Why you should never sign a lease (or a new rental agreement) once you’re already a park resident


When a mobile home park resident moves into a park, they are required to sign a rental agreement or lease. This is the only rental agreement a resident is ever required to sign and it should be the only one you ever sign.

It may not shock you to learn that the rental agreement/lease offered by the mobile home park owner is very one-sided, and it does not slant the resident’s way. Often, these agreements are chock-full of nasty surprises designed to take away your rights.

The biggest nasty surprise found in leases is a mandatory requirement that you arbitrate any dispute with the park. While arbitration may seem like a good idea in theory, in practice, it heavily favors the park owner.

Most arbitrations require you to pay all the arbitration fees up front. Arbitrators can charge over $500 per hour. The upfront fee can easily total over $100,000. If you cannot pay, you lose your case. Is this legal? Probably not.  But you will spend $100,000 fighting it in court to find out. So, never sign a lease after you move in and when you move in, sign the shortest term rental agreement you can.

The park owner tricks residents into signing long-term leases, saying that these leases offer lower rent than month-to-month agreements. They argue that under a month-to-month agreement, the park can raise your rent every 90 days.

What the park owner fails to tell the resident is that under a month-to-month agreement, California law restricts the amount the park owner may charge.[In Oceanside, amounts are governed by rent control under 16B.] In such a case, a park owner may only charge a reasonable rent.

Now here is the real kicker. If you sign a lease and agree to unreasonable rent increases, you are stuck. It is very difficult to challenge a lease you have signed.

Finally, the long-term leases compound the rent; a 5% increase every year is a compounding increase. These types of increases over time become very dramatic and easily outpace any concept of a reasonable rent.

The moral of the story is when you move into a park, sign the shortest rental agreement possible. If the landlord only offers a long term lease, you may not want to move into that park. In any event, you should not sign another rental agreement or lease after your first rental agreement.

The law does not require you to sign a new rental agreement or lease and the park owner does not create a new agreement to protect you. It is designed to protect the park owner.

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