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Residents left in rental suspense

City panel hadn’t reached decision on $200 increase Wednesday

Posted: December 16, 2009 10:22 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Owners of Polynesian Mobile Home Park say a proposed rent increase for residents is neccessary to offset the cost of flood damage repairs, including this bridge at the park entrance.

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Living at the Polynesian Mobile Home Park has become a stressful waiting game for Larry Rodriguez. He’s afraid he and his retired mother could be homeless within a couple of months after the New Year.

The owners of the mobile home park want to increase rent by $200 a month. That would increase Rodriguez’s rent by about 37 percent.   

“There’s no way we can survive with that,” said Rodriguez, whose rent is $575. “We would definitely lose our home.”  

Santa Clarita’s Manufactured Home Rental Adjustment Panel had not made a decision to allow the rent increase by press time late Wednesday night. City officials said it was likely the panel would not reach a decision until several days, or weeks after the hearing.

At the hearing, the panel received a letter from the park owners’ lawyer questioning a city-commissioned report that said the rent increase was too high.

They also received over 30 pages in additional financial documents from the park.   

More than 100 park residents, including Rodriguez, were at the hearing. Most of them told the panel that the rent increase was unreasonable and would make their financial situation much more difficult.  

In January, Rodriguez was laid off with more than 300 other employees from a company in Moorpark that makes airbags for cars.
For the last 11 months, he has looked for jobs with no luck.

The search has been depressing, he said.

A lawyer representing the park owners told the panel the rent increase was necessary to pay for unavoidable flood damage.

A lawyer representing residents in the park said the flood damage could have been avoided had the owners managed the park properly.

In April, the park owners settled a negligence lawsuit with residents for $500,000.     

About 30 residents in the 143-space park are living on a fixed income.

The panel will have final say on whether the rent increase will be allowed, city officials said. Owners of the park cannot increase rent until after a decision has been made by the panel, said City Attorney Rachel Richman.  

Rodriguez, 45, has lived with his mother, Judy Baker, in the park for about 11 years.

Unemployment checks and the $500 he gets from the state every month to provide nursing care for his mom are his two sources of income.

Baker, 70, is retired and receives social security every month. Between them, they have little more than $2,000 a month to pay for all their expenses — including food.

With Rodriguez’s tenuous financial problems, paying bills on time is not always an option.

To make sure he and his mom have enough to eat, he avoids paying his car bill on time.

Rodriguez is about $2,000 behind on his car payment; he has received two letters threatening to repossess his only mode of transportation.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez drove his mom to Henry Mayo so she could receive treatment for her infected leg. Before her doctor’s appointment, Baker’s right leg was swollen and wrapped in bandages.

“I’m not the only one; it’s hard for the entire country,” Rodriguez said. “We try our best to make do.”

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