Question: I live in a mobile home park (also known as a trailer park) in Davis. Recently, all my neighbors and I received a copy of a new rental agreement that takes effect in 60 days. The new agreement contains a bunch of new rules, which are very specific and seem to target specific tenants. Some of the new rules include:
“All personal plants must be in decorative containers or removable above ground planters. No buckets, nursery containers, styrofoam, or miscellaneous containers may be used. Any pots or planters more than 12″ in diameter or 36 sq. in. must be approved by management. Pots or planters in excess of 20 total items must be approved by management.”
“No open composting is allowed. Closed composting must have [Management’s] prior written consent.”
“No towels, rugs, wearing apparel or laundry of any description may be hung outside of the home at anytime. Drying lines are provided for all residents use in designated areas.”
“Fire pits and campfires are PROHIBITED. Outdoor fireplaces must be approved by Management.”
A lot of people in the mobile home park are very concerned about these changes and want more information before attending a park meeting the management is holding to answer questions. Are these changes legal?
— Melissa G., Davis, CA
Answer: I know from personal experience that dealing with mobile home park management can be frustrating. The scant legal protections afforded to residents make living in a mobile home more like living in an apartment than a house. An owner of a house actually owns the land their house sits on, they do not have a landlord and do not have to tolerate a landlord micromanaging the size of their flower pots (unless they join a homeowners association, but that’s a whole other column). But as you and your neighbors can attest, a mobile home park often restricts residents’ freedom even more than a typical apartment complex would. And if you violate the rules, the landlord can go to court to evict you — even if you own the mobile home.
That bears repeating: When you buy a mobile home, you can get evicted from your own house. Mobile home owners enjoy all the drawbacks of living in an apartment coupled with the monetary investment and risks of homeownership.
There are protections for residents, though. California’s Mobilehome Residency Law restricts the landlord’s powers. Among its provisions is a restriction on rule changes like the ones you mentioned.
The law, which refers to landlords as “management,” says:
“[W]hen the management proposes an amendment to the park’s rules and regulations, the management shall meet and consult with the homeowners in the park, their representatives, or both, after written notice has been given to all the homeowners in the park 10 days or more before the meeting. The notice shall set forth the proposed amendment to the park’s rules and regulations and shall state the date, time, and location of the meeting.”
In your question, you do not mention whether the landlord gave you all notice at least 10 days before the rules meeting. If they did not, their rule change is invalid.
This section also requires the notice to include the date, time and location of the meeting. Presumably it does, but if it fails to include this information, then it is invalid.
You might wonder what counts as “notice.” Can the landlord just wave you down on the street and say, “Hey, we’re having a meeting tomorrow at 5 in the common area?” No. The Mobilehome Residency Law defines “notice,” requiring notice to be “delivered personally to the homeowner or deposited in the United States mail, postage prepaid, addressed to the homeowner at his or her site within the mobilehome park.” The landlord needs to give this notice exactly as the law specifies. If your landlord posted the meeting announcement on your front door while you were not home, the rule change is illegal because you did not receive proper notice. If the landlord mailed the notice to a resident’s P.O. Box instead of the resident’s address within the park, the notice is invalid.
Assuming the landlord gave proper notice of the meeting, there are still a few other ways to get out of the new rules.
The law states: “[F]ollowing the meeting and consultation with the homeowners, the noticed amendment to the park’s rules and regulations may be implemented, as to any homeowner, with the consent of that homeowner, or without the homeowner’s consent upon written notice of not less than six months, except for regulations applicable to recreational facilities, which may be amended without homeowner consent upon written notice of not less than 60 days.”
Plain English translation: If the residents at the meeting refuse to consent to the new rules, the landlord can still put the rules into effect six months after the meeting. But new rules that apply to recreational facilities — swimming pools, the gym, tennis courts — can be implemented in 60 days.
It sounds like your landlord is trying to trick you. Unless there was an earlier meeting you did not mention, the landlord cannot unilaterally change the rules about your potted plants without your consent. He has to give notice of a meeting, hold a meeting 10 days later, allow residents to comment on the new rules and, if the residents refuse to agree to the rules, he has to wait six months. Then and only then can he implement new rules.
Because the mobile home park’s rules are actually a part of your lease, and therefore grounds for eviction if you fail to abide by them, he cannot simply change the rules on short notice without your consent. Ask your landlord to consult with his lawyer, and refer them to Section 798.25 of the California Civil Code, where these rules are found. You can find a copy of the full Mobilehome Residency Law at hcd.ca.gov/codes/mp/2013MRL.pdf.
Daniel is a Sacramento attorney, former Davis City Council candidate and graduate of UC Davis School of Law. He’ll answer questions sent to him at email@example.com or tweeted to @governorwatts.