Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives
in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same,
SECTION 1. The general court hereby finds and declares that a serious public emergency exists in the city of Taunton with respect to the housing of a substantial number of the residents of said city, which emergency has been created by the potential discontinuance of the use of certain mobile home parks by certain owners of said mobile home parks; that unless eviction of tenants and discontinuances of the use of mobile home parks are regulated and controlled, such emergency will produce serious threats to the public health, safety and general welfare of the residents of said city, and will produce a drastic loss of housing units, will increase homelessness, and will cause many residents loss of their life savings, especially the elderly; that such emergency should be met by the commonwealth immediately and with due regard for the rights and responsibilities of the city of Taunton.
SECTION 2. The city of Taunton may, by ordinance, establish a mobile home park eviction and discontinuance review board for the purpose of regulating minimum standards for use or occupancy of mobile home park accommodations in the city and evictions of tenants therefrom and may, by ordinance, require registration by owners of mobile home park accommodations, under penalty of perjury, of information relating to the mobile home park accommodations. Such standards and evictions may be regulated by the review board so as to remove hardships or correct inequities for both the owner and tenants of such mobile home park accommodations. The review board shall have all powers necessary or convenient to perform its functions. It may make rules and regulations, require registration by owners of mobile home accommodations, under penalty of perjury, of information relating to the mobile home park accommodations, sue and be sued, compel the attendance of persons and the production of papers and information and issue appropriate orders which shall be binding on both the owner and tenants of such mobile home park accommodations. Violations of any ordinance adopted pursuant to this act or any order of the review board shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars for any one offense.
SECTION 3. The provisions of chapter thirty A of the General Laws shall be applicable to the review board, established under the provisions of section two, as if said review board were an agency of the commonwealth, including those provisions giving agencies the power to issue, vacate, modify and enforce subpoenas, as well as those provisions relating to judicial review of an agency order.
SECTION 4. The Taunton district court division shall have original jurisdiction, concurrently with the superior court and the housing court departments, of all petitions for review brought pursuant to section fourteen of chapter thirty A of the General Laws.
The superior court and the housing court departments shall have jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of this act, and any ordinance adopted thereunder, and may restrain violations thereof.
SECTION 5. The city of Taunton may by ordinance regulate the evictions of tenants, and the review board, established under the provisions of section two, may issue orders which shall be a defense to an action of summary process for possession and such orders shall be reviewable pursuant to section three.
SECTION 6. (1) The provisions of this section regarding the discontinuance of the use of part, or all of the land owned and licensed as a mobile home park shall apply to all mobile home parks and mobile home park accommodations in the city of Taunton.
(2) When used in this act the term "discontinuance" shall include 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.
(3) 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 municipal council subject to the provisions contained in this act.
(4) (a) The municipal council shall consider an application for a discontinuance permit for a mobile home accommodation upon receipt of an application filed by the licensee or other authorized person. The municipal council shall forward said application within fourteen days to the eviction and discontinuance review board.
(b) The review board shall schedule a public hearing within sixty-five days of receipt of the application. Notice of the time and place of such public hearing, of the subject matter, sufficient for identification, shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the city of Taunton 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 by posting such notice in a conspicuous place in city hall for a period of not less than fourteen days before the day of said hearing. The review board shall also notify all tenants living in the affected mobile home 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.
(c) No vote by the municipal council to grant or deny a discontinuance permit shall be taken until a report with recommendations by the review board has been submitted to the municipal council or twenty-one days after said hearing have elapsed without submission of such report. After such notice, hearing and report, or after twenty-one days shall be elapsed after such hearing without submission of such report, the municipal council may vote to grant or deny the discontinuance permit. If the municipal council fails to vote on the proposed discontinuance permit within ninety days after such hearing, no action shall be taken thereon until after subsequent public hearing is held with notice and report as above provided.
(d) No discontinuance permit may be granted except by a majority vote of the municipal council.
(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of this eviction and discontinuance section, the review 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 accommodation with 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 review board in hearing new evidence. In addition, the review 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.
(5) In determining whether to recommend that the municipal council grant or deny a discontinuance permit the review board shall consider the aggravation of the shortage of safe, decent and affordable mobile home park accommodations in the city of Taunton, which may result from the discontinuance, especially for tenants of low or moderate income and handicapped or elderly persons on fixed incomes. In making such determination the review board shall make findings of the following factors:
(a) the benefits and detriments to the persons whom this act and this section seek to protect;
(b) the hardships imposed on the tenant residing in the mobile home accommodations proposed to be discontinued;
(c) circumstances demonstrating hardship and inequity to the licensee seeking a discontinuance permit;
(d) the rate of vacancy of mobile home accommodations in the city of Taunton at the time the licensee applies for a discontinuance permit and the average rental rates for said available accommodations;
(e) the availability of land zoned and otherwise suitable for development or expansion of mobile home parks.
The review board, in its discretion, may also review other relevant factors in making its report and recommendations.
For purposes of this act, "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 review board shall determine the current vacancy rate for comparable mobile home park accommodations in the city of Taunton. Any parties involved may submit evidence presented to the review board at the public hearing.
(6) (a) The licensee or applicant seeking a discontinuance permit must make application to the municipal council for said 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.
(b) Notwithstanding the foregoing, no eviction certificate shall be issued by the review 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 municipal council.
SECTION 7. The personnel of the review board established under the provisions of section two shall not be subject to the provisions of section nine A of chapter thirty or chapter thirty-one of the General Laws.
SECTION 8. The provisions of this act shall not apply to a mobile home park which has sent out notices of a change of use or discontinuance under the provisions of subsection 8 of section thirty-two L of chapter one hundred and forty of the General Laws prior to the effective date of this act.
SECTION 9. This act shall take effect upon its acceptance by the city of Taunton.