Mobile home owners face hidden risks

Written By: Ben Metcalf – Nov 10, 2017

More than 500,000 California families find their path to affordable home ownership through the purchase of a mobile home or manufactured home, but an estimated one-third lack proper title and registration – putting each of those homeowners at risk.

In an effort to encourage all mobile and manufactured homeowners to secure proper title, the state is offering a limited-time program that waives many back fees and taxes.

Many homeowners purchased their property thinking they had all the proper documents, but later found out that the prior owner left them with unpaid fees and taxes. The state program offers a way out of that problem.

There are lots of good reasons to make sure mobile homes are properly titled and registered:

– Only mobile home owners with proper title and registration can buy flood and fire insurance. Sadly, we recently saw more than 200 mobile homes destroyed in devastating fires in Northern California – many of which did not have proper title and registration, and consequently no fire insurance.

– Registration helps owners to sell or legally transfer title to heirs – a spouse, child, or another loved one.

– Many home-improvement projects require a building permit, which can only be obtained if you have proper title and registration.

– More utility companies are offering financial assistance. However, participation requires current title and registration.

The state fee and tax waiver program — Register Your Mobile home California — waives certain state and local fees and taxes that could result in thousands of dollars of savings for a mobile home owner.

In the weeks and months ahead, the California Department of Housing and Community Development will work with mobile home park owners, community groups, and others to get the word out that help is available.

To help spread the word, we have created an easy-to-use website – RegisterYourMobilehomeCA.org – where homeowners to get the information they need to waive fees and taxes and secure title.

We also have a toll-free number – (800) 952-8356 – homeowners can call to receive assistance. English- and Spanish-speaking representatives are standing by, and interpreter services for other languages are available.

We urge all unregistered California mobile home and manufactured homeowners who haven’t registered their homes to do so as soon as possible. It is an important way to protect their most important asset and ensure their homes are safe and secure now and in the future.

Ben Metcalf, Director

California Department of Housing and Community Development.

Safety Tips for Your Home During Holiday Seasons

We are approaching a very joyous time of the year – whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or the New Year, it is a time to celebrate by gathering with family and friends. With many gatherings and parties, there’s usually a grand display of foods that someone has worked very hard to put together.  Whether you are given the opportunity to host a party for the first time, or you have been doing it for many years, it helps to take a minute and review some safety tips.

According to Foremost Insurance and the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), Thanksgiving and Christmas are known for cooking-related home fires. You can imagine millions of people cooking in the kitchen, many of them pressed for time and stressed out from wanting to make everything perfect. It’s more than likely that just a few carelessness or inattention in the kitchen will lead to big disasters. Although the following tips were written to advise people for holiday feasts, you can apply these same tips for whenever you are cooking in the kitchen:

  1. Make sure that no flammable objects, such as kitchen towels, oven mitts, paper towels, hot pads, and food packaging, are away from your stove top. If you are rushing or not fully paying attention, it’s easy to forget about where you put these objects. It helps to clean off your kitchen counter as you cook so that you have space to put your kitchen tools and can keep track of where things are.
  2. Stay in the kitchen at all times if you have something boiling, frying, grilling, or broiling. If you are an experienced cook at home, you probably think that you can leave the kitchen for a short period of time. But why risk having a tragic accident in your kitchen right before an important gathering? Always keep an eye on your stove, or turn it off if you need to leave the kitchen.
  3. Always check on your foods that are simmering, baking, or roasting. Just because your pumpkin cheesecake recipe states to bake for one hour and to not open the oven door while it’s baking, you can still look into the oven every now and then to make sure that everything is going smoothly. If you are a forgetful cook, always use a timer, especially for dishes that calls for long hours of cooking.
  4. Don’t use the stove if you are feeling sleepy or have consumed alcohol. It’s very easy to start cooking and fall asleep while you are waiting. Pass the torch to someone else who is alert and wide awake to do the cooking.

It’s very easy for anyone to be a victim to kitchen disasters, especially when you are busy entertaining guests or if you are preparing everything by yourself. Make sure you stay safe by reading the Foremost Insurance article as well as visiting the National Fire Protection Agency website.

Resources: http://blog.foremost.com/thanksgiving-fires-turkey-fryers-and-safety-choirs.asp

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/cooking.html

Is Your Mobile Home Level?

