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Mobile Home

DEFINITION

Transportable real property that can be built with or without a foundation.

EXPLANATION

Mobile homes are factory-constructed residences that are attached to a permanent chassis, or foundation. A mobile home is transported to a property site — typically a mobile home park — by either a trailer or by a third party service. Typically, mobile homes are left in one place for a sustained period of time; however the home can be moved and transported from one location to another.

The 1970s saw a rise in housing costs, an ever-growing population, and a diminishing average income. This contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of mobile home owners. The low cost of ownership — coupled with the benefit of home ownership — made mobile homes the preferred choice for many consumers. This spike in mobile home purchases also occurred after the housing market crash in 2008.

Is a Mobile Home Real or Personal Property?

A mobile home is considered real property when:

The mobile home is affixed to a permanent foundation

The owner has a certificate of occupancy to inhabit the property

The owner has a building permit for the mobile home

If the above conditions are not met, a mobile home may be considered personal property. However, as personal property is taxed at a higher rate than real property, it is advantageous for mobile home owners to ensure their homes meet the qualifications for real property.

Mobile Home Regulation

Initially, the government was not prepared to manage the massive influx of mobile homes and all of their related issues (i.e. how to dispose of sewage, where owners would “park”). The government originally viewed mobile homes as vehicles and tasked the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with regulating the industry.

After 1976, however, the government made major overhauls to the safety requirements and regulations of mobile homes. By the 1980s, the government recognized the majority of mobile homes as real property for tax purposes.

Today, all mobile home sales, transfers, and other related activity are conducted through the Department of Urban and Housing Development (HUD). HUD regulates aspects such as when and where a mobile home can be built, mobile home size, the density of mobile homes in any given area, and foundational and coding permits. Mobile homes built before 1976 do not meet HUD’s safety standards.

HUD also mandates that a mobile home must remain in a registered location. Should a mobile home owner vacate that location, he or she must inform HUD.

Mobile Home Disclosure

Mobile home owners and their agents must execute a disclosure statement in order to sell a mobile home. The statement serves the same purpose as other standard disclosure statements, which includes informing the buyer of the condition of the property.

Mobile Home Fire Safety

Fire safety restrictions laid out by HUD that are specific to mobile homes include:

Requires a flame spread of 25” or less in water heater and furnace components

Requires a flame spread of 75” or less on the ceilings

Requires a flame spread of 50” or less behind the range

Requires a flame spread of of 25” or less to protect the bottoms and sides of kitchen cabinets around the range.

Requires a trim larger than 6”

Requires smoke detectors in the general living areas of the home

Requires two exterior doors

All bedroom doors must be within 35” of one of the two exterior doors

Licensee Restrictions

Business and Professions Code 10131.6 states the following about mobile home sales:

“…a person licensed as a real estate broker may sell or offer to sell, buy or offer to buy, solicit prospective purchasers of, solicit or obtain listings of, or negotiate the purchase, sale, or exchange of any manufactured home or mobile home only if the manufactured home or mobile home has been registered under Part 2 (commencing with Section 18000) of Division 13 of the Health and Safety Code.”

Mobile home licensees must adhere to various rules and regulations, including:

A licensee may only advertise one mobile home at his or her physical place of business. Selling more than one mobile home at a time requires a licensed mobile home dealer, such as a broker or real estate agent.

A licensed broker, real estate agent, or licensee must prove to prospective mobile home buyers that a mobile home meets all the requirements for that home’s transportation. If the home is not in the proper condition to be properly transported using California’s highways, a prospective buyer must be informed of the requirements to make such a move possible.

If secondary financing is required for the purchase of a mobile home, it is unlawful for a licensee to advertise that the home requires no down payment.

Licensees may not impose any fees beyond state costs or commission fees on a buyer or seller of a mobile home.

Once the sale of a mobile home is finalized, the broker, real estate agent, or official mobile home licensee must remove all advertising related to the sale of the mobile home.

A licensee must inform HUD within ten days of the sale or transfer of a used mobile home.

Manufactured/Mobile Homes and Licensing

Manufactured and mobile home sales and purchases fall under the same category as standard real estate transactions. The only differences between a standard and mobile home sale are:

The real estate agent or broker is responsible for validating the certification of title for which the mobile home is endorsed and given to the purchaser.

Mobile Home advertising must be removed between 48 hours of the sale of the house or removal of the sale.

Mobile home sales require the property to have a permit from the Department of Transportation. Otherwise, the sale is not considered a mobile home sale. This step is required to ensure to the buyer that the property can, in fact, legally be driven.

A mobile home can only be advertised in the mobile home park it is located and can remain for a minimum of one year.

A Real Estate Broker Can Have their License Suspended if:

Participating in creating a false name or withholding certain information about a mobile home

Failing to verify title status; failing to provide certificate of ownership to new buyer

Participating in the sale of a stolen mobile home

Violating mobile home registration and transfer rules

Licensees should review a copy of the Department of Real Estates Reference Book, which outlines particular instances of unlawful business practice. The book provides examples of legal and illegal activity, including the nuances that make an agent’s actions unlawful.

Case Law As It Relates to Mobile Homes

Case Review: Taylor v. Rancho Santa Barbara (2000)

The case, Taylor v. Rancho Santa Barbara (2000) 206 F.3d 932., involved a mobile home owner who was denied entry to a mobile home park because of his age.

Mobile home owner, Taylor, was 41 years old when he was denied entry into a Santa Barbara mobile home park for senior citizens and individuals over the age of 55. Taylor brought legal action against the city of Santa Barbara.

Taylor argued that the mobile home park’s age restrictions violated the Equal Protection Clause of both the 5th and 14th Amendments. The Superior Court ruled against Taylor. He appealed.

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The court held that an age restriction was not a violation of state and federal law as such measures were created to protect senior citizens and older individuals who rely on affordable housing.

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