to refuse to enter into a new rental agreement with a potential buyer for a mobile home. Likewise, a mobile home park owner has the right to refuse a particular mobile home owner to rent to a particular new potential tenant. Ms. Montes said it is very important that adequate time be granted to mobile home park tenants to attempt to sell their homes or secure new spaces. She discussed problems that could occur if somebody is in the hospital and doesn't receive a notice. Ms. Montes urged the committee to consider moving the legislation. CHAIRMAN KOTT informed the committee that it was not his intent to move the bill at this time. Number 1034 JIM DAVIS, Attorney, Alaska Legal Services - Southeast Alaska, was next to come before the committee. He said he would like to point out that in the real world in Juneau there are people who have lived in their mobile homes for 15 to 20 years. After being late one time, some of them are homeless. He said he isn't talking about deadbeat people, he is talking about people who want to pay their rent. He said Alaska Legal Services has represented people who have offered to pay their rent three months in advance and the landlords refused. He said the business of landlords is not to keep tenants, it is to make money. If the landlords in Juneau and elsewhere in the state find that it is more profitable to evict an older mobile home and put a brand new one in and make $15,000, that is what a business person will do. MR. DAVIS informed the committee of a situation where a tenant was late on her rent because she was in the hospital having a baby. She tried to pay her rent and offered rent in advance when she was released from the hospital and the mobile home park owner refused. Mr. Davis said the landlord had purchased a new mobile home to put on her spot. MR. DAVIS said he thinks the bill is trying to get at what the system is designed to do which is fairness and equity. He pointed out that if an owner doesn't receive a notice because it was served to a child, etc., and then they receive a notice to go to court, it is too late once you're in court to cure the problem, you've lost. Mr. Davis said he would never ask that a deadbeat person be given a break, all he is asking for is fair notice so that the problem can be fixed. MR. DAVIS said the bill talks about "May a judge look behind what a landlord says." It is important that the bill pass for that reason. He said he had a case where a woman is being evicted and it was because a landlord wants to get the old mobile homes out of the park. Mr. Davis said the landlord even admitted to this in court. He explained that what is really happening in the courts is judges feel constricted and prohibited from going beyond the stated legal reason. MR. DAVIS informed the committee that when there is a public auction, buyers come and they are told, "Guess what, in the city of Juneau the supply and demand is such that you can't move this trailer anywhere, and guess what else Mr. perspective buyer or Ms. perspective buyer, we're not going to let you keep the trailer here. So your options are you can buy it, you can't move it anywhere within 50 miles of here and you can't keep it here." He said nobody will want to pay anything for it. Mr. Davis suggested looking at previous public auctions that have occurred to see who buys the trailers. He stated the landlords buy every single trailer. MR. DAVIS pointed out that everybody sometimes makes a mistake. In this case, if a tenant makes a mistake, the result could be that they lose everything. Mr. continued to give testimony in support of the legislation. He asked that the committee move the bill forward and said it is a step in the right direction. Number 1501 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG questioned what the most commonly used methods are for eviction. MR. DAVIS said it is either because you're late on paying your rent or it is because of a rule or regulation. REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked what the right of a landlord is on raising rent. MR. DAVIS stated it is unlimited. If they wanted to double their rent, they could. Number 1558 TRACI WALKE, Manager, Thunder Mountain Trailer Park, was next to address the committee. She informed the committee she manages a mobile home park for her father that he has owned for 28 years. Ms. Walke noted she has managed the park for 11 years. In 28 years, there has been three evictions. She noted during her working experience over the 11 years, she did two of those evictions. One was for nonpayment of rent. The second wasn't actually an eviction as the judge terminated the lease because the people were having parties, fighting, walking into other people's homes. Of the two she evicted, the trailers went to public auction because they were abandoned. The owners of both of the trailers were given the option to sell them prior to abandonment. At the public auction the owners didn't show up. When the first trailer was auctioned, somebody outbid the opening bid and they got the unit and then moved it to another park. She explained the trailer park had to clean up the space in which there was collapsed structure. It cost thousands of dollars that the park never recovered. Ms. Walke referred to the second trailer and said by default, the trailer park ended up with it because nobody out bid the minimum bid which was approximately $4,000. She noted the minimum bid was what the park had incurred in expenses. Ms. Walke said they ended up selling the trailer for less than what they had into it after they obtained possession through the public sale, by default. She noted that home has also been moved to another park. Both of those homes are over 20 years old, both were moved and both found other spaces. MS. WALKE explained over the last three years she has sold over 26 new units and they are located in four other parks in the Juneau area. There are also units in Skagway, Haines and Gustavus. She explained the size of her trailer park has been increased and they have also made sales within the park. Improvements have been done that benefit the tenants. Ms. Walke said she doesn't agree with HB 487. The Alaska Manufacture House Association (AMHA), based in Anchorage, doesn't agree with it. She noted the AMHA represents about 6,500 spaces in 30 mobile home parks across the state. MS. WALKE informed the committee if the bill passes as it is written, she is going to use AS 34.03.225 (A)(4) and will close her mobile home park and