Many homeowners choose mobile home living as a long-term housing arrangement. There are many reasons for choosing the mobile home lifestyle including affordability, community setting, and convenience. One major reason, especially for seniors, is the accessibility of a single-floor layout. As your mobile home ages, it becomes increasingly important to keep up with maintenance. Although the manufactured homes that are built these days are very durable and can even look like a traditional home, one of the most crucial and often overlooked necessity is re-leveling of your mobile home.

As the years pass, all manufactured homes begin to settle. This can cause problems such as creaks and leans in your floor, as well as doors not closing properly. What does all this mean? Well you can rest assured, your home is not sinking or damaged, rather it means that your home needs an adjustment.

Without regular adjustments to the level of your home, the piers underneath the home that may be constructed of non-treated wood may show wear, tear, and erosion. Bolts could become stressed and less effective, and other deterioration underneath the home may have occurred.

What is re-leveling?

Re-leveling your mobile home is simply the appropriate redistribution of the weight of your home to make it even again.

Can I re-level my own home?

Unless you have the experience and equipment necessary, this is not a do-it-yourself job. To safeguard your home and guarantee that the re-leveling is done correctly, you will need to consult a professional.

The best place to start is with the company that sold your mobile home to you. Mobile home dealers often know the most qualified contractors. Or ask a neighbor which company they used. Another way to find the right company is to search the web. But be cautious, always investigate the company’s qualifications, credentials and previous clients’ comments and reviews.

Finally, get multiple quotes in writing and ask these potential companies questions. Find out who will actually be completing the job and verify their experience and credentials and request an accurate timeline for the project so you can plan ahead.

Re-leveling may seem like a major repair, however it really is quite basic, but definitely necessary. If you plan ahead and do your research your mobile home life style can continue to be comfortable and safe for many more years to come.

Source: http://mobilehomeliving.org/understanding-mobile-home-leveling-issues/

Is Mobile Home Community Living Low-Income Housing?

In the Southern California region, there is a broad choice of housing ranging from very affordable to very expensive. Generally, multifamily rental housing, including mobile home parks, are considered to be affordable housing. However, the closer the apartments or mobile home parks are located to the beach or other desirable neighborhoods, the more expensive they are. Likewise, the farther inland or in less desirable neighborhoods, the less expensive all forms of housing become. The very same 800 square foot 1940’s bungalow located in San Bernardino will rent for a mere fraction of what it rents in Newport Beach. The real estate adage, “location, location, location” applies to all forms of housing.

Generally multi-family rental housing is considered affordable housing and mobile home parks are included in that category. It is important to note that there is a big difference between “affordable housing” and “low-income housing.” Affordable housing is available to everyone as a lifestyle choice, regardless of one’s income. It is very common to find people choosing to live in a nice apartment community or mobile home community because they like the lifestyle. It has nothing to do with whether they could afford to live in a larger or more expensive house.

Low-income housing is another type of housing entirely. To address the needs of low-income families, government has provided a variety of programs including Section 8 rent subsidy programs and other subsidized housing. To live in a subsidized low-income apartment or condominium the renter or purchaser has to meet the low-income criteria.

Cities are required to adopt housing elements identifying the types of housing in their communities. The number of single family homes, condos, apartments, mobile home parks and subsidized low-income housing is outlined in these housing elements. Many cities and counties have adopted zoning requirements that require developers to include affordable housing within their housing developments or to pay the jurisdiction a fee for affordable housing.

Apartments and mobile home parks are not low-income housing. They provide a rental housing choice that, depending on the location, can also be an affordable housing choice.

Did You Know…

…about these refrigerator facts? Following a few of these tips can help you save some money in utility bills and be more energy efficient.

These are a few solutions and remedies for the pests that visit your home, published in the book Who knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions to Everyday Problems.

