Whether you are a new mobile home park owner or you are thinking of becoming one, you might be concerned about what your duties and responsibilities are. After all, you will become the landlord for a number of tenants and their families and will be responsible for them to some degree. If you are someone that dreads reading long documents full of rules, sub-clauses, and a seemingly endless number of caveats, we have some bad news for you. Not only are there comprehensive acts written on this topic but almost every state has its own laws as well. The good news is that we have compiled this article to look at the most important and universal mobile home park owners’ responsibilities, expectations, and problems.
For many of the concerns related to the rights of tenants and the landlord, respectively, the Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant Rights Act should be your guide.
What kinds of responsibilities could you have as park owner?
This might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of becoming a landlord. We are all familiar with the typical Hollywood trope of the angry landlord shouting after their tenants to pay up their late rent.
You will need to keep track of who has paid and still needs to pay; who is late; how long they have been late; the number of infractions; and who pays for what (lot rent, home and lot rent, levies, etc.). You also need to know how and when to take action in cases of missed payments. We’ll discuss this a little more in the following sections.
Keeping the park safe
You would be surprised how many potential hazards there are in a mobile home park. Especially when you have children in the park, which opens a whole can of worms regarding safety.
Just one example that people often take for granted is trees. If not properly looked after and maintained, branches can drop on houses, cars, people or on the road. Park regulations must state whether trees on lots should be taken care of by the tenants or the park owner.
Extermination or prevention of vermin or dangerous pests, such as ticks and mosquitoes, is also the responsibility of the landlord.
Keeping the park clean
Many different areas constitute a mobile home park. Some parks have many more areas of concern than others. However, all common grounds in the park should be kept as clean and sanitary as possible. This might include the pool, bbq, communal kitchen, roads, etc.
The landlord is also responsible for ensuring that garbage collection takes place as usual. Make sure tenants are aware of garbage collection schedules. Another source of sanitary issues could be water that has been stagnant for a long time.
Making sure utilities are connected and remain on
Electrical, plumbing, gas, water lines, and sewage are all basic human rights. A mobile park owner has to ensure that these utilities are running and provided at all times unless it is out of their control. For example, in instances of a natural disaster or because of municipal maintenance or error.
The law gives you 3 days to fix these issues after such an event, but you will have to submit written proof of the delay. It’s also the mobile home park owner’s responsibility to have a plan in place in case of an emergency.
Keep the infrastructure in good condition
All lots must have at least enough space for two parked cars. Some parks are exempt if they only had one parking space per lot at the time of opening. Roads are the responsibility of the park. Homeowners and emergency vehicles must have access to their homes and the rest of the park respectively.
Any damage that was a direct result of poor roads or road planning falls on the park owner.
Enforcing the rules and regulations
This is one area that not all landlords are as comfortable with as others, yet it is a very necessary part of park ownership. It’s also one of the main reasons why many owners decide to hire managers or landlords so that they don’t have to deal with the residents themselves.
It’s not in everyone’s nature to be strict and firm when it comes to enforcement and punishment. However, it is important to run a safe, peaceful, and profitable mobile home park. Other tenants are affected by a bad tenant’s behavior, not just the owner.
At the start, make sure that every tenant receives a list of the rules and regulations of the park when joining. They need to read and sign the document. Additionally, make sure to communicate any changes to tenants effectively. Otherwise, your tenants may claim ignorance in defense.
Addressing tenant concerns
Continually being vigilant for infringements, listening to complaints, and addressing concerns can quickly become a full-time job. If the section above was significant, this just adds to the reason why most people either take on park management as a permanent role, hire a manager or decide against buying a park at all.
Other mobile home park owners’ responsibilities:
- The landlord is responsible for ensuring that every tenant has access to their home and to other park facilities.
- Every tenant has the right to enjoy peace and quiet on their own lot or site. That means preventing or stopping excessive noise and disturbance.
- Provide a notice board that is easy for inhabitants to use or view.
- Differentiate between lots and other park property so that there is no gray area regarding responsibilities.
- Make sure that all the homes in the park are up to safety codes and zoned correctly for the weather and wind conditions.
What problems or obstacles should you expect?
This is another matter that might differ state to state. However, in most cases, you have to give notice to the tenant that you tend to evict them, on what grounds, and provide the dates and details of the reason if there are any. Foreclosure can also be treated differently based on your state. Even if a tenant is behind on payments, you need to inform them of delinquency and can only take action after another period of non-payment has passed. Usually, committal of a crime is the only circumstance in which you can immediately evict a tenant.
