CHESHIRE -- The Board of Selectmen denied a proposed rent increase at Pine Valley Mobile Home Community Tuesday.
In its decision, the board said "tenants have had to live in conditions that are unhealthy and unsanitary."
Morgan Management, the owner of Pine Valley, proposed a 15 percent "capital improvement rental increase" earlier this year to pay for the costs of installing a new septic system. The community's rent is controlled by the town.
But the repairs to the mobile home park were caused by the failure of its owner to properly maintain the septic system, the board found.
"It is unlawful for the park owner ... to seek to recover costs or expenses resulting from any legal obligation of the operator to upgrade the sewer [system]," the board stated in its decision.
Morgan Management has the right to appeal the decision to the Massachusetts Trial Court.
The board stated that the condition of the septic systems before the overhaul -- which has not yet been completed -- did not meet "minimum standards" required by law.
"Evidence was presented showing that raw sewage percolates to the surface of various areas of the park," the decision stated.
Morgan sought a $38.27, or 15 percent, increase in rent at Pine Valley. Its representatives argued state law allows it to recoup the costs of "capital improvements" such as the septic work currently being done.
Tenants currently pay $256 in monthly rent. Final arguments by the Pine Valley Tenants' Association and Morgan Management were heard earlier this month.
"The board has recognized that Morgan has, for ten years, failed to meet its basic obligation to provide to provide a working sewage system for the park residents," said Aaron Dulles, an attorney representing the Tenant's Association.
The septic repairs are being made under the watch of the Department of Environmental Protection. The board claimed that Morgan Management failed to adequately maintain a DEP-mandated escrow account for repairs to the septic system.
A monthly rent raise of $26.25 was allowed in 2002, when septic issues first became prevalent and the DEP took action. Of the increase, $18.25 was designated to be placed into an escrow account for septic repairs.
Representatives for Morgan Management argued the DEP escrow account was an issue separate from the proposed rent increase at a public hearing earlier this month.
Though it is unclear if Morgan Management will appeal the decision, the board has held an executive session in anticipation of litigation resulting from the decision.
"For the residents, this isn't over -- the work still needs to be finished," Dulles said.
Lance Chavin, an attorney for Morgan Management, was contacted but did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
To reach Adam Shanks, email