In the early part of this decade, the Texas Legislature enacted the Texas Manufactured Housing Standards Act with an eye toward protecting the consumer of what we commonly know as trailers, mobile homes or manufactured homes. The Act can be found at http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/mh/docs/standards.pdf. The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs monitors the conduct of those who deal in manufactured homes–both commercial dealers and private individuals. As with so much other Texas legislation, the state does not communicate the law to the public and it is almost as if the law does not exist.
When dealing with commercial dealers one can pretty much rest assured that a transaction for the purchase of a manufactured home will go without a hitch. Such is not necessarily the case in a transaction between private individuals. Here’s why. Above all else, when purchasing a mobile home from a private individual it is important that you get a title to the home. Mobile home titles are somewhat similar to vehicle titles in that they have fancy scroll work and have the appearance of being a certificate. Double-wide mobile homes usually have two titles–one for each half. If the mobile home was bought with a loan the lienholder’s name will appear on the title. If you are purchasing a used mobile home and no title is available, attempt to get the serial or label number off of the home. Some numbers can be picked up off the towing tongue, end of the home or from a plaque inside by the electric service panel. It is possible to replace a lost title. By going to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ website: http://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/, you can look up the current status of virtually any mobile home, including whether or not there is still a purchase lien on it or if there are property taxes owed on it in any county in the state. When you purchase your mobile home you need to complete a Statement of Ownership and Location–SOL–so as to properly reflect the new status of the mobile home in terms of who the owner is and where the home is located. All mobile homes start out as personal property when new but can be converted to real property and be considered an attachment to the land on which they are situated. Changing the status of the mobile home does not affect one’s obligation to pay property taxes nor the amount of taxes due but it does facilitate the future sale of the home and the land it sits on. The SOL can be downloaded from the TDHCA website. When transacting privately for the purchase or sale of a manufactured home it is always best to secure the services of an attorney competent in matters governing the sale of real estate and mobile homes.
The Texas Manufactured Housing Standards Act requires that any person who sells manufactures, refurbishes or moves a manufactured home, be licensed to do so if he engages in any one of these activities more than once in any 12-month period. In addition, he is required to be bonded and take continuing education for the profession. Currently, in Cherokee County, there have been several instances where individuals lacking these credentials have engaged in one of the above activities without the proper licensing. In a couple of cases, the individual selling the trailer did not sign the title over to the buyer to whom he was financing the trailer. In fact, the mobile home was not even in the seller’s name and reflected a lien that had not been released by the lien holder. Upon a thorough investigation by the TDHCA, the seller was assessed a civil penalty of $20,000.00. It was reduced to $2,000.00 when the seller agreed to cease further activity contrary to the law. Whether or not the individual ceased further activity is up for debate.
If one has a manufactured home that lacks a title, a plate with the serial or label number or has title defects, it is possible to create a new title to the home. The TDHCA has an “Affidavit of Fact” form that can be filled out with all the known details about the home including any know transactions that took place during previous conveyances. Upon acceptance of the affidavit, the TDHCA will create a new title and advise the appraisal district of the county in which the home is located.
The takeaway from all of this is that, just as when you buy real property or a vehicle, be sure you are getting good title. If you are uncertain, do not complete the transaction. See an attorney first.
Mike McEwen is a real estate broker with 28 years in the business.