build apartments. Because the trailer park is paid for, they can afford to do it and will. Number 1764 REPRESENTATIVE KUBINA asked, "Are there though -- do you know of a person, I mean you probably know every park person - park manager here. Are there people that you feel like do not..." MS. WALKE said there are a few bad apples, but not everyone should be punished for a few bad apples. She noted she agrees something should be done to stop the bad apples that gives all of them a bad reputation. She said there are people she has had to take to court and evict and then turned around and let them stay because they were able to do what they were supposed to do - pay up their rent. Some had extenuating circumstances and were afraid to talk to her. Ms. Walke said you have to work with each person in each situation. Number 1833 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Ms. Walke if she believes a notice should be given to a child. MS. WALKE indicated she doesn't believe a notice should be given to a child. She said she sends certified letters and most of them come back. She said she posts notices on the front door and also mails notices by regular mail. You can't take a child to court, you shouldn't be serving a child. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked Ms. Walke if she believes there should be a certain period of time for people to sell or move. MS. WALKE said reasonable time. REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON asked if it is the good faith section she believes should be removed from the bill. MS. WALKE said if the section was written appropriately, she would tend to go along with it. Number 1985 WALLACE POWERS, Bering Straits Development Company (BSDC), testified via teleconference from Nome. He informed the committee BSDC is also the owner of Valdez Mobile Home Park which has about 185 spaces. He pointed out his business doesn't have many of the problems that are in occurring Juneau. He said he is opposed to HB 487 for a number of reasons. Mr. Powers explained BSDC does not generally post notices under the rear bumper of the trailer anyway. They are adequately posted. They frequently have contact with the tenant before they begin any proceedings on eviction. There is ongoing discussion with the tenants who are delinquent in their rent. It is not a surprise to them when it comes time for an eviction. He said they could live with the idea of posting notices on the door and sending them by registered mail. He referred to the time to vacate a space and said they are not in a situation, in Valdez, where they typically evict people quickly. They enjoy having them live in the trailer court. They are in the business to rent the space. Mr. Powers explained that they deal with people who have seasonal jobs, so they go a little extra distance trying to work with some of the people who have seasonal incomes. In many situations, they may go two or three months without collecting rent because they don't want to go through the eviction process as it is expensive. Mr. Powers said, "We're concerned about any extension of time that may be required. I guess if in practice the courts start extending more time to these people to allow for their circumstances, then ya, we're going to bring the period back and we start requiring evictions, way back. I mean instead of three - four months, we're gonna start doing it much sooner." Mr. Powers said the rest of Alaska might have some slightly different circumstances than what is happening in Juneau. The idea of there being an extension of time, assuming the rent is paid, that is fine, but it also leaves the door open if the judgement is not worded correctly, if it is not self executing, they are back in court. MR. POWERS referred to the good faith provision and said he knows there are a lot of professions where everything one does that someone else disagrees with is an act of bad faith. The courts already bend over backwards trying to afford mobile home park tenants against eviction. This is due to the difficulty of trying to relocate these trailers. The court recognizes it and they allow for these things. Mr. Powers pointed out that at the Valdez Mobile Home Park they have implemented one change of land use in the 20 year history they've owned the park. It is not a frequent occurrence. He said he believes the other provisions being included in the bill are rather onerous in the day to day activities in term of routine evictions. Mr. Powers said they have probably done about six evictions during the five years he has been employed by them. He noted his company doesn't own a single trailer in that park. If other operators of parks were to abuse their tenants unreasonably, his company would welcome those tenants with open arms. Number 2158 BEN MARSH, Executive Secretary, Alaska Manufacturers Association, testified via teleconference from Anchorage, stating his association has passed a resolution opposing HB 487. He noted he would send a copy to the committee. Mr. Marsh said in Anchorage, he hasn't heard of any complaints of the nature of the horror stories he has heard that have taken place in Juneau. He said the reports he has received from mobile home park owners is that it is difficult to effect an eviction and if you do effect one, you spend a lot of money and lose substantial rent on spaces. In Anchorage there is space available, they don't have the same situation that exists in Juneau. Mr. Marsh said HB 487 seems to open the opportunity for tenants to string out eviction processes that are already loose. He said the courts have the ability to effect equity and in almost every case he is aware of, the courts do grant extra time. MR. MARSH said HB 487 is vague and opens up a whole can of worms as far as providing opportunities for tenants to overcome evictions which are probably legitimate. He said his organization is opposed to the bill. Number 2283 REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked Mr. Marsh what the space rent is in the Anchorage area. MR. MARSH said it ranges from $200 to $285 per month, in which most of the utilities are paid for by the park owner. Number 2302 There being no further witnesses, CHAIRMAN KOTT closed public testimony. He said it is his intent to put the bill into a subcommittee chaired by Representative Rokeberg. The members will be Representatives Kubina and Sanders. CHAIRMAN KOTT recessed the meeting at 5:25 p.m. to the call of the chair. The meeting was called back to order at 6:00 p.m.