My Comments to HUD on Proposed Code Changes

As promised, I have provided my comments to HUD concerning the proposed changes to the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards. While there are many concerns with the proposed changes, l limited my comments to those that I feel have a direct impact on manufactured home installers.

I encourage you to review the proposed changes to the HUD code and submit your thoughts before the deadline of March 31, 2020. If you haven’t reviewed the proposed changes, CLICK HERE.

Also, on the right side of that page, your will see (In GREEN) the link to “Submit a Formal Comment”. You can either provide comments in the text box or attach a separate document.

Also, I am providing you with a copy of my comments for review. Feel free to use my comments as you see fit. CLICK to read my comments.

Having read over this proposed rule a few times, I am now of the opinion that these changes are really an attempt to erase the line between modular and manufactured housing. Many of the code changes (most of which I did not comment on) are written to open the HUD code to include more traditional and modular housing features (multi-story, stair geometry, duplex homes, etc.) I am not sure how you may feel about that, but I wanted to point it out to make you aware.

However, there are still plenty of issues that impact installers and retailers that should make us concerned.

Anyway, please take a few minutes and tell HUD your thoughts on these possible code changes.

 

Important Notices from HUD-Part 2 of 2

In the previous post we looked at the final rule issued by HUD regarding the Formaldehyde/Health Notice requirements. Now we need to look at the second notice from HUD that lays out several proposed rule changes to the manufactured housing program.

After you review these proposed rules, please take a few moments and share your thoughts with HUD while there is still time to make changes. HUD will accept your comments on these proposed rules until March 31, 2020.

You can read the proposed rule for yourself HERE and see how you can submit your comments. I am listing below only the proposed rule changes that I believe will impact installers and retailers. I have added my thoughts in [brackets] below each proposal.

3280.2, 3280.802, 3282.7 & 3285.5           HUD is adding the following definition of an “attached accessory building or structure” to the construction standards, regulations and the model installation standards.

“Attached accessory building or structure means any awning, cabana, deck, ramada, storage cabinet, carport, fence, windbreak, garage or porch for which the attachment of such is designed by the home manufacturer to be structurally supported by the basic manufactured home.”

[While I support the concept, I don’t like the attempt to list every type of attached building or structure. Differences in terminology can led to arguments, disagreements and lead to loop holes that undermine the intent of the rule. For example, stairways and landings are not included in the list. I think it is preferable to simply state that an attached accessory building or structure is anything that is attached to the manufactured home and utilizes the manufactured home for support. I will object to this proposal as written.]

3280.5          The home manufacturer would be required to add a statement on the data plate if the home is (or is not) designed for accessory structure attachment.

[While I like the concept, there is no requirement for the manufacturer to state on the data plate what type of attachment may be added. Again, it opens the door for varied interpretation. I will object to this proposal as written.]

3280.114        This proposed rule establishes requirements for stairs, landings, handrails, guards, etc. for stairways both inside the home and I assume on the exterior of the home.

The reason I assume on the exterior is at 3280.114 (d) and (e), there are requirements that specifically address exterior porches and exterior stairway lights.

[Since these requirements are more stringent than the requirements of some states (Pennsylvania for example), I think these requirements will cause confusion. I would suggest that the rule be changed to only address stairways inside the home and let the state govern exterior and basement stairs. I will object to this proposal as written.]

3280.211          HUD is finally proposing that carbon monoxide alarms be provided in homes that are equipped with fuel burning appliances or for a home that was designed for an attached garage.

[I fully support this proposal.]

3280.212 & 213 and 3282.14       Manufactured homes designed by the manufacturer to accept the attachment of a site constructed garage or carport will no longer require the HUD issued letter of “Alternative Construction”. Also, the manufacturer will be required to provide designs for the attachment of these structures in the installation instructions.

[I fully support this proposal.]

3280.609(c)(1)(iii)            This section requires that installers extend the water heater temperature/pressure relief valve discharge piping to the exterior (not under) the manufactured home.

