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Easton Officials Re-Submit Rent Control Bylaw to State Legislature

State officials failed to act on the legislature during the latest session.

The Easton Board of Selectmen voted Monday to re-submit a mobile park rent control regulation bylaw to the state legislature.

The bylaw was approved by the town last year, but never moved past the Massachusetts House Committee on Bills in the Third Readings.

"Unfortunately, the formal session of the legislature ended this year without the bill coming up for a vote," Easton Town Administrator David Colton told selectmen.

While it is possible that the bill would move forward in informal session, it is unlikely, Colton said.

Board of Selectmen Chair Colleen Corona said the lack of action at the state level is frustrating.

"It’s one of those things working in local government that I find irritating to deal with," Corona said.

The proposed bylaw establishes a board that would regulate rent increases and ensure there is justification behind any hikes. It was established as a citizen petition by the Easton Mobile Home Park Association on Turnpike Street.

"They own the buildings that they live in but they rent their land," Easton Community Planner Tim Harrigan said. "They’re in a tough spot when their land rents get high. When rents go up, people are really stuck....It lets the town figure out a level of rent that is appropriate."

Easton voters supported the bill during the May 2011 Town Meeting and supported the creation of a rent control board at the February 2012 Special Town Meeting.

"The issue was there, we had time to talk about it, it probably was discussed longer than anything I can remember in recent history, and it still passed overwhelmingly," selectman Dan Murphy said.

A board cannot be established, however, until rent control in Easton is passed in the state legislature. Colton sad that according to Easton Town Counsel, because no time limit was specified on the article passed at town meeting, selectmen have the authority to re-submit it to the state.

Rent Control Boards are not uncommon in Massachusetts. The company that controls Easton Mobile Home Park, Morgan Management LLC, owns parks in communities that have rent control boards.

In addition to Easton, the company owns parks in Cheshire, Ludlow, Middleboro, North Adams, Pittsfield, and Williamstown, according to their website. Aside from Easton, there is a Rent Control Board in each municipality.

Corona said she will reach out to Easton's delegation to ensure that the legislature acts quickly during the next session.

"Last annual town meeting, we voted on establishing rent control for the mobile home park and this is something that is not uncommon," she said. "There are mobile home parks around the state and it’s allowed by law."

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