Resolving Disputes: Common Sense Problem Solving

Neighborhood disputes and disagreements are common in all communities including mobile home parks and manufactured housing communities. Many single family detached housing developments have home owners associations that manage the maintenance of the common areas of the development, approve additions and remodeling of homes, and also enforce the communities guidelines, which may include requiring all cars to be parked in garages, no basketball hoops in front of the house, etc. Mobile home park communities are not much different.

Mobile home parks have common areas and homes that need to be maintained and also have community rules and regulations and policies that provide guidelines to the residents. As an example, it is not uncommon to have restrictions on the number and size of pets, number of people in a household, the number of cars and where they may be parked, use of the facilities like the clubhouse, pool, spa, work out rooms, etc. The goal of community rules is to provide guidelines that everyone is expected to follow so that all may enjoy the community.

Sometimes residents in the community to do not follow the rules and, as a result, become an annoyance to their neighbors. Complaints might range from feeding stray cats to playing loud music late at night. In a mobile home community, as in other communities, the first thing to do to resolve neighborhood disputes is to approach the neighbor in a friendly way to ask them to address the problem or issue. If this doesn’t work, the next step is to advise the park manager about the problem. In some parks there are complaint or suggestion forms that you may be asked to fill out. Once a complaint is received, the manager will communicate with the person who is not following the community rules. Generally, a manager will make several attempts to gain compliance including providing a notice to stop the rule breaking within a set period of time. If this fails, then the option may be to begin an eviction of the tenant based on the breaking of a rule.

Other complaints or disputes arise in mobile home communities that deal with management policies such as utility billing questions, as an example. Always request an explanation of the billing from the park manager. If there are still questions, then there are a couple of other avenues to follow to obtain information on your utility billing or other issue. First, you may contact the owner of the park whose contact information should be provided to you by the manager and also be posted at the park. You may also contact the California Department of Housing and Urban Development (HCD) Mobilehome Ombudsman at (800) 952-5275; get a copy of the Ombudsman Poster clicking here. Other hotlines provided, such as the Southern California Mobile Home hotline (855) 438-6438.

In some cases the conclusion from this outreach will be that the issue is a “civil” matter that would require consultation with legal counsel.

Getting A Loan On A Manufactured Home

Financing Your Manufactured Home

Loans for manufactured homes are available from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Veterans Administration (VA), are other avenues to finance a manufactured home. Personal loans can work, too.

What’s available to you depends on your eligibility as a borrower, the type and age of the structure, and whether it’s considered real or personal property. Manufactured housing allows many to buy homes who could not otherwise afford home-ownership. Fortunately, there are many available options for financing these purchases.

Is The Home “Real” Or “Personal” Property?

Not all manufactured housing is considered real estate, which is a requirement to qualify for a traditional home loan.

If your mobile home is at least 400 square feet, on an approved foundation and taxed as real property, you can apply for conventional or government-backed mortgages.

If you pay annual fees to the DMV, or the building is still on wheels, however, you’re technically living in a vehicle, not a house.

That’s okay, though. Moveable mobile homes can still be financed, just not with home mortgages.

Financing For Moveable Homes

Manufactured housing loans for personal property — homes that are not classified as real estate — are readily available if you have at least five percent down and the home is reasonably new.

Interest rates are higher than mortgage rates because loans for movable property are riskier for lenders.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) backs loans for mobile home vehicles with its Title I program. Interest rates are negotiated between borrowers and private lenders offering this loan type. Keep in mind that the typical home lender might not offer this type of loan.

The interest rate is fixed for the entire loan term, which varies and there are also maximum loan amounts.

Many manufactured home loan programs have strict guidelines about the property condition and age. That’s because manufactured housing tends to depreciate, while traditional home values tend to increase over time.

If you’re set on purchasing a home that doesn’t meet lender requirements, another option is a personal loan. Good credit will be required to get an unsecured personal loan, because it’s not attached to property. Expect to pay a higher interest rate — at least three-to-four percent more than current mortgage rates.

About Author: Gina Pogol writes about personal finance, credit, mortgages and real estate. She loves helping consumers understand complex and intimidating topics. She can be reached on Twitter at @GinaPogol.

