Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives
in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same,
SECTION 1. Chapter three hundred and ninety-three of the acts of nineteen hundred and eighty-six is hereby repealed.
SECTION 2. The general court finds and declares that a serious public emergency exists with respect to the housing of a substantial number of citizens in the town of West Bridgewater, which emergency has been created by excessive, abnormally high and unwarranted rental increases imposed by some owners of mobile home parks located therein and by the threatened discontinuance of the use of certain mobile home parks by the owners thereof; that unless mobile home park rents and evictions of tenants and the discontinuance of mobile home parks are regulated and controlled, such emergency will produce serious threats to the public safety, health and general welfare of the citizens of West Bridgewater and will produce a drastic loss of housing units, will increase homelessness and will cause the loss of many residents' life savings, especially the elderly.
SECTION 3. The town of West Bridgewater may, by the adoption of by-laws, regulate rents for the use or occupancy of mobile home park accommodations in said town, regulate the discontinuance of mobile home parks, establish a rent control board for the purpose of regulating rents, minimum standards for the use or occupancy of mobile home park accommodations and the evictions of tenants therefrom and may, by its by-laws, require registration of owners of the mobile home park accommodations. Such rents, standards and evictions may be regulated by the rent control board so as to remove hardships, or correct inequities for both the owner and the tenants of such mobile home park accommodations. The rent control board shall have all powers necessary or convenient to perform its functions, may make rules and regulations, require registration by owners of mobile home park accommodations, obtain information, under penalty of perjury, relating to the mobile home park accommodations, sue and be sued, compel the attendance of persons and the production of papers and information, issue appropriate orders which shall be binding on both the owner and tenants of such mobile home park accommodations. Violations of any by-laws adopted pursuant to this act or any order of said rent control board shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars for any one offense.
SECTION 4. In regulating such rents, the mobile home rent control board established under section three may make such individual or general adjustments, either upward or downward, as may be necessary to assure that rents for mobile home park accommodations in the town are established at levels which yield to owners a fair net operating income for such units. Fair net operating income shall be that income which will yield a return, after all reasonable operating expenses, on the fair market value of the property equal to the debt service rate generally available from institutional first mortgage lenders or such other rates of return as the board on the basis of evidence presented before it, deems more appropriate to the circumstances of the case. The fair market value of the property shall be the assessed valuation of the property or such other valuation as said board, on the basis of evidence presented before it, deems more appropriate to the circumstances of the case.
The town in its by-laws, or the mobile home rent control board by regulation, may establish further standards and rules consistent with this act.
SECTION 5. The town may by its by-laws regulate the evictions of tenants and the mobile home rent control board, established under the provisions of section three, shall issue orders which may be a defense to an action of summary process for possession, and such orders shall be reviewable pursuant to sections three and four.
SECTION 6. (a) The town may by its by-laws regulate the discontinuance of the use of part or all of the land owned and licensed as a mobile home park. As used in this act, the term "discontinuance" shall mean any change of use or discontinuance of the use of part or all of the land owned and licensed as a mobile home park requiring a two year notice pursuant to subsection 8 of section thirty-two L of chapter one hundred and forty of the General Laws. The term "discontinuance" shall include, but not be limited to, the licensee's conversion of the mobile home park or part thereof to a condominium or cooperative corporation.
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person to discontinue the use of part or all of the land owned and licensed as a mobile home park without having first obtained a discontinuance permit from the board of selectmen subject to the provisions contained in this act.
(c) The board of selectmen shall consider an application for a discontinuance permit upon receipt of such application from the licensee or other authorized person. The board of selectmen shall forward such application within fourteen days to the rent control board.
(d) The rent control board shall schedule a public hearing within sixty-five days of its receipt of the application. Notice of the time and place of such public hearing and of the subject matter thereof, sufficient for identification, shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the town of West Bridgewater once in each of two successive weeks, the first publication to be not less than fourteen days before the date of the public hearing, and shall be posted in a conspicuous place in the town hall for a period of not less than fourteen days before the day of such hearing. The rent control board shall also notify all tenants living in the affected mobile home park accommodations of the time, place and subject matter of the public hearing. No defect in the form of any notice under this section shall invalidate any grant or denial of a discontinuance permit unless such defect is found to be misleading.