[This proposed requirement is concerning as super-heated water being discharged outside of the skirting of the home could pose a risk to people or pets in the vicinity of the pipe termination. This is another example of additional burdens being placed on manufactured home installers without being included in the rule making process. I will object to this proposal as written.]

3280.612              With this proposal, HUD is looking to lower the pressure required to perform the water supply piping pressure test from 100 psi to 80 psi (± 5psi). Since this requirement is referenced in the Installation Standards, this would also change the requirement for installers.

[While I support this change, I am concerned that the manufacturers installation instructions will be slow to reflect this change.]

 

Again, this is my unofficial take on the proposed changes to the program. I encourage you to look them over, formulate your own opinions and comment to HUD while there is still time to make an impact.

UPDATED-Important Notices from HUD, Part 1 of 2

Note: I have received clarification from HUD on the change to the Retailer and Distributor Responsibilites as a result of this new rule. See the highlighted text below.

 

The US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) published two notices in the January 31, 2020 Federal Register. This post will provide a brief overview of one of these two notices; the final rule announcing changes to the Formaldehyde/Health Notice requirement.

While the final rule has several elements, I think there are two big takeaways for manufactured home installers and retailers:

  1. The data plate inside the home will start including a note that the manufactured home is compliant with the Title VI, Toxic Substances Control Act. Retailers should start receiving and retaining a copy of this revised data plate (or some other document that indicates compliance) for a minimum of 3 years! See 3282.257 below!
  2. Section 3280.309 of the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards is being removed. This section required the home manufacturer to provide a notice on display in the kitchen which informed potential customers that the building materials inside of the home may irritate certain people. You may know this notice informally as the “Formaldehyde Notice”.

    This notice will not be required in new manufactured homes entering production on or after March 2, 2020.

These code changes will take effect in manufactured homes entering the first stage of production on March 2, 2020.

It is important to understand that you should not remove the notice in homes you currently have in stock or on display. This final rule is not retroactive for home produced prior to the effective date.

As always, you should review the actual rule yourself as I am only providing my unofficial take on what I have read. To access the Federal Register publication Click Here! 

Also, HUD has added a subsection to the Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations under Retailer and Distributors Responsibilites. Read it here for yourself:

TSCA Title VI requirements.

Retailers and distributors must maintain bills of lading, invoices, or comparable documents that include a written statement from the supplier that the component or finished goods are TSCA Title VI compliant for a minimum of 3 years from the date of import, purchase, or shipment, consistent with 40 CFR 770.30(c) and 770.40.

 

UPDATE: I have reached out to HUD for clarification on this and here is their response:

“Through these regulations, HUD is supporting EPA’s pre-existing requirements, not creating new requirements.   As you may be aware, EPA’s definition of a “finished good” under TSCA Title VI does not exclude manufactured homes the way it excludes site-built housing (ref 44 CFR 770.3).   So, in regards to the requirement for retailers to retain records promulgated at 24 CFR §3282.257; as a retailer of a “finished good,” manufactured home retailers are required to maintain a record that the finished goods they are selling, comply with TSCA Title VI.  This is the same requirement EPA had previously codified at 44 CFR 770.30 and 44 CFR 770.40.    So for finished goods the retailer sells, they need to have records that each product (or home in our case) are TSCA VI compliant and can be a copy of the Data Plate or some other document that indicates compliance.” (emphasis added).

Retailers will need to receive documentation from the manufacturer, such as a copy of the data plate or other document to indicate the home complies with the with the Toxic Substances Control Act. This document should then be retained for a minimum of 3 years.

 

HUD also published a group of proposed code changes in a separate notice. I will do my best to provide a summary on this in a few days under part 2 of this post.

New Jersey Ends Manufactured Housing Program & Why This Should Concern You!

In case you haven’t heard, as of today (August 5, 2019), the state of New Jersey is ending its partnership with HUD as a “State Administrative Agency” or SAA. One of the results of this action, NJ code officials no longer have authority to issue permits and perform inspections of manufactured housing installations. A summary of the new rule states that “the Federal government will be responsible for oversight of the installation of manufactured homes in the State of New Jersey”.