Source: The Mortage Reports

Fire and Emergency Planning — Be Prepared and Be Insured

With this year’s wild fire season worsened by severe drought conditions, it’s more important than ever to prepare for the possibility of a fire near your home.  Mobile home owners are advised to take the following steps to ensure that you, your family, your pets and your home are safe this season.  Also, please remember how very important it is to have insurance covering the replacement value of your mobile home.  Be sure to contact your insurance agent regarding the appropriate amount of coverage you need to replace your home – it may be more or less than you paid for the home or than you believe the home is “worth”.  It is far better to be safe than sorry.

Common sense reminders to be prepared:

Your Home

  • Clear leaves/pine needles and other debris from rain gutters and roof tops.
  • Do not store combustible items outside.
  • Removal: Remove dead and dying trees, shrubs and plants.

Your Family

  • Assemble an emergency supply kit. The American Red Cross has information on the supplies which you should include in your kit.
  • Create a family disaster plan that includes meeting locations, in case you have to evacuate. Your Park has posted an Emergency Plan in a common area of the Park – be familiar with this plan.
  • Include pets in your disaster plan and decide which family member will bring your pets to the meeting location chosen by your family.

Whatever the emergency, remember that there may not be enough firefighters or other emergency personnel to be everywhere at once.  It is up to you to take responsibility for protecting your family and your home.

Mobile Home Residents FAQ’s

Do residents have to pay the cable TV service fee even if they don’t use it? Also, can the park prohibit satellite dishes?

The park can charge a fee for services actually rendered with a 60-day notice if it is not already provided for in the rental agreement. (Civil Code §§798.31, 798.32) If the resident has signed a long-term lease agreeing to pay the fee, they may be obligated to continue to pay it until the end of the term of the lease. A 1997 California appellate case, Greening v. Johnson, held that cable TV is not an essential utility and a park cannot charge a resident a fee for such a service not actually used by the resident. Moreover, the Telecommunication Act of 1996 provides that community rules and regulations or local ordinances cannot prohibit the installation of a dish antenna on one’s home or property if it is not more than 39 inches in diameter and does not constitute a health and safety problem. Park rules can regulate placement or design of the antenna on the home if reasonable (e.g. rules don’t preclude acceptable reception) but cannot ban satellite dishes outright.

Some residents’ water usage is down, but their water bill has increased. How do they find out if they are being overcharged?

Contact the park management. If the park cannot help, call the County Sealer (Weights and Measures) and ask them to check the accuracy of the meter. Check for plumbing leaks under home or in fixtures. If none of these steps resolve the problem, the resident may wish to file a complaint with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) about rate issues and overcharges but only if the park receives water from a water utility or supplier regulated by the CPUC. If water is CPUC-regulated, resident may only be charged a water rate that the regulated utility would be able to charge residents if they were served directly by the utility. This would include a usage rate and a customer service charge (for meter reading and service). However, the majority of parks are not served by regulated water utilities but by municipalities, water districts, utility districts, or even the park’s own water well system, and are not regulated by the CPUC. One exception is that the CPUC may take complaints from residents of parks regarding service or rates charged by parks using their own water systems or underground wells. If the park is subject to local mobilehome park rent control, rent control authorities may be able to provide some relief depending upon how the rent ordinance is written or administered. Otherwise, the resident would have to complain to the appropriate governing board of the municipality, water or utility district actually furnishing water to the park.

How to Safely Get Rid of Your Extra Prescription Drugs

If you have medication that has expired, or if you did not finish a prescription, you may be tempted to dispose of the unwanted pills in the trashcan or by flushing them down the toilet. However, both of these options can be dangerous.

If you toss pills in the trash, someone could consume them. If you flush pills down the toilet you risk contaminating the water supply.

The best way to get rid of unwanted medication is to use the prescription medicine “Take-Back” programs that are offered by many cities and counties. Local pharmacies may also be willing to accept your unwanted medication (call them before bringing your unwanted medication to the store to be sure).

If neither of the above options is available to you, follow these steps to dispose of unwanted medications:

  1. Remove pills from their bottles. This will make it harder for anyone rummaging through the trash to identify the medication.
  2. Put pills in a bag with something undesirable, such as used kitty litter, mud, or coffee grounds. DO NOT mix pills or other medication with household cleaners, as this could cause a chemical reaction to occur.
  3. Seal the bag and throw it in the trash.

 

Mobile Home Residents FAQs

Where can residents get help if they suspect they are being overcharged on utility bills?

