OCTOBER TERM, 1991
certiorari to the court of appeal of california, fourth appellate district
No. 90-1947. Argued January 22, 1992—Decided April 1, 1992
The Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause generally requires just compensation where the government authorizes a physical occupation of property. But where the government merely regulates the property's use, compensation is required only if considerations such as the regulation's purpose or the extent to which it deprives the owner of the property's economic use suggests that the regulation has unfairly singled out the property owner to bear a burden that should be borne by the public as a whole. Petitioners, mobile home park owners in respondent Escondido, California, rent pads of land to mobile home owners. When the homes are sold, the new owners generally continue to rent the pads. Under the California Mobilehome Residency Law, the bases upon which a park owner may terminate a mobile home owner's tenancy are limited to, inter alia, nonpayment of rent and the park owner's desire to change the use of his land. The park owner may not require the removal of a mobile home when it is sold and may neither charge a transfer fee for the sale nor disapprove of a purchaser who is able to pay rent. The state law does not limit the rent the park owner may charge, but Escon-dido has a rent control ordinance setting mobile home rents back to their 1986 levels and prohibiting rent increases without the city council's approval. The Superior Court dismissed lawsuits filed by petitioners and others challenging the ordinance, rejecting the argument that the ordinance effected a physical taking by depriving park owners of all use and occupancy of their property and granting to their tenants, and their tenants' successors, the right to physically permanently occupy and use the property. The Court of Appeal affirmed.
Held: 1. The rent control ordinance does not authorize an unwanted physical occupation of petitioners' property and thus does not amount to a per se taking. Petitioners' argument—that the rent control ordinance authorizes a physical taking because, coupled with the state law's restrictions, it increases a mobile home's value by giving the homeowner the right to occupy the pad indefinitely at a submarket rent—is unpersuasive. The government effects a physical taking only where it requires the landowner to submit to the physical occupation of his land. Here, petitioners have voluntarily rented their land to mobile home
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