When installing manufactured homes, which tool is the most valuable?
I don’t mean your bottle jacks, come-along, air compressor or sledge hammer. I mean the tool that will protect you in case a homeowner decides to sue you for a faulty installation. Or should they file a complaint against you under a State or Federal Dispute Resolution Program. Which tool will you use to defend yourself?
In 2008, most home manufacturers started including a “Complete Installation Checklist” in their installation manuals. Today, I believe all manufacturers have these installation check lists. If you ever find yourself before a judge, mediator or arbitrator, you are going to wish you had a completed checklist as evidence that you did what was required to properly install the home.
OK, I know that these checklists are not perfect; in fact, they carry a disclaimer that they are “not all-inclusive”. But before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, let’s take a little closer look.
First of all, federal law requires that installers maintain records of manufactured homes they install for three years. What records do you keep? At a minimum, you should retain these documents for every new home you install:
- The contract for the job (or at least a written scope of the work you are expected to complete)
- A record of completion (a completed certificate, insignia log, or whatever your state or HUD requires you to do at completion)
- Keep in mind, federal dispute resolution is applicable for problems reported in the first year. So, you need to clearly establish the date of completion
- Several date stamped photos of the installation
- Site specific information (soil bearing capacity, frost depth)
- Installation details you followed (including anchoring system)
- The “Complete Installation Checklist”
This checklist is evidence that you completed the minimum steps needed for a successful installation. That the foundation and anchoring systems are correct. That all assembly was properly completed. And most important, that you completed the required testing:
- Smoke alarm
- Tub/shower water temperature
- Water supply
- Drain line
- Gas system (maybe the fuel supplier conducted this test-if so, get a receipt for your records)
- Electrical-continuity/polarity/ operation
Completing these checklists can not only be used as a big part of your defense in a court room or other proceeding, but can also be used as a marketing tool. Use it to illustrate why your installation might be better than your competitors!
In short, should you have to defend your work because the homeowner hired a lawyer, or files a complaint with HUD or your state, a completed installation checklist can be the most important tool in your toolbox!