Sen. Marilyn Moore speaks during a legislative meeting. She supported the bill to allow mobile home park residents to purchase their parks.
Sen. Marilyn Moore. mark pazniokas /

As she got ready to retire, Carol Sembersky did everything she could think of to shed debt — she paid off and canceled her credit cards, then she and her husband sold their house so they could buy a manufactured home outright.

They wanted to cut down on costs of home ownership, downsize and buy a one-story home so they could age in place as long as possible, she said in an interview. But in recent years, the fees they pay for the land their mobile home sits on has crept up, eating away at their fixed monthly income.

After about three hours of debate Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill that aims to offer a remedy to mobile home park residents, like Sembersky, who face rising rents. It requires that the mobile home park owner notify residents if they’re planning to sell, lease or transfer the land to someone else.

Senate Bill 988 would also give mobile home residents the chance to buy their parks before the land is sold. At least half of the park’s residents have to sign on, and owners must give them 45 days to match other offers.

Current law gives the right of first refusal to purchase the park to residents if the park owner or new buyer plans to close the park. This bill would expand that right to include sales if the park isn’t going to be closed.

Several other states, including Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, have similar laws.

Sembersky said her rent in Plymouth has gone up every year for the past few years — by $12 a month, then $24, and most recently by $39. She pays $578 a month, and on a fixed income, every increase can threaten senior citizens’ ability to pay other bills, she said in an interview earlier this week.

“What is it going to be in 2024?” she said of her land rent. “They can raise it to whatever they want to raise it.”

Often, manufactured or mobile home residents purchase the actual building but rent the land it sits on. Once the home is placed on the land, it’s very difficult to move.

In recent years, investors have increasingly bought up mobile home parks across the country, raised the rents and evicted those who can’t pay.

Connecticut’s bill passed the Housing Committee in March and next heads to the House for approval.

“I had heard so many horrible stories from people all over the state over rising rates — people leaving New York to move into Connecticut, and the price of housing going up,” Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, said during debate Wednesday.

Moore, co-chair of the Housing Committee, said she’d heard from residents and visited a park in Milford to learn more about the issue. She added that lawmakers had worked with both buyers and sellers of mobile home parks to work out the specifics of the bill language.

“I will fight hard for what is right, and I believe this agreement is mutual,” Moore said.

Originally, mobile home owners were among those who called for a statewide cap on annual rent increases, something Sembersky says would be more helpful than purchasing the land. The measure was cut from the Senate Democrats’ housing priority bill and dropped from consideration during the committee process.

Housing Committee ranking member Sen Rob. Sampson, R-Wolcott, opposed the bill during debate Wednesday. He offered numerous amendments, none of which passed.

He argued the legislation was an overstep and infringed on the rights of mobile park owners. Throughout the legislative process, Sampson has often argued in favor of minimizing the role of government in business transactions and discussed the merits of the free market.

Advocates of heightened government protections for tenants have said that the government has a long history of consumer protection, including in the housing market, and that increased measures to regulate housing are a part of that role.

“This bill tells the owner of these properties that they do not have the right to dispose of these properties as they wish,” Sampson said Wednesday.

He added that the bill is divisive and puts a “target on the back of a specific group of people,” meaning the mobile home owners.

There are already a handful of resident-owned mobile home parks across Connecticut. Albert Hricz, a mobile home resident from Milford, lives in one and says it brings peace of mind to know that the price won’t suddenly go up without input from residents.

When he was looking for a home after getting married, a mobile home seemed like an affordable option. Plus, he reasoned, he could buy it brand new at a lower price. He’s lived in one for decades. Residents bought the park it sits on and formed a residents’ association years ago.

It means there’s less of a need to draw a profit from the property, according to the park’s website. And Hricz isn’t worried about rent hikes or the park being sold for another purpose.

“We don’t have to worry about that ever happening again,” he said in an interview.

Ginny is CT Mirror's children's issues and housing reporter and a Report for America corps member. She covers a variety of topics ranging from child welfare to affordable housing and zoning. Ginny grew up in Arkansas and graduated from the University of Arkansas' Lemke School of Journalism in 2017. She began her career at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette where she covered housing, homelessness, and juvenile justice on the investigations team. Along the way Ginny was awarded a 2019 Data Fellowship through the Annenberg Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California. She moved to Connecticut in 2021.