How is my mobilehome taxed?

Mobilehomes manufactured and sold new prior to July 1, 1980 are usually subject to an annual state vehicle license fee (VLF). Mobilehomes manufactured on or after that date and those permanently fixed to the land are subject to local property taxation. The sale of new mobilehomes and the resale of used mobilehomes subject to the VLF are also subject to a sales tax. Homeowners may have to pay property taxes on their mobilehome accessories (carports, cabanas, etc.), depending on the value of the accessories. In newly developed parks or spaces, new buyers may also have to pay a school impact fee. Mobilehome owners in parks may also be subject to a rent ‘pass through’ of certain government fees, such as rent control space fees or park inspection fees.

Resource: What Every Mobile Home Owner Should Know, published by the Senate Select Committee on Manufactured Home Communities. 

Who Really Lives in Mobile Homes? The Perception and Misconceptions of Mobile Home parks and their residents.

Mobile home parks and their residents are beginning to be featured more and more in today’s media. First came Welcome to Myrtle Manor, a reality TV show about a handful of quirky mobile home park residents in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Then, more recently, with the controversial statement made by Miss South Carolina in her intro to the Miss America Pageant, “I’m from the state where 20 percent of our homes are mobile, because that ‘s how we roll.” Some argue that statements like these and TV shows like Welcome to Myrtle Manor only serve to perpetuate the “trailer trash” stereotype. Others say it brings a lighthearted nature to mobile home living that has not been there in the past due to the stereotype of the poor and downtrodden mobile home owner.

So who really lives in mobile homes? According to a recent article written by Tom Geoghegan: Pamela Anderson, Minnie Driver, and Matthew McConaughey are all residents of the mobile home park Paradise Cove in Malibu, California. In this park the homes boast marble floors and sell for around $2.5 Million. The same article alluded to parks in Thermal, California where conditions are terrible and most homes are held together with spit and a prayer. Both of these parks are the exception and not the rule.

If it is neither the exorbitantly wealthy nor the unemployed and destitute that live in the majority of the over 8 million mobile homes (US Census, Manufactured Housing Institute) located in the United States, who really lives in mobile homes? According to the US Census 57% of mobile home owners distinguished as the “head of household” have full time employment and 23% of residents are retired. Young families just starting out and seniors tend to populate the majority of mobile home parks. This is in part due to the cost of the average mobile home, “70% of all new single family homes sold for under $125,000 are manufactured”(Manufactured Housing Institute). The affordability of a manufactured home versus a site built home attracts younger families just starting off. It also attracts many seniors wishing to retire. Many of them sell their site built homes for the ease of Mobile Home living; with little to no yard to maintain and many amenities, including clubhouses and pools, some event boast tennis courts, the value far exceeds the cost. Other than being the average American, the mobile home owner is really just someone who has the opportunity to enjoy, as the old adage goes, “More bang for your buck”.

The History of the trailer and mobile home park lifestyle.

Trailer camps began appearing in the late 1930’s and sprung up around vacation destinations near beaches and deserts.  These camps were designed as a temporary land use to provide lodging for people towing “caravans” and travel trailers.  These parks and were usually under 100 spaces and typically provided bathrooms, showers and utility hook ups.  As time passed, these trailer parks either disappeared or made way for new development, or they became long-term housing for people living in small travel trailer or singlewide units.  In the Inland Empire agriculture areas these travel trailer parks became popular for migrant workers and remain so today.

Most of the “typical mobile home parks” in the region were built in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Like the older trailer camps, many were built as interim land uses on former farmland, with temporary conditional use permits (CUP) from local cities and counties to build the parks.  One of the primary incentives to build a mobile home park was the ability to realize income from the land to help pay property tax.  Prior to the adoption of Proposition 13 in 1978 California tax assessors taxed property on the basis of its highest and best use.  Farmland was being developed for housing and the zoning master plan set aside blocks of land for future commercial and industrial development.  It is common to find mobile home parks developed on major highways in commercial and industrial areas of cities.

The parks built in the 1960’s and 70’s focused on providing larger spaces for new doublewide mobile homes and a lifestyle to attract retirees.  Clubhouses, pools, shuffleboard, a place to store RV’s, and organized activities topped the list of amenities.  Retirees could sell their stick built home and purchase a new mobile home leaving behind maintenance and yard work and enjoy the modern facilities at the new mobile home park.  In the mid-60’s a typical new doublewide mobile home sold for $15,000 in a new park and rents were $75 or less – about half the cost of a new site built home of similar size – but with a lot more amenities and literally worry free.

In 1981, the last new manufactured housing community was built in Orange County.  The manufactured homes had evolved in design and quality to match site-built homes and with ground level installation and site-built garages; the neighborhood took on the look of a site-built project, but with “country club” amenities and an attractively affordable price tag.

A few new parks have been built in the Inland Empire in the past ten years, but, with today’s land and improvement costs, building new rental/land lease manufactured housing communities today is not feasible.

Mobile Home Taxation Exemptions For Military Personnel

If you reside in a Mobile Home park and are either Active Duty Military personnel or a Disabled Veteran and you are struggling to pay your property
taxes there are a few exemptions in California that might help.

  • Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act of 1940
    • Who : If you are Active Duty military personnel stationed in California, and you own the mobile home you are residing in and that home does not have a permanent foundation this exemption applies to you.
    • What: If you can claim residency in your home state (outside of California) your home would be immune from property taxation in California.
    • How: You must fill out form BOE-261-D also known as Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act Declaration.
  • Disabled Veterans Exemption
    • Who: Any blind or otherwise disabled veteran or the veteran’s unmarried spouse, who owns and resides in a mobile home in California.
    • What: The first $100,000-$150,000 of the manufactured home’s full value may be exempt depending on the degree of disability and annual income of the veteran. If you pay a Vehicle License Fee (VLF) on your home rather than property taxes the first $20,000-$30,000 of the homes market value may be exempted from the VLF.
    • How: Fill out form BOE-261-G and contact your local Assessors office for an appeal.

For a list of California’s Mobile Home Residency Laws Click Here.