Originally created 03/09/02

Home park Senate bill examined



The bill must clear the Senate Judiciary Committee and then pass the Senate before Day 33 of the Legislature's 40-day session, or it will be ineligible for consideration by the House of Representatives.

Local mobile-home park owners aren't too worried about proposed legislation that could regulate how they can sell their land.

One of the many guidelines that comprise Senate Bill 487 gives tenants of a mobile home park the right to purchase the park if a valid offer is made to the owner by a third party.

The bill - co-sponsored by Sen. Doug Haines, D-Athens - is being hotly debated in the Georgia Senate. One topic of discussion is whether tenants should have the right to purchase the park.

Tom Hitt owns M & M Mobile Park in Martinez - a park that sits on land zoned for light industry, about two miles from the Wheeler Road exit to Interstate 20. In the more than 20 years he has owned the park, Mr. Hitt said, selling has never been an option but now may be inevitable.

"I don't think anyone would offer us enough to make us want to sell," Mr. Hitt said. "But if they did, the tenants would have first refusal."

Representatives from real-estate and land-owner organizations spoke out against the bill during a Senate subcommittee meeting this week.

"The basic premise is one that is counter to private-property rights," said Keith Hatcher of the Georgia Association of Realtors.

When Mr. Haines, a member of the subcommittee, asked how the bill could be modified to please the 23,000 Realtors, Mr. Hatcher replied, "We prefer the bill to die."

Along with having to notify tenants of a third-party offer, mobile home park owners will have to provide information about the sale, including price, permits and a list of tenants. The bill was inspired by the eviction of hundreds of Athens residents this month after their mobile home park was sold.

Another topic of debate surrounding the bill is the time frame owners must give to tenants before making the sale final.

Once tenants are given the chance to match an offer made by a third party they have 45 days to execute a sale agreement with the owner.

That period of time is not a problem for Bud Freeman, manager of M & M Mobile Park.

"That's standard procedure in any kind of notification," Mr. Freeman said. "If you take someone to small claims court you have 45 days. I just don't see where (the bill) is a problem."

Walter C. Jones of Morris News Service contributed to this article.

Reach Louie Villalobos at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 109 or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.