Who Really Owns the Tires & Axles?

I recently was called on to inspect a manufactured home installation located along the eastern shore of Virginia. While reviewing the mountain of documents provided to the homeowner from the retailer, one document in particular caught my eye. A one-page, single sentence document that simply stated:

“The tires and axles are property of (the name and address of the retailer) and will be removed after delivery”

Really? Are the tires and axles the property of the dealer?  Or do the belong to the purchaser? Is it okay for the dealer to just take them?

 

For me, the answer is pretty clear, although you might need some convincing. Let me share my thoughts and you can draw your own conclusions.

First look at the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards (HUD Code) and see what is says about the tires and axles. We all know that a manufactured home by definition must be “transportable” and “built on a permanent chassis” (24 CFR 3280.2)  CLICK HERE to access the HUD Code.

While you are checking out the HUD Code, look at Subpart J “Transportation”. The general requirements at 24 CFR 3280.903(a) clearly state that the home must be designed to withstand the stresses of transportation for “its intended life”.

So, the HUD code requires a transportable home, not just to the initial location, but to future locations as well. But wait, there is more!

Look at 24 CFR 3280.902(a) that defines the term chassis.

“Chassis” means the entire transportation system comprising the following subsystems: drawbar and coupling mechanism, frame, running gear assembly and lights.  This same section tells us that the running gear assembly is a subsystem consisting of springs, axles, bearings, wheels, hubs, tires and brakes and their related hardware.

By now, I hope you can agree that the tires and axles are required by the building code, the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards. Can a retailer write a statement into the sales contract and take them?

Look at retailer responsibilities that are outlined in the Manufactured Housing Procedural & Enforcement Regulations (24 CFR 3282.252). It states that a distributor or retailer is prohibited selling, leasing or offering for sale or lease a new manufactured home if he knows that it does not conform to any sections of the HUD Code. That would include the code sections that I referenced above. CLICK HERE to see these Regulations.

Ok…but what about having the homeowner sign an agreement, allowing you to remove the tires and axles? Let me make one final point. If you take a look at the federal law which is the basis for this entire program, there is one short section called “Prohibition of Waiver of Rights”. It states; “The rights afforded manufactured home purchasers…may not be waived and any provision of a contract or agreement entered into…to the contrary shall be void”. CLICK HERE and scroll to page 5657

So, what does all of this mean? To me it is simple. The tires and axles of a manufactured home are required by the code, and the purchaser has right to a manufactured home that meets all applicable aspects of the code. Any contracts to the contrary are void under the federal law.

Now I am not a lawyer, and as is the case with all of my posts, I am only sharing my opinions. I hope you find this information helpful in order to make informed decisions, and take steps to avoid any potential liability.

Your comments are invited!

 

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6 thoughts on “Who Really Owns the Tires & Axles?

  1. What about the lights listed in your excerpt? I have not seen a home sent with lights in at least 30 years. Also, following your logic, it seems to me that the hitch cannot be removed from the home (not the site). Does that mean leave the hitch on?? Same goes for the axles and tires. If they must not be removed, leave them on as well?? Lastly, if you poll consumers, I bet an overwhelming amount of them would rather not pay the extra 500-1000 for their home so they can keep something that most will never use.

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    1. Great points, Neil!
      I can tell you that many years ago, HUD issued an Interpretive Bulletin about the lights and hitch. So removal of the lights is permitted as they are not provided by the manufacturer. The hitch is allowed to be removable, but remain property of the homeowner.
      Two final things to consider:
      1. The cost of the tires and axles is included in the invoice price of the home from the manufacturer.
      2. The manufacturers installation instructions (under Set The Home) all state that the hitch axles and wheels are the property of the homeowner.

      Thanks for your comment.

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  2. Mark

    In accordance with 46.2-653.1 of the Virignia Code said statute outlines the conversion of manufactured homes from chattel poroperty to real. In short it states if the wheels and other equipment used for mobility are removed and the other procedures are followed a manufactured home maybe considered real property in Virignia.

    Future resales have been impacted by subsequent sellers where underwriters are requiring that proof of clear title be preented before closing. If the manufactured home remains to have a Title under VDMV and no one knows what name(s) of the previsous owners maybe under, then there are no means to clear the title. this happens more frequentcly than in than in past years given mortgage company’s have been burnt by clouded titles appearing during foreclosures and/or short sales when there have been multiple owners of the property.

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  3. I don’t believe removing the tires and axles or leaving them on are mutually exclusive to anything you’ve posted. If we use everything listed we can make the same argument either way. We can take this point by point, and examine it;

    “manufactured home by definition must be “transportable” and “built on a permanent chassis””
    Whether or not the tires, hitch and axles are removed, and or taken, the home is still transportable, and was still built on a permanent chassis. Yes, they will need to be put back on, but it doesn’t infer ownership. A car doesn’t cease to be a car just because it has no tires.

    “the home must be designed to withstand the stresses of transportation for “its intended life”.”
    Again removing the tires, hitch and axles, and taking them doesn’t change the fact that the home must be designed to withstand the stresses of transportation for it’s intended life,

    “”Chassis” means the entire transportation system comprising the following subsystems: drawbar and coupling mechanism, frame, running gear assembly and lights.” This is the standard to which the chassis must be built, but again I see no inference of ownership of said components.

    How would this apply to a double wide? Typically temporary walls are added to make them transportable, Without those added walls the home would not be transportable. And yet when we set the home we’re certainly going to remove those walls and dispose of them. So how does that fit in with everything you listed? Added to that, once we connect the sections aren’t we also dispensing with the fact that it can be moved from location to location? Yes, we can separate the home, and in the same way I’d say we can install axles and tires.

    I’ll throw in another bonus to the argument here…. Have you taken note that the tires being used are stamped “single use”? That being said how would you fit that into the manufacturer using those tires? Wouldn’t that fail to meet the requirements you set forth?

    Then we get to the purchaser who has often told me they “scrapped the tongue’ and “sold the axles” way back when, when they needed some extra cash. By doing so did they make their manufactured home no longer a manufactured home?

    Finally, let’s talk about the world of waste we live in. I’ve come across many a home that is to be moved where the axles, tires, and hitch have been left under the home, on the ground, to rust and rot, all the tires are junk, the tongue is rotted through and all the brake axles are seized. Does this really benefit the customer? If the goal of the HUD code was to insure all that you state where is the mandate to properly store and care for all these integral parts of the home?

    Just my thoughts…..

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  4. Hello Mark,

    A quick question regarding the limits of HUD’s authority. Does the HUD Standards apply to used homes or just new homes. In 3280.903 (a) define the “intended life” to be only while the home is in a warranty period. It has been my impression that HUD could care less about the use of the home after the first owner. Does the State that need to have statutes for used homes? I have not had this problem often but you do bring up some interesting points.

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    1. Joe, You are correct that the HUD program only applies to New Manufactured Homes, sold to the first purchaser (not retailer).
      It is my opinion that every state needs a program to address relocated (used) manufactured homes.

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