When I was in junior high school, we conducted an experiment to see how a particular statement could get twisted as it was passed along from person to person. After being whispered across the classroom, the information had very little resemblance to the original statement. We immediately learned not to trust everything that you hear.
I think the same thing happens in the manufactured housing industry. Often what we learn about the manufactured housing program gets passed down to us from our supervisors, colleagues, regulators and others. And just like that experiment in school, the facts often get twisted if not completely forgotten.
With this in mind, I think we should take a look at a few of the provisions in the manufactured housing law and regulations, that well intended professionals have a responsibility to know.
One of the things I share in all of my training classes is that every new manufactured home MUST comply with all applicable standards; without exception! However, sometimes folks in our industry will enter into a contract or waiver with the consumer, attempting to create an exception to the program requirements (See Who Really Owns the Tires & Axles? for an example). If this is you, check out the following section of the Manufactured Housing Construction & Safety Standards Act.
§5421. Prohibition on waiver of rights.
The rights afforded manufactured home purchasers under this chapter may not be waived, and any provision of a contract or agreement entered into after August 22, 1974, to the contrary shall be void.
That seems pretty clear to me, a new manufactured home must fully meet the code and program requirements, without exception. Even if a consumer signs a waiver, the federal law renders that waiver void!
A few times I have encountered folks attempting to create a loophole in the program by misconstruing the definition of “purchaser”. Their thinking is that they could buy a new manufactured home from a manufacturer or retailer, becoming the first purchaser and re-sell the home to the consumer, thereby ending the protections of the manufactured housing program to the consumer. Well, take a look at the definition of “Purchaser” in the Manufactured Home Procedural & Enforcement Regulation 24 CFR 3282.7(aa).
Purchaser means the first person purchasing a manufactured home in good faith for purposes other than resale.
If your purpose is to re-sell the home, you are not the purchaser.
If you still say that you are in the “mobile home” business, as opposed to the “manufactured home” business, I’ll guess that you still wear leisure suits, listen to ABBA, and drive a Ford Pinto. There hasn’t been a “mobile home” produced since June 15, 1976. Except for modular homes (constructed to a state adopted building code), any single-family home built in a factory in the past 43 years is a “Manufactured Home”. Check out 24 CR 3282.8(a)
Using outdated or misleading terms to the purchaser can have unintended consequences. Better get with the times and use the correct terminology!
Have you ever been told that a local building code official is not permitted inside a manufactured home? I have heard that claim for years, and it is not true! What the regulations actually say is that a building code official may not inspect a new manufactured home for compliance with the HUD Code. Basically, the code official should trust that the inspection process in the factory was sufficient (see 24 CFR 3282.11(b) of the regulations for more detail).
However, a code official entering the home is not a problem. I contend that a code official should enter every home to check the data plate information. And since the HUD Code doesn’t address certain construction standards that many other residential building codes require, the local code inspector is within his rights to look for items like carbon monoxide alarms, or baluster spacing (if the home has railings installed inside the home) to name a few.
I have always advocated that every manufactured home professional should have their own copy of the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards. Without a copy of the HUD code, you will never be able to determine if the code official has exceeded his local or state authority and started to tread on the federal program.
It might be a good idea to explore more of these type of issues in future posts. Please keep in mind, these posts are my personal opinion, and are not to be construed as anything more.