Residents of two mobile home parks in Old Orchard Beach are left disappointed after the parks were sold earlier this month. Some are now seeking to get the town to enact rent control.

With the sale of Old Orchard Village and Atlantic Village looming, residents had been hoping to form a co-op and to purchase the parks themselves. Last month, the owner of the parks rejected the bid by residents.

Val Philbrick, a resident who is part of the Seacoast Village Cooperative, said she and other residents were “disappointed” by the sale.

“We wanted to enact some sort of mobile home rent stabilization ordinance,” Philbrick told the Courier.

Residents are concerned about the intentions of the new owner, FollettUSA. Based in California, FollettUSA markets itself as a “boutique real estate firm” that invests in high quality, income-producing properties.

The mobile home parks in OOB are FollettUSA’s first properties on the East Coast, which Philbrook said is concerning due to Maine’s lack of rent control.

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Both Portland and South Portland have enacted rent control, but it was not without a great deal of effort, she said.

Residents of the mobile parks are concerned the new owners will raise rent prices to a point where longtime residents can no longer afford to pay.

“If this keeps going with these high prices of rent, nobody will be able to work and live here at the same time,” Philbrick said. “Someone’s going to call an ambulance for a cardiac event and no one’s going to show up.”

Currently, rents in Old Orchard Village and Atlantic Village hover around $600. Some residents who own their homes are responsible for both a mortgage for their home and the rent for the lot it resides on.

But $600 is already a jump from previous years, Philbrick said. In an effort to keep the cost of rent from rising even more, she and other residents are proposing a Mobile Home Rent Stabilization ordinance for the Town of Old Orchard Beach.

The ordinance would prevent any owner of the parks from increasing the rent more than 5% than the base rent per year. In order to be placed on an upcoming ballot, the ordinance needs at least 600 signatures.

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Currently, it has just about 100.

“I’m concerned, because there are a lot of people who have been here 20 to 30 years and they’re now on a fixed income,” Philbrick said. “They’re really in between a rock and a hard place. The real solution is to enact rent control.”

Peter and Sheldon Pope, two officials with Seagate Limited Partnership, the previous owners of the parks, distributed a letter to park residents last month informing them of the sale.

“This was a difficult decision for us,” they wrote.

Last month, the Courier reported that the Popes said they decided against the residents’ offer to buy the parks because they were unsure that a co-op would be able to come up with the financing for the bid, which was over $40 million.

Philbrick said she was confident the co-op would have been able to pay.

“I just wish he had let us buy the park,” Philbrick said. “I think it would have solved a lot of problems.”

Several residents of the parks, including Philbrick, will be at the polls in Old Orchard Beach on June 11 looking for more signatures.

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