Most parks are “master-meter” operators that own, operate and maintain the electric, gas and water distribution system within the park and bill their residents with the monthly rent statement. Under the state Public Utilities Code, master-meter customers (parks) shall charge no more than the local serving utility would charge a resident, including passing through any low-income rebates or discounts, such as “CARE.” Residents can call County Weights and Measures (W&M) to have them check the accuracy of their meters and assure they have been correctly calibrated. Some W&M offices are willing to look into billing complaints, such as failure to provide proper billings or post rates, but most only check the accuracy of the meters. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is required to take informal complaints (800-649-7570) from residents in master-meter parks. The CPUC often refers these complaints to the serving utility to work out with the park management. If a third party billing agent prepares the utility billings for the park, the management shall disclose the contact information of the billing agent on residents’ billings. (Civil Code §798.40(b))

Can the park start billing residents for utilities that were previously included in the rent?

If the residents’ rental agreement provides that sewer, water and garbage are included in the rent, the park management may elect to itemize or charge separately for these utilities. (Civil Code §798.41) In this case, the average monthly amount of the utility charges shall be deducted from the rent. If the rental agreement does not specifically indicate that utility charges are included in the rent, then the park owner could charge for them after complying with the 60-day written notice requirement. (Civil Code §798.32)

Mobile Home Improvements that Can Help Seniors Stay Independent and in Their Home Longer

About 1/3 of the senior population lives at home alone and each year one in three of those seniors will experience a debilitating fall. There are many home improvements that can create a much safer, easily accessible home.

No one wants to have to leave their home because it has become too hard to get around or reach things. Even the healthiest seniors can struggle with things that they have never had to worry about before. Here are a few improvements that can keep your home from becoming a hindrance as you age.

 Bathroom Improvements

  • Falls usually happen while getting in or out of the bathtub. Installing handles and a non-skid latex mat inside and outside will reduce the chances.
  • Elevated toilets help people that find it hard to squat, bend, sit or stand. It’s a good idea to have grab bars anchored to the wall and floor beside the toilet, too.
  • Set the thermostat on the water heater to a maximum of 120 degrees to prevent burns.
  • Store toiletries, first aid supplies and other bathroom necessities at waist level where they limit bending, stooping or stretching. (This is true for all rooms.)
  • Consider a tub seat or walk-in shower unit.

 Kitchen Improvements

  • Raise the dishwasher so bending is not needed for loading and unloading.
  • Use multi-level counter heights with open space beneath to allow for sitting.
  • Replace higher cabinets with lower shelving or drawers. Often used items should be handy.
  • Install a wall oven, lowered for comfortable use. Use a countertop range, lower the height for ease of use.
  • Flat surfaces around the stove are easier to clean and allow sliding of heavy pots instead of lifting.

Other Rooms

  • Replace doorknobs and faucets with lever handles.
  • No step threshold can decrease falls.
  • Building walk-in closets with multiple heights allows easy reaching.
  • Install rocker light switches that are easier to turn on and off compared to the old fashioned flip switch.
  • Make sure there is ample room to maneuver easily between furniture and walls.

Remodels can be expensive but if you do a little at a time the cost of these updates are manageable AND will cost far less in the long run than an assisted living facility.

Insuring your Mobile Home

If you live in a Mobile, Modular or Manufactured home and do not have insurance up to the replacement value of your home, change your policy today. Like it or not your home is considered Real property not personal property, which is what a stick built home is considered. This means that the minute your home leaves the factory it was built in it begins to depreciate in value.

In the search for the cheapest insurance many people do not realize that they are cheating themselves out of the coverage they need, and inadvertently putting themselves at risk of becoming homeless should a disaster occur. If there was a fire, earthquake, mudslide or flood how much money would you get from your insurance company for the repairs? Does your insurance policy even cover these types of events? Call your provider today and make sure that 1. Your policy provides these protections 2. Your policy covers the replacement cost of your home.

When your policy covers the replacement cost of your home, it does not matter how old your current home is. Should disaster strike you could get a new home! Don’t risk having to live in a home torn apart by fire, flood, mudslide or earthquake. Cover your home for the full replacement value and add some security to your investment.

Rental Assistance for Low Income Mobile Home Owners

If you are struggling to pay your rent there is a program in Orange County that was set-up to assist you while you wait for a Section 8 housing voucher to become available. It is a privately funded program, sponsored by local Park Owners and administered by MHET. You must meet specific guidelines to qualify for the program. If you feel you may qualify or would like more information or to request an application packet please call the Mobile Home Rental Assistance Program (RAP) 949-380-3311.