  1. Make sure you don’t have any open containers with liquid inside your fridge. This is because to help cool your foods, energy is used to reduce the humidity inside the fridge. So if you have pitchers, bowls, or any other containers with liquid inside, make sure they are sealed tightly. In addition, wait until your foods and liquids are cooled to room temperature before putting them inside. You will force your refrigerator to use extra energy if you put hot or even warm foods inside.
  2. If your refrigerator is over several years old, it’s possible that the rubber lining around the door (also called the gasket) is coming loose. If it is loose, there could be some cold air leaking from your fridge, which can cause it to work harder. You can perform a few tests to see if your fridge door has a leak. One method is to put a battery-operated lamp or flashlight inside the fridge. Turn off the lights in your kitchen, and if you see any light coming from the door, that’s where the cold air might be leaking. If you find a leak, you can try to re-glue your gasket or buy a new one to replace it.
  3. The more items you have inside your freezer, the more energy efficient it becomes. If you don’t store much in your freezer or if you are running low on items, you can simply fill empty cartons or bottles with water and put them in as space holders.
  4. No one likes to clean the drawers, especially if there’s old vegetables and fruits in it. One easy solution is to always have them lined with either newspaper, magazine pages, or even bubble wrap. Newspaper will keep your vegetables from getting too moist and bubble wrap will prevent your food from getting bruised. So even if you end up with old foods in the drawers, you can just throw everything out along with the lining for easy cleaning!

Source: Who knew? 10,001 Easy Solutions to Everyday Problems by Bruce Lubin & Jeanne Bossolina-Lubin

Educate Yourself and Protect Your Identity

We’ve all heard of the news about Equifax and the astonishing number of 143 million individuals whose personal information may have been stolen by hackers. With so many media outlets providing coverage on this issue, it’s hard not to panic and worry about whether you are one of the victims. Since we have been let down Equifax and its security systems, we are now the ones to bear the burden of protecting ourselves from identity theft. Even if you feel that your information has not been compromised, you need to proceed as if you are one of the victims.

The most important thing you need to do is to educate yourself on what is happening, what are the implications, what to look out for, and what actions you need to take. You need to be aware of the gravity of this situation and know how this can potentially affect your life. There are dozens of articles being published by the hour on this issue. Reading even one article will give you a better knowledge on what you need to do to protect yourself.

As terrible as this is already, there are scammers out there who would use this opportunity to try to deceive people into give out their personal information. For example, if you receive any calls or emails from someone claiming to be from Equifax, do not release any of your personal information. Check the scam or fraud alerts online and educate yourself on the existing and new scams.

There are many different things you can do to protect your identity, but it’s ultimately up to you to take action. The following are links to some articles and resources you can use to protect yourself now and in the future.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-equifax-credit-freeze-20170913-story.html

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2017/09/heres_what_not_to_do_after_the.html

http://www.ocregister.com/2017/09/13/after-the-equifax-hack-should-you-freeze-your-credit/

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts

Are You Prepared to Evacuate?

Millions of people have been affected by the natural disasters that occurred recently. The hurricanes and earthquake have destroyed countless homes, buildings, and even took the lives of innocent people. As residents of California, we do not have to worry about hurricanes, but we do have other natural disasters to fear, such as earthquakes and wildfires.

Ask yourself: if a mandatory evacuation was ordered in your area, are you ready to leave? Do you know who to call? Do you know what to take? Do you know where to go? Depending on the situation or the type of natural disaster, you may only get a moment’s notice before you need to evacuate your home.

As the news broadcasts and headlines have portrayed, millions of people in Florida were ordered to evacuate, which has caused panic, stress, traffic, and a shortage of many necessities such as food, water, and gas. As a Californian, even if you cannot fathom the idea of being in a similar situation, you need to be prepared so that you are not completely helpless if a disaster strikes.

Articles published by AARP and the Los Angeles Times will give you some ideas on how to prepare for an emergency. It is an extremely good investment to buy a fire-proof lock box to keep important documents, such as copies of driver’s license, passport/green card/visa, Social Security card, any insurance papers, credit cards, medical prescriptions, birth/marriage certificates, and some cash. You should keep this box somewhere hidden, but also in a convenient place to grab and go when needed. Along with this box, you should have a bag or a backpack with a few necessities, such as a first-aid kit, flashlight, non-perishable food, bottles of water, change of clothes, and any medication you take should also be organized and within reach.

Being prepared to evacuate can be more complex and difficult if you have kids or pets, have a disability, or have no means of transportation. Make sure you take a few minutes to think about how you will save your kids and pets. What will you pack for them? Do they have any special needs that require your attention? If you have a disability or have no means of transportation and you are living alone, you should take this opportunity to speak to your family, friends, or neighbors about an evacuation plan.

Make sure to read the full articles published by AARP and the Los Angeles Times to get more ideas on being prepared for an emergency.