When I read over the NJ rule, they seemed to tie the entire issue to HUD not accepting their existing installation program. I truthfully don’t understand how failure to meet the installation requirements led to this, but regardless, the rule is now in effect.

Read the Rule Here.

You may be thinking, unless you are doing business in the Garden State, that this change in New Jersey doesn’t have anything to do with you. Maybe you are right…but maybe this is a sign of things to come. New Jersey isn’t the first state to drop out recently, and I doubt it will be the last. I can’t help but believe that the manufactured housing industry needs more state (and as a result) local government involvement, not less. So, lets talk a little bit about this current relationship between the states, HUD and the Manufactured Housing industry and see if we can identify some problem areas.

As is the case with most relationships, a lot of problems start with money. I vividly recall that 25 years ago, when I first met the NJ Program Manager (Paul S., long since retired), he had two major concerns. The first was the “Alternative Construction” process and how it was never properly implemented, and the second was lack of adequate funding to run the program. Since NJ is not a production state (there are no factories), the funding that NJ received from HUD was not sufficient to pay his wages. In fact, Paul had to split duties between running the NJ Manufactured Housing Program and overseeing the safety of amusement park rides. Even states with a number of production plants have a hard time supporting their SAA staff with their share of the label fees that HUD collects from the plants. So maybe HUD needs to provide more financial support to their state partners. To be fair, I know that there has been some effort recently to increase state funding, so keep your fingers crossed that it comes about sooner than later.

Next issue to examine is the perceived value. Do the state legislators and the government policy offices see a value in maintaining a Manufactured Housing Office? You know, the Federal Manufactured Home Procedural & Enforcement Regulation is clear that if a state decides not to perform the functions of a SAA, that HUD MUST do it (24 CFR 3282.502)! State governments are always looking for ways to reduce the number of employees. So why not get out of the Manufactured Housing Industry and let HUD handle things? Generally, the job of the SAA is not sexy, doesn’t get a lot of press coverage and does very little to help get any votes for elected officials. So, unless someone can convince the folks at the top state level that SAA’s have an important function, they are at risk of becoming extinct.

What about the limitations of the Manufactured Housing Program? Specifically, that this entire program excludes relocated homes! If you sit down and talk to most building code officials and similar government regulators and tell them that HUD has this wonderful oversight program, but the program ends with the completion of the sale to the first purchaser, they would be shocked! There are a few states that have specific requirements for relocated manufactured homes, but most do not.

What about the states and local governments that just don’t understand the Manufactured Housing Standards? If you read over the NJ rule, it is obvious that they are assuming that certain things will be covered under the HUD Installation Program, but that in reality several issues will not addressed. Issues such as the connection to utilities, set back requirements, soil issues, add-ons, and not to mention the obvious issues like carbon monoxide alarms.

I think it is time that the folks at HUD and the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee start thinking outside the box. Maybe establishing guidance for handling relocated manufactured homes! And while we are stepping outside of the box, how about some guidance for local code enforcers and zoning officers? I know things like this are not required under the current regulations, but they aren’t prohibited either. I guess it boils down to who the program is intended to benefit? Is it the residents of new and relocated manufactured homes or is it the manufactured home industry.

If this program is intended to solely benefit the industry, then I can’t blame New Jersey for ending their program. But if the program intends to protect the residents of all manufactured homes, both new and relocated, maybe we should be looking at new ways to improve the state/federal relationship.

Federal Government Shutdown and Manufactured Home Installers

I have received a few emails recently asking how the shutdown of the federal government (most notably HUD) impacts the roles and responsibilities of manufactured home installers and retailers operating in states where HUD oversees the installation program.

I think it is important to know that the daily activities required by the Manufactured Housing Installation Program (24 CFR 3285 & 3286) are carried out by SEBA who is under contract with HUD. So, we can assume that SEBA is still at work processing HUD 305, 306, 307 and 309 forms and performing other related activities.

