April 24, 2019
Below: Superior Court of the State of Delaware, Case No.
appeal from the Superior Court. REVERSED and REMANDED.
M. Faries, Esquire, BAIRD MANDALAS & BROCKSTEDT, LLC,
Wilmington, Delaware, for Appellant, Sandhill Acres MHC, LC.
S. Atlas, Esquire, Steven D. Adler, Esquire, and Brian S.
Eng, Esquire, COMMUNITY LEGAL AID SOCIETY, INC., Wilmington
and Dover, Delaware, for Appellee, Sandhill Acres Home Owners
P. Morton, Esquire, and Robert J. Valihura, Jr., Esquire,
MORTON, VALIHURA & ZERBATO, LLC, Greenville, Delaware, for
Amicus Curiae First State Manufactured Housing Association.
STRINE, Chief Justice; SEITZ and TRAYNOR, Justices.
appeal concerns a manufactured housing community owners
attempt to raise the rent for its homeowner-tenants after
installing a new water filtration system and commissioning a
report on market rents for comparable manufactured housing
communities. After the homeowners petitioned for an
arbitration under the Rent Justification Act, which places
certain limitations on a community owners ability to raise
its tenants rents, the arbitrator concluded that the rent
increase was justified. On appeal, however, the Superior
Court reversed on the grounds that the community owner did
not establish that the installation of the water filtration
system "was an increase in its costs" or that the
expenditure caused "its original expected return [to]
decline[ ]." The community owner appeals from the
Superior Courts decision.
the Rent Justification Act, a community owner need only show
that there were no relevant health or safety violations and
that "[t]he proposed rent increase is directly related
to operating, maintaining or improving the manufactured home
community" to open the door to a rent increase based on
market rent. Instead of adhering to this
understanding of the statute, as explained in precedent, the
Superior Court overruled the arbitrators order allowing the
rent increase, finding that the community owner "would
have had to offer evidence about its original costs and
original expected return and how the expenditure ... altered
that relationship." Because that reasoning grafted onto
the Act a requirement that the statute does not contain, we
reverse the Superior Courts judgment and remand the case for
the entry of a judgment affirming the arbitrators order.
world of mobile homes— often called "manufactured
houses" because they are in fact not so easy to
move— many ...