A county's mobilehome rent control ordinance applies for people who live in recreational vehicles for at least nine continuous months, the Sixth District Court of Appeal has ruled. The court said that Santa Cruz County's Mobilehome Rent Adjustment Ordinance applies to about 20 sites in a travel trailer and resort facility because residents of those sites have lived there continuously for nine months or more. The controversy began when Willows Resort owner Harold Griffith eliminated central garbage collection service and advised residents to obtain individual service. Willows Resort residents complained to the county. A hearing officer then ruled that Griffith, under the county's mobilehome rent adjustment ordinance, had to reduce rents by $11.60 per month (the cost of garbage collection) for about 20 sites where people had maintained residences for at least nine months. Griffith sued, arguing that the county ordinance is pre-empted by state laws prohibiting commercial rent and regulating mobilehome parks. Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Robert Yonts ruled against Griffith, who then appealed. A three-judge panel of the Sixth District upheld the trial court's decision. The court said that Griffith is subject to two state laws, the Mobilehome Parks Act (Health & Safety Code §18200) and the Recreational Vehicle Park Occupancy Law (Civ. Code §799.20). The Mobilehome Parks Act governs construction and operation of mobilehome and recreational vehicle parks. The recreational vehicle law addresses tenancies. Because the issue in this case is the right of tenants, the Mobilehome Parks Act, which Griffith argued preempts the county ordinance, does not apply, the court said. The recreational vehicle law gives "nine month" tenants rights similar to those of permanent mobilehome park tenants, the court ruled. The state prohibition of commercial rent control specifically exempts a mobilehome park, which Griffith runs for the 20 units in question, the court held. The Case: Harold Griffith v. County of Santa Cruz, No. H019474, 00 C.D.O.S. 2998, 2000 Daily Journal D.A.R. 4021, filed April 18, 2000. The Lawyers: For Griffith: Douglas Allen, (408) 298-6540. For the county: Pamela Fyfe, assistant county counsel, (831) 454-2040.