Supreme Court Ignores Challenge to Rent Control

A California mobile-home park owner’s challenge to rent controls ended Jan. 14, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal of a decision upholding a local law. Equity LifeStyle Properties Inc., which owns the 396-unit Contempo Marin mobile home park in San Rafael, a suburb of San Francisco, had been trying to overturn the city’s rent-control ordinance for more than 13 years, claiming it was an unconstitutional government “taking” of private property.

San Rafael’s 1989 law restricts the amount landowners can charge for the “pads” people put mobile homes on. It limits annual rent hikes to 75 percent of the Consumer Price Index’s increase in housing costs. It also bars vacancy increases, giving new residents moving onto a vacant pad the right to rent it at the same rate as the previous tenant.

Equity LifeStyle Properties—which claims to be the nation’s largest mobile-home park operator, with almost 140,000 sites in more than 370 communities—sued the city in 2000. In 2009, it won a lower-court ruling. That enabled it to triple rents to almost $2,000 a month and forced about 70 people to leave the San Rafael park, Keith Meloney, president of the Contempo Marin Homeowners Association, told the Marin Independent-Journal

The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that ruling last April, saying the law did not constitute a “taking” because it was a rational attempt “to promote the common good,” not “a physical invasion of property,” and that Equity LifeStyle had purchased the property knowing it was subject to rent control.

About 100 California cities and counties have rent-control laws.