By Frank Wodley, Publisher, MH Life Magazine
Folks have been purchasing mobilehomes for over 50 years. Here in California there are about 5,000 mobilehome parks with 375,000 individual spaces. The great majority, about 95%, are rental parks, i.e. the land owner rents space to a tenant that owns a mobile/manufactured home. Most tenants have purchased a home already situated in a rental park, from a previous owner. This situation of dual ownership can be problematic and often times the land owner prevails or has the upper hand.
There are many advantages to living in a mobilehome: lower initial cost, less upkeep, and amenities like a pool, spa, and clubhouse to mention a few. Also there may be a ready-made community that offers interesting leisure-time activities, especially for seniors.
When a home is up for sale, sellers and agents will usually focus on the positive aspects of mobilehome life; however there can be serious negative aspects as well. I know because I’ve personally experienced many of them and have been advocating for the rights of mobilehome owners since 2004.
So what are some negatives of mobilehome living? Some parks have managers that rule with an iron fist. They may intimidate and harass. They may give bogus notices and they may be very rude. For instance, in my first month I was given a 7 day notice for weeds in my front yard. Sounds reasonable; however I don’t even have a front yard. By the way, a 7 day notice is serious because it is a first step for the park to evict you.
What about rent increases? The majority of mobilehome owners in California face a yearly rent increase of at least 3% per month, often much more. Some parks may raise rents several hundred dollars a month, especially when they have a new owner. About 100 California cities and counties have ordinances that limit rent increases, but even this situation has drawbacks. Some ordinances contain a pass through provision that requires tenants to pay for capital improvements, such a plastering the community pool, road and utility improvements, common area work, etc. For example, replacement of park utilities could cost several million dollars and tenants may be required to pay a portion.
Selling a home can also be a troublesome time. By law, buyers must be approved by the park before they can purchase a home. Often times a park may delay approval or may not approve a buyer that is qualified. Parks may also require a seller to make considerable improvements if the home is to be sold “in place.”
My suggestion, before purchasing a mobile/manufactured home in any park, do your due diligance. Talk with residents of the park who have no interest in the sale. Ask them about management, rent increases, and other potential problems. You can also contact a state advocate or the park Home Owners Association if it has one.