Currently the biggest impact is the issuing of installer licenses. While SEBA continues to process the forms for installer license applications, the folks at HUD issue the actual license. So, don’t expect your license to be renewed or any new licensees issued until the shutdown impasse is resolved.  

Until the federal government reopens, installer licenses are not being issued.

Regarding the reporting that is required for new manufactured homes sold and installed, (forms 305, 306 & 309) my advice is that retailers and installers should continue to conduct business just as before. Keep submitting the forms within the required time frames and keep good records! The processing of these forms is conducted by SEBA, who is currently working as usual.

Eventually, all federal government contractors will want to be paid and there could be further impact should things drag on much longer. 

It is important to remember that regardless of the when the government reopens, the requirements are still in place. A lack of enforcement or oversite doesn’t change the law. So be certain to complete the needed forms in a timely manner and submit them as usual. 

Update on HUD Reporting Forms & Your Comments

Note: This information pertains to HUD licensed manufactured home installers and manufactured home retailers that are located in, or sell homes into states where HUD administers the Manufactured Housing Installation Program.  

If you recall, on May 2, 2018, I posted about the expiration date of the HUD forms that retailers and installers use to comply with the HUD installation program requirements.

HUD Form clip

While it is important that you continue to use these forms and submit the information as in the past, I have recently been made aware that the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) is now reviewing these forms and is seeking input from you.

The OMB is seeking comments on whether the information that you provide HUD on these reporting forms is necessary, and if the reporting forms can be improved for HUD to properly operate the program.

I am attaching the comments that I already provided for your review if interested. Comments on MH Installation Program Reporting Requirements

Also, I am attaching the Federal Register notice with the particulars needed to submit your thoughts. Click here to see the Federal Register Notice

The deadline for comments is August 13, 2018.

Finally, if submitting via email, the email address provided in the notice appears to be in error. Try sending it to:

OIRA_Submission@omb.eop.gov

Shipped Loose Plumbing-What You Should Expect

It seems that at every installation training or seminar I present, installers and retailers complain that the home manufacturer is not providing the materials needed to complete the drain lines under the manufactured home. So I decided to take a look at this issue and see what we can learn.

The first thing we need to do is see exactly what the Manufactured Home Construction & Safety Standards (HUD Code) says about this.

Check out 24 CFR 3280.610(c)(1)-Drainage systems:

Each manufactured home shall have only one drain outlet.

Ok, now check out 24 CFR 3280.610(c)(5) Preassembly of Drain Lines:

Sections of the drainage system, designed to be located underneath the home, are not required to be factory installed when the manufacturer designs the system for site assembly and also provides all materials and components, including piping, fittings, cement, supports and instructions necessary for proper site installation.

So, when you look at both sections together, it should be pretty clear.  The manufacturer is going to design the drainage system so that all of the individual drain line drops through the floor can be connected to one point AND they must provide all the materials needed for the installer to complete the drainage system according to the provided design.

To know that you are getting all the plumbing parts you are required to receive, you need to look at the design supplied with each new manufactured home shipped from the factory. Generally, this DAPIA approved design is included with the box of other shipped loose parts needed to complete the home. Following this design, you should be able to connect all of the drain line drops to that required “one drain outlet” with materials provided by the manufacturer. 

The materials needed to complete the plumbing in the circled area would be shipped loose inside the home.

 

There is another reason it is important that the manufacturers supply installers with the needed parts and designs to complete the drain line, and it is called “preemption”. HUD has ruled (in a letter dated 12-4-1996) that state or local code enforcement may not require licensed plumbers to assemble shipped loose plumbing. But if you are not installing the drainage system according to the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standard, (by not following the DAPIA approved design, or using your own materials) then the local code requirements could apply. 

It is important to note that where the drain lines from the home connect to the main sewage connection the local authority has control, and at that connection, a licensed plumber can be required. 

If you are installing manufactured homes in an area that requires licensed plumbers to assemble the drain system, you should consider working with the manufacturers, your state officials, and possibly HUD to end this unnecessary requirement.

