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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 5:17 pm | Rain Fog/Mist 60º


Steep Rent Increase Raises the Ire of Tenants of Nomad Village Mobile Home Park

Management company officials say the proposed hike is necessary to meet financial obligations, but residents have their doubts

Residents of the Nomad Village Mobile Home Park in Santa Barbara recently received an unpleasant surprise — notices of a rent increase. Managers of the 150-space mobile home park say they’re well within their rights — and Santa Barbara County’s rent control ordinance — to make such a move.

But residents cried foul Wednesday evening at an informational session held by Ken Waterhouse and representatives of his Waterhouse Management Corp. to explain the reasons for the proposed rent hike at the park, 4326 Calle Real.

“Aren’t you guys businessmen? Didn’t you know these things before you (leased) the park?” one resident asked.

Nerves were raw in the community room of the park as tenants tried to absorb why they were going to be charged additional rents for their spaces. In a park where rent averages $300 to $400, the proposed $161 increase would, for some, represent a 50 percent hike.

“We think (Waterhouse) is basically trying to throw off rent control,” park tenant Dan Waltz told Noozhawk before the meeting.

Waltz was one of the residents selected by the other tenants to represent them at a private meet-and-confer session after the informational meeting. Given other circumstances, such as badly needed repairs that were never performed, and just the sheer magnitude of the proposed increase, he and other residents said they have been leery of the management company’s intentions.

Waterhouse Management Corp. attorney James Ballantine said the proposed increase is the result of three major financial obligations levied upon the management company in the two years since it took over the lease from the Bell family, owners of the property. They boil down to a tripling of property tax obligations by Santa Barbara County; an increased lease obligation to the Bell family; and major capital improvements, particularly to the electrical system and the pavement.

“We’re within our rights,” he said Wednesday evening, adding that as far as the property taxes levied by the county, Waterhouse is planning to appeal them on the assumption that the 34-year lease taken out by the management company did not trip the county’s threshold for new ownership, which triggers the reassessment of property taxes.

There also seems to be some confusion over whether the prior lease ended. The company claims to be just as stunned as the residents over the increased tax obligations.

As for the capital improvements, some portion of them appear to be vestiges of the previous park management’s responsibilities. There are a few hundred thousand dollars being held in an escrow account for the sole purpose of funding those improvements, according to management company representatives.

Still, $161 is a steep increase, especially for the low- and fixed-income residents of the park. Over the next few weeks, both sides are expected to reconvene to discuss options for helping all sides meet their new obligations. The $161, according to Ballantine, is a figure calculated in part from a seven-year amortization of the capital improvement portion of the increase, which would be stepped back down after the seven years. Residents may choose a longer amortization period with a smaller increase, or several small rent increases over several years, which carry with them additional costs to process each time.

As for the residents, it’s a wait-and-see situation.

“There’s a lot of missing information that we believe they have agreed to present,” said Debra Hamrick, one of the representatives who conferred with park management after the public information meeting.

The tenant representatives are looking for a more solid explanation of the numbers park management is using to calculate the rent increase.

The property management company and the tenant representatives are expected to meet again March 8.

Noozhawk contributing writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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