Tenant moves out unexpectedly
There are a few circumstances where a tenant is allowed to move out unexpectedly without warning:
- The park owner himself didn’t comply with the lease agreement. However, the tenant must provide a written notice of their intent and can move out if the landlord fails to address it.
- A tenant can also move out within 30 days if the home has a major defect that makes it unpleasant to live in and the park owner doesn’t fix it.
- If the park itself is somehow unliveable. This could be because of poor sanitary conditions, accessibility problems, safety concerns, etc. In this case, the tenant doesn’t have to provide notice.
- A tenant can also move out in 30 days regardless of their lease agreement if they have to move for a new job or their career. Military personnel may give less than 30 days notice if they were also unaware.
This is a tricky subject that often calls for very careful handling. A good first step is to have watertight rules in place so that it’s clear when one party was out of line. The next is to have a system for collecting complaints and then providing arbitration. Here is a friendly guide to help you handle these sticky situations.
Destruction or damaging of property
This can happen because of natural causes, a direct result of tenant actions or just by pure accident. Whatever the case may be, you’ll need to address the problems quickly. In these cases, it’s handy if you have a dedicated groundsman that can take care of problems. You also need to be able to find the cause and hold irresponsible tenants liable if they broke park regulations in damaging the property. Keep in mind that sometimes it isn’t the tenant’s fault and merely the effects of use over time.
Extreme weather or natural disasters
This is another one that’s important but may not be relevant to most owners. If your park is in a zone that experiences hurricanes or tornadoes, you will need to have plans in place for either event. We already mentioned providing some kind of replacement should services be interrupted. Insurance is also a must.
What will tenants expect?
Information regarding their rights and responsibilities
- A list of the home owner’s responsibilities. Every park can choose if the park itself or the owner is responsible for things such as the maintenance of the outside of the home and lawn care. Owners will want to know what falls to them so that they are prepared and can keep up on their home’s curb appeal.
- This one is as much for your own protection as for the information and good of your tenants. You are expected to provide notification of changes to park rules before they go into effect (usually 30 days) and try to make sure that every occupant sees them. All tenants should receive a full copy of the rules and regulations that they can keep with them.
- Tenants will also expect information regarding how and when their security deposits will be returned to them when they move out of the home.
- The Department of Public Health’s Mobile Home Owner’s Tiedown Guide should be distributed to all homeowners.
- Tenants are also within their right to ask you for proof of the rent amount for the last five years. They could ask it for a variety of reasons, such as establishing how much rent has increased or so that they know when an irregular rise in rent takes place.
- Most tenants will also request that you give them projections of the rent price over the next three years. Usually, rent increases by 10% on a yearly basis to account for inflation and the rising cost of living. Remember that manufactured homes are supposed to be affordable housing and most tenants will be conscientious of their finances.
Expectations of you
- As part of every tenant’s right to privacy, you will need to make a request before entering their home. Not only is this the law but it’s also just good manners and common decency.
- Just because you are the landlord and owner doesn’t mean the tenants don’t have a say. Depending on the type of park (co-op or PUP, for example), there should be regular meetings where tenants are allowed to voice their concerns.
- Security deposits shouldn’t be ridiculous. In general, one month’s worth of rent is a more than adequate security deposit.
- Don’t charge overdue fees for late rent. Accidents happen and more often than not, this isn’t allowed by law anyway. Five days is the usual amount of time a tenant has after the due date to square his account before there is any penalty.
Take your responsibilities one step further
Before we leave you with all this information, we would like to give you one final tip: You can never go wrong by promoting good landlord-tenant relationships. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be friends with every single one of your tenants or that your relationship has to be strictly business. There is a balance to be found in between.
You also want to have a degree of approachability among your tenants so that they don’t hesitate to reach out to you when they have concerns. Often their concerns will help you improve the park in some way or stop further damage and chaos. It also means that many problems can be resolved amicably and efficiently.
Be a great mobile home park owner!
We hope that this article will help you run a smooth, neat, safe, and pleasant mobile home park. Becoming a mobile home park owner can either be one of the best or worst decisions of your life, depending on how well you start off. Knowing your responsibilities and expectations placed on your shoulders is the first step towards good residential park management.