(e) No vote shall be taken by the board of selectmen to grant or deny a discontinuance permit until a report with recommendations by the rent control board has been submitted to the board of selectmen or twenty-one days shall have elapsed after such hearing without the submission of such report. After receipt of such report or after twenty-one days shall have elapsed after such hearing without the submission of such report, the board of selectmen may vote to grant or deny the discontinuance permit. If the board of selectmen fails to vote on the discontinuance permit within ninety days after such hearing, no action shall be taken thereon until after a subsequent public hearing is held with notice and report as provided for above.
(f) No discontinuance permit may be granted except by a majority vote of the board of selectmen.
(g) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the mobile home rent control board may, without holding a hearing, recommend the denial of a discontinuance permit if a decision has been made with regard to the discontinuance of a mobile home park within the preceding twelve months, and if the park licensee fails in the new application to allege a substantial change of circumstances since the previous hearing which would merit the hearing of new evidence by said board. In addition, said board may recommend denial of the discontinuance permit without holding a hearing if the application is not in conformance with the requirements of this section or other applicable regulations.
(h) In determining whether to recommend that the board of selectmen grant or deny a discontinuance permit, the mobile home rent control board shall consider the aggravation of the shortage of safe, decent and affordable mobile home park accommodations in the town of West Bridgewater which may result from the discontinuance, especially for tenants of low and moderate income and handicapped or elderly persons on fixed incomes. In making such determination, the mobile home rent control board shall make findings of the following factors:
(1) the benefits and detriments to the persons whom this act and this section seek to protect;
(2) the hardships imposed on the tenant residing in the mobile home park accommodations proposed to be discontinued;
(3) circumstances demonstrating hardship and inequity to the licensee seeking a discontinuance permit;
(4) the rate of vacancy of mobile home park accommodations in the town of West Bridgewater at the time the licensee applies for a discontinuance permit and the average rental rates for the available accommodations;
(5) the availability of land zoned and otherwise suitable for the development or expansion of mobile home parks.
The mobile home rent control board in its discretion may also review other relevant factors in making its report and recommendations.
For purposes of this act the "vacancy rate" shall be defined as that percentage of the mobile home park accommodations which are empty of mobile homes and are offered for rental to mobile home tenants. Further, to be considered a "vacancy" the rental offer of the mobile home park accommodation must be without entrance fee; without restrictions as to the age, size or character of the mobile home; and without a requirement that the prospective tenant purchase a mobile home from the park owner.
In its report, the mobile home rent control board shall determine the current vacancy rate for comparable mobile home park accommodations in the town of West Bridgewater. Any parties involved may submit evidence to said board at the public hearing.
(i) The licensee or applicant seeking a discontinuance permit must make application to the board of selectmen for such permit within thirty days of serving the tenants with the notices required under the provisions of subsection 8 of section thirty-two L of chapter one hundred and forty of the General Laws.
(j) No eviction certificate shall be issued by the mobile home rent control board because of the discontinuance of the use of all or a part of a mobile home park unless a discontinuance permit has been issued by the board of selectmen.
SECTION 7. (a) The provisions of chapter thirty A of the General Laws shall be applicable to the mobile home rent control board established under the provisions of section three, as if said board were an agency of the commonwealth, including those provisions giving agencies the powers to issue, vacate, modify and enforce subpoenas and those provisions relating to judicial review of an agency order.
(b) The provisions of chapter thirty A of the General Laws relating to judicial review of an agency order shall be applicable to a decision and order of the board of selectmen granting or denying a discontinuance permit under the provisions of section six herein.
SECTION 8. The Brockton division of the district court department shall have original jurisdiction, concurrently with the superior court, of all petitions for review brought pursuant to section fourteen of chapter thirty A of the General Laws.
The superior court department shall have jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of this act and any by-laws adopted thereunder and may restrain violations thereof.