“If that current resident pays annually and chooses to stay on an annual plan, there is no increase at all. The only people who pay more are those who have opted for a monthly plan,” Tunnell said. It also stated that HB 107 did not apply to existing leases. “Pot-Nets Communities went beyond the law,” Tunnell said. “We voluntarily offer all residents a monthly payment plan that we are not obligated to,” Tunnell said. Walsh said the landowners were acting illegally. The letter states: “Please select the payment method you wish to have for the year 2010 and return the attached postcard before October 1, 2009. If we do not receive a response from you, you will remain on an annual payment schedule dated April 15. “But landlords say owners of pot-net communities use HB 107 to raise rents for anyone who chooses to pay monthly.” The problem is that landowners interpret the law the way they want it to,” Longhurst said.
“The owners don`t have a lawyer. They are already behind the eighth ball without representation,” she said. Longhurst said lawmakers can`t dictate payments to private companies, but landowners must give homeowners an option. “What I don`t understand is that if they don`t respond, they will automatically pay every year. What they did was they increase their rent when they decided to leave monthly,” she said. Is it ethical? Of course, this is not ethical. They have found ways to circumvent the legislation,” she said. Tunnell denies saying the landlords were not planning any rent increases.
“That`s not what we said at the time,” he said. “I think where it`s not completely illegal, Tunnell goes to the limit. I think the purpose of the act is clear, and what it does is find a way around the law — basically, see what it can do. It`s not just with him, but also with other owners to see how far they can go before they see a backlash,” he said. He said he had no plans to raise the rent for 2010 because of the problems in the economy,” Walsh said. Walsh also said Tunnell also plans to increase garbage, water and cables — all the franchises Tunnell owns — a tariff that Tunnell denies. “We haven`t received an official notification yet, but people in the Pot-Nets area are eagerly awaiting. There is no limit to what he can charge, but for water, he has to go through the Public Service Commission,” Walsh said. It says rents will be increased by 3.5% in 2009 for 2010. However, if landlords prefer to continue paying annually, they will receive a 5% discount on their annual rent if it is paid as a lump sum by April 15, 2010. The letter was sent to the 3,000 owners in the six communities of Pot-Nets: Bayside, Creekside, Coveside, Dockside, Lakeside and Seaside.
The letter states: “We did not intend to increase market rents for 2009 for 2010; However, the addition of a monthly payment option for Pot Nets residents will result in a significant increase in our workload and administrative costs. “The lawyers in the House of Representatives are of the opinion that he is clearly against the law. I know that the Attorney General`s Office has been contacted. Right now, I`m told tunnell is the only park owner in the state to raise its rent,” Atkins said. Delaware Manufactured Homeowners` Association (DMHOA) Vice President John Walsh said he has received numerous complaints from Pot-Nets residents about the letter and rent increases. Walsh also said that months ago, when he met with pot-net owners, Tunnell said he had no plans to raise property rents. “In his letter, he links the apology for the rent increase to the law we passed that treats owners of manufactured homes like any other citizen of the state,” Atkins said. He said the law extended the same right to owners of prefabricated homes living in single-family homes and apartments. Rep. John Atkins, D-Millsboro, said he also raised the issue after his constituents contacted him — many of whom were residents of the Pot Nets apartment communities. Tunnell said it had nothing to do with cable fees. Water charges are regulated by the Public Service Commission, and garbage provider Delaware Solid Waste Authority plans rate increases in 2010, he said.
House Majority Whip Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear, is Chair of the Manufactured Housing Committee. .