Mobile-home Tenants Claim Rents Exceed Cap The W. Deptford Park Where They Live Has Rent Limits. The Rent Board Is To Meet Tuesday.

Posted: December 10, 1995

WEST DEPTFORD — Jim and Ruth McGarry, retired former Philadelphia residents, moved to Heatherwood Mobile Home Park about two years ago. They own their home and love living in it.

"No stairs," Jim said with a grin.

But what the McGarrys and many of their neighbors at Heatherwood and adjacent Willow Park do not love, they say, is that their rents exceed the legal cap.

According to Township Manager Gerald White, Rolling Homes Inc., the Cherry Hill company that owns the mobile-home parks, was denied an increase last year, and the township rent-control board is scheduled to decide Tuesday on its latest request for one.

The reason for last year's denial was the company's failure to repave streets inside the parks, White said. This year, the alleged overcharges are expected to be an issue.

Bruce Hasbrouck, Rolling Homes' lawyer, declined to discuss the alleged rent deviations, saying the company was going over its records in preparation for Tuesday's meeting.

As to the streets, Hasbrouck said they "are not in bad shape at all."

"It's like a reverse cycle," he said. "If the landlord isn't given the (raise) just to keep up with the cost-of-living increase, . . . my client may have to go asking for even more increase for capital-improvement funds."

The McGarrys pay $237.54 in rent. The limit the last two years has been $208.75. Willow Park's rent cap is $209.

"I'm trying to decide if I should sign my lease," McGarry said. "They don't tell you nothing, and then you get this letter saying that your lease has expired and you have to sign a new one with an increase."

White said 18 tenants in Heatherwood and 14 in Willow Park were being overcharged, some by as much as $50.

This all came to light last month when Rolling Homes applied to the rent- control board for a 5-percent rent increase. In its application, the company submitted the rent rolls for both parks.

In West Deptford, as in all of New Jersey, rent-control boards set caps on what mobile-home park management may charge.

The owners may petition the board annually for up to 5-percent raises on the caps.

Rolling Homes was granted a raise two years ago, White said, on the condition that it repave the parks' streets. Both parks, he explained, have a long history of poor upkeep and cracked streets.

The rent-control board considered the company's petition on Nov. 28 but held over making its decision.

Beside capping rents, the board can order landlords to refund overcharges to tenants and can levy fines of up to $500 per overcharge. That could mean a $16,000 penalty for Rolling Homes if all 32 cases were found to be illegal.

But White said the board had never fined a landlord and remained uncertain even as to how to proceed in the matter.

"We're in uncharted territory," he said.

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