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Fighting for Renters’ Rights [POLL]

One longtime Branford resident is hopeful the town will establish a fair housing rent commission after three years of struggling with her landlord.

It’s certainly not the first issue she’s had with her property manager but this time 66-year-old Rosalie Marenna is not backing down. Whether she waits an extra week to pay her lot fee on time or she continues to refuse to pay a $10 kerosene tank charge, she’s winning said Marenna. “To me everything is principal because you let them get away with it once, then they’ll do it over and over again.”

Marenna has lived in the same 10-foot by 50-foot trailer for 32 years at Highland Bluff on North Ivy Street. Up until about 13 years ago, living was easy, she said. Then the trailer park was sold and since then she said, “everything has gone downhill.”

Marenna maintains that her lot fee has risen from $89 a month, 30 years ago, to $527 a month, today. A single person on a fixed income working part-time, Marenna said it’s getting harder and harder to pay her lot fee. Also, the recent addition of the kerosene tank charge to her lease after it had been signed has become a source of concern for her. “We own the homes,” she said, “and they know they have you as long as your trailer is fixed there.”

Marenna requested that the consider establishing a fair housing rent authority model after Clinton’s model, which was established in 2009 and consists of five members. Of the hope to have the protection of a town-sanctioned committee, she said, “I want it because we have no place to go – we have no body to help us.”

Right now, renters with concerns can refer issues to the Hartford-based Department of Consumer Protection.

The Board of Selectmen has referred her request to the who meets this Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the . The RTM will consider accepting the Connecticut General Statue on establishing a fair rent commission – see attached statue. According to the statute, “…any town, city or borough may, through its legislative body, create a fair rent commission to make studies and investigations, conduct hearings and receive complaints relative to rental charges on housing accommodations, except those accommodations rented on a seasonal basis, within its jurisdiction, which term shall include mobile manufactured homes and mobile manufactured home park lots, in order to control and eliminate excessive rental charges on such accommodations…” Not to be confused, the statute does include mobile home owners but not seasonal renters or seasonal mobile home renters.

In 2009, when living conditions and park maintenance at Highland Bluff seemed to fall by the wayside by property owners RHP Properties, based out of Michigan, Marenna said she started looking for support against the property owner. Her request to the town in June 2009 was referred by the full RTM to the RTM Rules & Ordinances Committee who heard the issue in July 2009. The minutes stated that many residents of Highland Bluff, including Marenna, spoke before the committee regarding concerns of  “poor sanitation, lack of proper maintenance of electrical wires and dangerous failures to prune trees, other failures to maintain the property and inequitable rent increases in the mobile home park.”  In addition, the minutes state two landlords of a two-unit building appeared to oppose the enactment of a fair rent ordinance.

The issue was re-referred and heard again by the RTM R&O Committee in August, 2009. A presentation by Attorney Rafie Podolsky, from the Legal Assistance Resource Center was given at the request of the Committee, according to the 2009 minutes. The issue was re-referred and heard again by the Committee in Oct. 2009. At that time, the motion to have the RTM take up further consideration of establishing a fair rent commission was passed and the issue stood before the full RTM later that month. The issue was tabled at the RTM level in October 2009 and has laid dormant ever since.

Though the issue was tabled, who was serving in 2009 and continues to serve today as the town’s First Selectman, said he took up issues on behalf of the park tenants concerning sewer odor and property maintenance. It was his understanding that the issues were being dealt with by the landlord. “We did straighten it out for a short period of time,” DaRos said yesterday adding, “but they're still apparently having some problems.” He added, “I don’t like seeing people getting taken advantage of.”

Clinton’s fair rent commission is hopefully the model Branford adopts, Marenna said, adding that it protects not only trailer park residents but renters in general. “I think it’s good for any renter,” she commented. “Anyone who pays a rent should have a place to go.”

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Branford has more than 2,800 people living in rents and more than 1,500 residences consider rental housing. 

SolarPete February 07, 2012 at 12:11 PM
for that kind of rent she could move into a apt some where else Sounds like the owners of the property want money but don't want to do any repairs If they didn't have the renters any bets the owners would sell the property Maybe the town should buy it and rent to the folks living there now
ted February 07, 2012 at 01:47 PM
I live in this park as well. Management is a joke. Ive lived there for 4 years and our lot fees have increased 100$ in that time. Yet I own my trailer. The management does nothing. We complain they dont care. And theres nothing we can do. When it snows we cant even get out of hour driveways cause they wont even plow our roads. Its rediculous. Something needs to happen.
Nicole Ball February 07, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Ted, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience as a resident of the park. I am sure it's helpful for readers to hear more.
Deirdre Salemme February 08, 2012 at 02:06 AM
When I was a renter I was always frustrated that there was nowhere to go to get help with bad living conditions and landlords...
kim May 07, 2012 at 03:56 AM
n transfer to any walmart in the usa

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