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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes bill to enhance protections for manufactured housing tenants

May 19, 2022

DOVER – The Delaware Senate on Thursday passed legislation to strengthen rent protections for residents of manufactured housing communities.

“The residents of manufactured home communities are some of the most vulnerable constituents we represent,” said Sen. Jack Walsh, D-Stanton, the prime sponsor of Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 9.

“They are often seniors on fixed incomes or families with limited means who have moved into these communities for the promise of relatively low housing costs,” he said. “Unfortunately, that is often not the case due to a number of factors, including the fact that they are frequently hit with hefty increases in the rent they pay for the land that’s literally beneath their feet. I want to thank my Senate colleagues for passing legislation today that will create a fair and predictable system for all parties.”

While state law currently provides manufactured housing residents with some protections to help mitigate sudden swings in ground rent, those laws can result in court disputes and arbitration hearings that require homeowners to pay legal fees out of pocket.

SS 1 for SB 9 would reduce the number of disputes that result in arbitration by setting clear and predictable limits on rent increases, strengthen enforcement of health and safety violations, and expand the eligibility requirements for existing assistance programs.

Under the legislation, single-year ground rent increases would be tied to the Consumer Price Index, while rent prices driven up by market pressure would have to be phased in over 7 to 10 years, depending on the size of the increase.

Taxes, insurance, utility charges or other cost drivers assessed by law would be exempted from those limitations, so long as price increases tied to those factors are clearly communicated to tenants through a website and documents that can be accessed at the community’s management office.

SS 1 for SB 9 also would close a loophole that currently allows community owners to increase rents even when they refuse to address outstanding health and safety violations by requiring a bond or letter of credit to cover the full cost of the increase if those issues are not addressed.

Finally, SS 1 for SB 9 would expand the number of homeowners eligible for the state’s lot rental assistance program by replacing an arbitrary 2006 residency date currently in code with a requirement that residents must have lived in their homes for five years to be eligible, among other enhancements.

“This bill is the result of more than 8 years of discussion and negotiation between the Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority, manufactured housing community owners, the Community Legal Aid Society and legislators,” Walsh said. “It’s not a silver bullet, but I believe it is the most significant progress we have made in some time.”

SS 1 for SB 9 now heads to the House for consideration.

“This legislation is an example of the Delaware Legislature working at its best to serve the people we represent.,” said Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark, the House prime sponsor of SS 1 for SB 9. “I commend Senator Walsh and Senator Townsend for taking the time to listen to and work with Delaware stakeholders, including the community owners, leaders, and residents, to find where common ground existed, where they could agree, and where they could negotiate. We can all recognize that SS 1 for SB 9 is a meaningful solution and step forward.” ###