El Monte mobile home park residents outraged by sharp rent hikes

EL MONTE, Calif.

Eyewitness News learned of the situation at its ABC7 Listens community meeting in El Monte last week. More than two dozen residents of the Brookside Mobile Country Club said their rate to rent space at the park at 12700 Elliott Ave. has gone up between $80 to nearly $300 per month in one year. One resident provided documents that showed their rent went up from $1,195.65 to $1,482, an increase of 23.9 percent.

"I'm in the spot that I cannot afford the rent anymore," said resident Jose Gonzalez. "I'm unemployed, I take care of my mom. She's over 92 years old."

Some of the residents said they're immigrants who earn just enough money to pay their bills. Other residents like Sandi Witt said they're on fixed incomes and can barely make ends meet as rents go up.

"I'm not rich," Witt said, "I'm living on $800 a month and my rent is $1,300. I have to depend on friends and family to help me with my rent, my utilities and stuff like that, otherwise I wouldn't ever be able to make it."

There are more than 30 mobile home parks in El Monte, according to city officials. The average monthly rent at mobile home parks in the city is between $400 and $700.

"The park has been raising rates on rent at an exorbitant rate and has a tremendous amount of vacancies," said El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero. "It doesn't make any sense for that economic model to work. High vacancies and high rent just doesn't make sense."

Last fall, voters approved Measure F, a mobile home rent control measure. A moratorium on mobile home space rental increases has been in effect since December to give the city time to get a handle on the situation. It's due to expire in April.

Residents at Brookside showed Eyewitness News rental increase notices that indicate rents are going up this month, after the moratorium went into effect.

Quintero, who is also an attorney, said the city is looking into whether the park's management is breaking the law.

"It could very well be a criminal prosecution that we employ," he said. "It could be some kind of a civil injunction, we don't know yet exactly how we're going to address those rent increases that have taken effect as of the first of the year or as of December when we enacted our urgency ordinance."

Mobile Community Management Co. manages Brookside Mobile Country Club. The company provided Eyewitness News letters it sent to the city of El Monte and Brookside residents justifying the rent increases. The letters explain the rental increases are to protect the property owners as the city pushed for the passage of a rent control measure.

"All rent increases implemented and/or noticed to date have been given either pursuant to the terms of a long term lease or notice was given and the rent increase became effective prior to the adoption of the Rent Moratorium. Accordingly, all rent increases implemented to date are valid and legal," the company said in a statement.

While the city determines what it can do, some residents fear they will be evicted because they can't afford to pay rent.

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