Ever since I started my career in the manufactured housing industry, I have heard about the big manufactured housing show held in Louisville Kentucky each January. Last week, at the invitation of my friends at the Michigan Manufactured Housing Association, I finally got to see it for myself.
I must admit, it was quite impressive. There were almost 60 homes (both modular and manufactured) on display, and plenty of venders to keep me supplied in pens and key chains for years to come.
The big surprise was how many folks approached me to talk about problems with installation. Specifically, problems with their local code officials. If you have followed this blog over the past 3 years, you know that I have written on this topic several times. But attending the show, and hearing from so many people with similar stories about code enforcement, I knew we should talk about it once more. Here is a sampling of what installers, community owners and retailers were talking about:
- Code officials requiring vertical tie downs for manufactured homes in Wind Zone 1.
- Local requirement to add smoke alarms to the home.
- Code officials requiring licensed plumbers to perform all plumbing tests, and the assembly of the shipped loose drain lines.
- Requiring blower door testing to every manufactured home.
- Code officials that refuse to sign off on required forms (namely HUD 309) for fear of being penalized.
While individually, these issues might not seem like much, collectively they illustrate that 44 years after the manufactured housing program began, we have done a terrible job educating the code enforcement community on manufactured housing.
So, what can we do about it? Plenty!
First, we need to start involving the industry leaders (trade association and manufacturers) when these issues come up. All too often, installers and retailers are quick to do whatever the local code official asks, just to pacify him or her. In other words, we go along just to get along. This needs to stop. With the support and involvement of the folks at the top, we should be looking at ways to educate and win over the local code officials.
Next, we need support from HUD. As you all know, fewer and fewer states are participating in the manufactured housing programs along with HUD. Too many of the ones that are participating have drifted very far away from the program principals. Whenever given the opportunity, we need to encourage HUD be more visible with every state government. Not just with the people who run the programs, but rather with those who establish the policies…such as the Governors and Cabinet Secretaries. Additionally, we need to encourage HUD to start assuring that all states are held to the same expectation. Remember, a rising tide lifts all boats!
Also, we need to continue to become the experts on manufactured housing. By now you all should have a copy of the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, and if you don’t have a copy, Click Here. Next, you need to actually read it! Become the expert that the code officials can come to whenever they have a question!
The same is true with the home installation instructions. Read them! When you find things that seem odd, talk to the factory QC department and engineers (not sales or service staff). Maybe they can be changed or better explained!
Know the importance of the building permit application process. Organize your documents with a Manufactured Housing Building Permit Coversheet (click on the link). Forget the single page pier print, and start submitting (and following) DAPIA approved details to support everything you do to assure a properly installed home.
Finish the whole process off by keeping good records and completing the Installation checklist. Here is one I created should you want to use it: Expanded Manufactured Housing Installers Checklist PDF!
Maybe I will see you at the show next year!