A Very Valuable Tool

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.

checklist-2

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!

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