If your manufacturer is not shipping these required drain line parts with the home, you should show him 24 CFR 3280.610(c)(5). This is just one more reason why it is important for professional installers to know the HUD Code!

I hope this information is helpful.

Four Things Every Retailer Must Know!

If you have attended any of my training courses, you’ve probably heard me say how the entire installation process starts with the retailer. Manufactured home retailers have some very important requirements under federal law that range from disclosing information to consumers, reporting information to the manufacturer and even the handling of home on display at their sales lots!

But here is the problem, far too many manufactured home retailers are either not aware of all of the things they are required to do under the federal program or just misinformed about them. Failing to carry out these tasks can derail a positive sales process and can put the retailer and homeowner in jeopardy.

This post will attempt to outline four of the most important things that retailers should know.  

Consumer Disclosure:    Before the sales contract is executed, retailers are required to provide an informational disclosure to their customers. The disclosure must be a separate document to inform to the customer that:

  • The new home must be installed to state or federal installation requirements (whichever applies)
  • Additional state or local requirements may apply
  • That the retailer can provide additional information on these requirements
  • Compliance with these requirements may involve added costs
  • If the home is relocated, it should be professionally inspected after set-up 

I think retailers should consider using this requirement as a marketing opportunity. I created this brochure (in the picture) that provides the necessary information and can be used to promote your business. This Consumer Brochure is intended to be used in states where HUD has control of installation. A few edits can make it state specific. Feel free to download and edit this with your company information, logo, change the images, etc. If you prefer a more official looking disclosure, you can use the sample form that SEBA has available on their website. Click Here. Either way, make sure you are providing a disclosure to your customers.  24 CRF 3286.7(b)

Dispute Resolution Disclosure:   At the time of signing a contract, the retailer must provide the purchaser with a notice of the Dispute Resolution Program. This notice may be in a separate document from the sales contract, or may be incorporated clearly in a separate section at the top of the sales contract. The notice must include the following language:

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Manufactured Home Dispute Resolution Program is available to resolve disputes among manufacturers, retailers, or installers concerning defects in manufactured homes. Many states also have a consumer assistance or dispute resolution program. For additional information about these programs, see sections titled “Dispute Resolution Process” and “Additional Information—HUD Manufactured Home Dispute Resolution Program” in the Consumer Manual required to be provided to the purchaser. These programs are not warranty programs and do not replace the manufacturer’s, or any other person’s, warranty program.”

If the state you are selling the home into operates their own dispute resolution program, check their requirement for consumer disclosure. If you are not sure, you get more information at http://www.huddrp.net

General Retailer Responsibilities:   I hope that all retailers of new manufactured homes print a copy and read Retailer Responsibilities, found at Sub-Part F, of the Manufactured Home Procedural & Enforcement Regulations. If you don’t have a copy, click Subpart F 3282 .  The three bullet points below summarize what you should know:

  • Retailer may not sell or lease or offer for sale or lease a new manufactured home that does not fully meet the HUD Code. 24 CFR 3282.252
  • Retailer must submit “Purchaser Card” to manufacturer. 24 CFR 3282.255 
  • Retailer must report ALL possible code violations to the manufacturer. 24 CFR 3282.256

Storing Homes on Retail Lots:  Since we are talking about retailer responsibilities, we shouldn’t forget retailer responsibility for homes that are stored at their sales or storage lots. Check the installation instructions that come with every home. They require the retailers to inspect and repair damaged shipping plastic to make sure the home is weather tight. If the home is on display, support at 12’O.C. along the main beams and sidewall/marriage wall openings 4’ or greater. You even need to install any roof vents.

Typical instructions from every manufacturer.

If the home is being stored  (no people going in and out) for more than 30 days, support the chassis 2’ from each end, and mid-way between tire/axle and hitch. 24 CFR 3286.11

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on these requirements, you can visit HUD’s website HERE  or their contractor SebaPro’s website: www.manufacturedhousinginstallation.com