Park and Marina Tenants Join Together for More Legislative Power…
One might wonder “what do floating homes owners who live in marinas have in common with manufactured home owners who live in parks?” Half of all floating homes in Oregon are owned by homeowners who rent their slips. Similar to park residents who own their manufactured homes but rent their space in a park, marina tenants must occasionally assert their rights to protect their homes. The story of how park and marina tenants met on a parallel path to increase their legislative protections is fascinating and begins with OSTA Director, Angela Garvin, who is a floating home owner herself. The following details the history of how OSTA opened its doors to include marina tenants and is filled with surprising ways in which park and marina tenants all have more in common than is immediately apparent on the surface.
Floating Home Owners Who Rent Slips are Tenants
Before Angela became an advocate for floating home tenant rights, she was completely unaware of her rights. She had owned a home on land before the floating home, but she had never been a part of an HOA or any other sort of gate-keeper relationship with regard to her previous homeownership experiences.
During the first few years after she and her husband purchased the floating home, Angela had grown frustrated by a variety of issues she was having with her marina owners. Every time she wanted to make an improvement to her home, her marina owners made it difficult, if not impossible, to make reasonable changes. She had read her marina rules but there seemed to be a series of unwritten rules and additional unwritten hoops that she needed to jump through in order to receive ‘permission’ from the marina owners to make any changes whatsoever to improve her outdated home and make it more livable for her family.
After a few years of on-and-off searching the internet for information on “floating home laws” to try to figure out what her rights were as a homeowner at a marina, in 2016, she stumbled across an online Oregon State Bar article written by an attorney, fellow OSTA Director and Vice President, John VanLandingham, which described Oregon’s laws about rules in manufactured home parks. In that article, VanLandingham mentioned that some of Oregon’s menufactured home park tenant laws are the same for “Floating Home Facilities.”
“It was as if the clouds parted and the heavens themselves began trumpeting an anthem of enlightenment. I had never considerd myself a ‘tenant” – much less one who lived in a ‘facility’, afterall, I owned my home at my marina. But the realization that I was a ‘tenant’ changed everything.”.
As Angela then began to research Oregon laws for ‘floating home facilities’ and also ‘marina tenants’ for the first time, she discovered that her landlord had been violating her rights for years.
Floating Home Owner Tenants Organized
Since she was a little girl, Angela had always been someone who advocates for justice. She had been told many times in her life that she should go to law school or become an attorney. But she chose a creative career path instead. That did not stop her from putting her moxy, organizing skills, and critical thinking to work in pursuit of her passion for justice. After reading the ORS Chapter 90 laws all the way through multiple times, staying up late, taking notes, checking in with other lawyers she knew who could help decipher the legal language of the laws, she came to the startling conclusion that the laws to protect floating home owners in rented slips were inadequate and left huge gaps in protections that could allow a landlord to come in and legally take possession of a tenant’s floating home when a tenant violated a minor marina rule such as having a small dog off-leash.
Once she realized that there was no floating home tenants advocacy association that was going to step in to help her, she realized that she would have to “be the change she wished to see in the world” and create one herself.
In 2017, still experiencing regular issues with her marina landlords and knowing now that park and marina tenant laws were similar, Angela reached out to Ken Pryor of the Manufactured Communities Resource Center (MCRC – now the MMCRC), a division of the state’s Oregon Housing and Community Services department and asked for help. Ken invited Angela to attend the next meeting of the Manufactured Housing Landlord-Tenant Coalition (The Coalition) in May of 2017.
After participating in the Coalition and advocating by herself for marina tenants, in August of 2017, she expanded her network of support by reaching out to Oregon Speaker of the House Tina Kotek about the issues that floating home owner/tenants face at their marinas. In September 2017, Angela testified in front of the Interim House Committee on Human Services and Housing about the need to make changes in the legislation to protect floating home owners in rented slips. In response to that testimony and with the support and encouragement of Oregon House Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer of Portland, the Coalition offered to review the laws and consider working with her and marina landlords to make changes in those laws for the 2019 Oregon legislative session. The first-ever Marina Issues Subcommittee was born in April of 2018!
In response, Angela worked tirelessly those first several months of 2018 reaching out to floating home owners on the waterways of Oregon, from Gresham to St. Helens. She made, printed and posted flyers at as many rental marinas as she could physically access in an effort to hold a large community floating home owner meeting to learn what issues floating home owners at other marinas across Oregon were experiencing. She built the first-ever website – www.FloatingHomeOwners.com – dedicated to educating floating home owners in rented slips about their rights and advocating for improving their quality of life at their marinas.
Since that time, the tenant group which Angela founded – the Floating Home Owners association or FHO – has over 75 members with representation from approximately 75% of the rental marinas in Oregon. The group meets regularly to discuss floating home marina issues.
Senate Bill 586 Requires the Oregon Housing and Community Services to Provide Services to Marina Tenants
During the next year, the landlords and tenants of the Coalition and its Marina Issues Subcommittee worked to negotiate changes to the existing laws which became SB586 and their Coalition bill voted into law in 2019, nearly unanimously.
As part of the new laws, most of which went into effect on January 1, 2020, Oregon state included marina tenants and landlords in the program coverage of the Manufactured Communities Resource Center (MCRC). The MCRC changed its name to reflect the inclusion of marina tenants and became the Manufactured and Marina Communities Resource Center (MMCRC).
Marina tenants now had access to the same state supported education, programs, and support that manufactured park tenants had access to. Marina landlords are now required to register with the MMCRC, take continuing education classes about the laws and managing marinas, notify the MMCRC when they are considering selling their marinas to give tenants an opportunity to purchase, and access to the new no-cost dispute resolution tool – Mandatory Mediation.
OSTA and FHO See an Opportunity
With marina tenants now included under the umbrella of the MMCRC, and with many of the Chapter 90 laws changing to now include floating home tenants under the laws that govern park tenancies, OSTA realized that this legislative inclusion provided a mutual opportunity for the groups to unite in common advocacy goals and become stronger together.
There are more floating homes in Oregon than anywhere else in North America. The Portland area has approximately 1,500 floating homes compared to Seattle which only has about 500. Approximately half of the Portland Metro-Area’s floating homes (from Gresham to St. Helens) have already been purchased by their tenants and become cooperative or “condominiumized.” The remaining floating home marinas remain owned by a single owner who is the landlord to floating home owner tenants.
The kinds of landlord problems that marina tenants face are the same as those that park residents face – landlords who try to enforce invalid rules or overstep their legal authority and violate their tenants’ rights.
When marina and park residents come together, their power grows exponentially. Marina residents gain the benefit of an education, empowerment, and advocacy organization’s 40+ years of experience in improving tenant protections and park tenants gain the benefit of fresh, new energy from hundreds of marina residents who have not been represented or supported previously.
Together, park and marina residents have the opportunity to amplify their voices together for positive legislative change.