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Barker’s Trailer Court, Inc. v. Borough of Lakehurst

371 N.J. Super. 432, 853 A.2d 348 (Law Div. 2004)

MUNICIPALITIES; TAXATION; MOBILE HOMES—A municipality has the ability to recoup its trash collection costs for mobile home parks through a municipal service fee and therefore its refusal to provide garbage service to a mobile home park constitutes invidious discrimination.

A mobile home park owner sought to compel the municipality to provide garbage collection for its mobile home court. The owner claimed that the municipality’s refusal to provide garbage collection constituted invidious discrimination in violation of the equal protection clause. It acknowledged that a municipality is not required to provide such garbage removal. However, it argued that once a municipality has decided to provide service to those similarly situated, it must do so for all within the class. It claimed that there was no rational basis to distinguish the mobile homes from any other residence that received garbage removal. The municipality justified its refusal to provide garbage removal based on the fact that it was collecting real estate taxes only for the land and property improvements at the mobile home park and not for the individual mobile homes.

A report by the Mobile Home Taxation Commission noted that mobile home park owners provide many services that a municipality typically supplies to other municipal residents, including ground water drainage, snow removal, and the maintenance of common areas. Therefore, homeowners in mobile home parks use a lower level of tax revenues than comparable homeowners otherwise situated. Furthermore, mobile home park owners pay real estate taxes on the land and improvements within the parks and then pass them through to the mobile home owners as part of the rental fee. Most of the findings of this report were incorporated into the Manufactured Home Taxation Act. In particular, the Act authorized the establishment of a municipal fee to offset services the municipality provides to homeowners within a mobile home park that are not defrayed by the taxes emanating from the levy against the land and improvements of the park. Therefore, the Court stated that the municipality could include the additional cost of providing garbage collection in its calculation of the fee.

Therefore, due to the municipality’s ability to offset the cost of collection through the municipal service fee, the Court held that there was no justification for the municipality’s decision not to provide garbage service to the mobile home park, and the refusal to do so constituted an invidious discrimination.

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