Resources: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/your-home/info-2016/hurricane-survival-preparedness-tips.html?intcmp=AE-HP-FLXSLDR-SLIDE1-RL2

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-emergency-supplies-20170908-story.html

Mosquitoes & West Nile Virus

Earlier in August, there were a few articles published by the Orange County Register stating that a few cities had mosquitoes that were infected with the West Nile Virus – these cities included Costa mesa and La Habra. There was one woman in Laguna Beach who tested positive for this virus, which was the first case to be reported in 2017.

According to the Los Angeles Times, as of September 1st, there have been three people who passed away from the West Nile virus. According to the California health officials, these three individuals lived in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Kern Counties. There were 19 people in California who died from the virus in 2016.

The West Nile virus exists mostly in birds, but mosquitoes can be infected when biting them. Thus, people who get bitten by the infected mosquitoes will carry the disease. Everyone should be wary of the West Nile season, which usually starts during the summer and ends during fall season. The Department of Public Health has stated that it is a deadly disease and the elderly are particularly susceptible.

Most people don’t realize that they are being bitten by a mosquito until after it happens. If you are out camping or have a mosquito in your home, it can even bite you in your sleep without you knowing. The article states that most people who are bitten by an infected mosquito won’t notice any symptoms, but a small number of them can develop encephalitis or meningitis that can be fatal.

The health officials are recommending that people wear insect repellent and try to cover as much skin as possible when going outside, especially during dawn and dusk. It is also recommended that people drain any water from flower pots or buckets so that mosquitoes won’t be able to lay eggs.

Visit the following links to read more about the West Nile virus, and remember to alert your neighbors and friends to spread awareness.

Resources: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-ln-west-nile-20170901-story.html

https://www.cdc.gov/westnile/index.html

Driving Tips for Back-to-School Season

It’s back-to-school season, which means there will be more kids out on the streets daily. Whether you have kids of your own, pass by schools, or live in a neighborhood with kids, it’s important to keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Watch out for pedestrians – you might not see them starting to cross at an intersection if you don’t take your time to look carefully – also watch out for those that ride bikes to school.
  2. Check your blind spots – pedestrians and bikers can “come out of nowhere”. Pedestrians, especially children, might assume that you saw them and you will stop for them.
  3. Slow down in school zones – the speed limit around a school is usually a lot slower, so there might be a sudden slowdown depending on the traffic and the time of day.
  4. Avoid school zones if you can to possibly save some time – if you live near a school, it might help to check the school’s bell schedule to avoid the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up traffic.
  5. If your morning/afternoon routes go through school zones, make sure you give yourself enough time so you aren’t inconvenienced by pedestrian crossing or traffic slowdown.
  6. Avoid using distractions such as a cellphone for directions or a navigation system – if needed, make sure you set up the destination and get it started before you start driving.
  7. If you are driving behind a school bus, make sure you are prepared to stop or slow down with it.
  8. If you are driving through your neighborhood, make sure you are driving below the speed limit and looking for any possible children/pedestrians darting out to cross the road. In addition, keep an eye on any cars backing out of parking spaces suddenly – we have all been there where we are late for work or school, but always make sure to stop for those cars.

These safety tips should always be remembered when you are driving, but it is extremely important to be extra alert during back-to-school season. For more information on driver safety tips, visit the AARP website and read their article.

Resource: http://www.aarp.org/auto/info-2017/school-zone-driver-safety-tips-fd.html?intcmp=AE-HP-WFY3

 

Summer Safety Tips

It’s back-to-school season, but the summer weather conditions persist across the country. If you live in Southern California, you probably know that the intense heat will continue for several more weeks. The heat may be bearable along the coast, but it can be unforgiving in the Inland Empire. As we enjoy the rest of the summer/vacation months, keep in mind the following heat safety tips provided by the American Red Cross. In addition, Red Cross has a few different apps you can download so that you can be notified of severe weather and emergency alerts.

  1. Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.
  2. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
  3. Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
  4. If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places like schools, libraries, theaters, malls, etc.
  5. Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  6. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
  7. Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
  8. Postpone outdoor games and activities. The Red Cross has a First Aid, Health and Safety for Coaches online course designed to give those who take it an overview of first aid and “best practices” for many first aid situations encountered by coaches.
  9. Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
  10. Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water.

HEAT EXHAUSTION Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass (about 4 ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes.

If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1.

HEAT STROKE LIFE-THREATENING Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.

Resource: http://www.redcross.org/news/article/Heat-Safety-Red-Cross-Offers-Safety-Steps-When-Temperatures-Soar

Download the Red Cross App: redcross.org/apps