To find out if the MHET Rental assistance program is offered in your area contact 949-380-3311 or e-mail info@mhet.org.

Mobile Home Assistance Program

Orange County Eligibility Guidelines

To qualify for temporary rental assistance sponsored by MHET, all of the following guidelines need to be met.  If you meet these criteria, you may be eligible to receive a subsidy equal to 10% of your monthly space rent.  To request an application to apply for rental assistance call (949) 380-3311 or write to the address above.

  1. The applicant needs to be a homeowner who has owned and lived in the mobilehome and community they are currently residing in for at least the past three consecutive years.
  2. Applicants need to meet the very low-income guidelines* used by the local Housing Authority for the Section 8 rental assistance program (Gross annual income from all sources is 50% of the median income or less).
  3. Applicants must meet one or more of the following criteria: (1) be at least 62 years of age or older; (2) be a family of two or more; (3) or be disabled.
  4. Monthly housing costs (rent, mortgage and utilities: gas, water, electric, trash, sewer) need to exceed 40% of the total monthly income of all residents in the home.
  5. Real property (land, rental property, second home, etc.) may not exceed $10,000.
  6. Personal property (bank accounts, automobiles, stocks and bonds, jewelry, etc.), except for the mobile home in which the applicant lives, may not exceed $20,000.
  7. The applicant does not receive assistance from any other rental assistance program.
  8. The space on which the applicant resides is not regulated by rent control and not more than 10% of the residents in the Park are already receiving assistance.
  9. All of the forms provided in the Rental Assistance Application packet must be completed with every question answered.
  10. The applicant must be in compliance with the park rules and regulations and the mobile home or manufactured home may not be in foreclosure by any financial institution or in bankruptcy proceedings.

* Qualification guidelines for Section 8 (for more information call Orange County Housing Authority at (714) 480-2700). Current gross annual income from all sources within the following limits for family size:

1 person         $34,150                     5 people        $52,650

2 people         $39,000                     6 people        $56,550

3 people         $43,900                     7 people        $60,450

4 people         $48,750                     8+ people      $64,350

This assistance program is strictly voluntary on the part of the park owners and may be changed, revised, or discontinued at any time with or without notice.

25241 Paseo de Alicia • Suite 120 • Laguna Hills, CA 92653 • (949) 380-3311

Manufactured Home Owner FAQ’s

A 90-day written notice of rent increase was delivered late. Is this notice legal?

No. The MRL provides for residents to receive the 90-day written notice of a rent increase before the date of the increase. (Civil Code §798.30) Any notice required by the MRL shall either be delivered and received in-person or by U.S. mail, postage prepaid. (Civil Code §798.14) Actual receipt of the notice less than 90 days before the increase is not a 90-day notice.

Can the park charge residents for back-rent that was miscalculated because of the manager’s mistake?

It depends on the situation. If the park rental agreement or lease stipulates the monthly rent for the term of the lease, and there is no provision in the lease for a contingency, such as an increase due to management error, then back-rent could not be charged. However, if residents have signed a rental agreement that provides that back-rent may be charged in the event of a management miscalculation or error, then the additional rent could be charged with a 90-day notice.

Can the park owner require a deposit or fee for use of the clubhouse by the homeowners association?

No, however there are certain exceptions. The MRL provides that a park rental agreement or rule or regulation shall not deny a homeowner or resident the right to hold meetings for a lawful purpose in the clubhouse at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner, when the facility is not otherwise in use. (Civil Code §798.51(a)(1)) Homeowners or residents may not be charged a cleaning deposit or require liability insurance in order to use the clubhouse for meetings relating to mobilehome living or for social or educational purposes and to which all homeowners are allowed to attend. (Civil Code §798.51(b)) However, the park may require a liability insurance binder when alcoholic beverages are served. (Civil Code §798.51(c)) If a homeowner reserves the clubhouse for a private function to which all park residents are not invited, the park could charge a fee or deposit.

Can the park charge first and last months’ rent plus a 2-month security deposit?

Normally, when a mobilehome owner is accepted for residency in a mobilehome park and signs a rental agreement, charging first month’s rent and a 2-month security deposit are permitted. (Civil Code §798.39) After one full year of satisfactory residency (meaning all rent and fees have been paid during that time), the resident is entitled to request a refund of the 2-month security deposit, or may request a refund at the time he or she vacates the park and sells the home. (Civil Code §798.39(b))