Let’s Talk About Installer Record Keeping

When the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 established both an Installation Program and a Dispute Resolution Program, the responsibilities and liabilities for installers increased significantly. One of the added responsibilities was the requirement for installers to maintain records for any new manufactured homes they’ve installed. So, let’s take a look at the issue of installer record keeping as more than a regulatory obligation, but also from the standpoint of being a good business practice.

If you are an manufactured home installer in one of the 14 states where HUD operates the Installation Program, or the 24 states where HUD runs the Dispute Resolution Program, you are required to maintain records of the homes you install for a minimum of three years. If you are in a state that operates their own programs, it is likely that your state has a similar requirement.

So what type of records should an installer keep? The Manufactured Home Installation Program regulations (24 CFR 3286.314) clearly lays out what records the installer must maintain where HUD oversees the installation. Below is a summary of the requirements:

(1) The name and address of the person with whom the installer contracted for the installation work and the address of the home installed;

(2) The contract to which the installer performed the installation;

(3) Any notice from an inspector disapproving the installation work;

(4) The qualified inspector’s verification of the installation work;

(5) The installer’s certification of completion of installation;

(6) Foundation designs used to install the home

While maybe a good start, this would be the minimum that should be kept. Should you ever have to defend your installation job, you will need better records.  So, let’s make a new list of documents that every installer should have in their files:

The Building Permit Cover Sheet. I am a big fan of organizing the installation documents to provide to the building code official, and to better aid the installer in pre-planning the job. Click here for A Tool to Improve the Building Permit Application Process (from the blog on March 26, 2018).

The Complete Installation Checklist which is found towards the back of every installation manual. Or even better, the Expanded Installation Checklist (from the blog on Oct. 16, 2017) that is more detailed and covers most issues that you should be checking before driving away from the home. These checklists are going to be your best friend should you ever find yourself in the middle of a dispute.

 

 

Pictures are critically important. If you are digging footings below the frost line, how about a picture of the excavation along with a tape measure so you can show the depth? Also take pictures of the completed job. We all know that homeowners often change the landscaping around the home, or add decks, patios, etc. You want to be able to show the situation of the site grading when you certified the installation.

As a trained and licensed manufactured home installer, you know how important it is to report any problems or defects to the retailer or manufacturer. It is equally important for you to keep notes of all problems that you observed and reported.

Crossovers don’t line up? Report to the manufacturer!

Speaking of problems that you’ve reported, if the manufacturer authorized you to make repairs on their behalf, be sure to have a note to that effect in your file and a copy of the detailed invoice you submitted.

Did the fuel provider conduct the gas line testing? Make sure you give them with a copy of the required test procedures (from the installation manual), and get a written receipt from them proving the testing was successful for your file.

If you used an alternative anchoring system to stabilize the home, that is great. But be certain you have a DAPIA detail from the manufacturer showing their approval of the system.

 

It goes without saying that you will keep the designs taken from the installation manual illustrating the foundation construction, but make sure those details include notes specific to the home site. Such as soil bearing capacity, or depth of frost penetration. Indicate how you obtained this information.

I think by now you get the picture. I know that very few installers are keeping records of the manufactured homes they install. But that needs to change. We all need to take a more business minded approach to installation. When the day comes that you will need to defend your installation, you will be glad you started keeping records!

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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!