We’ve all heard the saying “The devil is in the details.” When purchasing a manufactured home – other than from a dealer – things can get complicated. By the way, a manufactured home is the correct legal term that should be used instead of a mobile home or trailer. The Texas Manufactured Housing Act covers the sale of manufactured homes, and a properly done sale has to follow this civil statute. It’s somewhat like selling a vehicle. There is a form called a “Statement of Ownership and Location” that has to be filled out. It has to be signed by the Seller and the Buyer and it has to be sent to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. Signatures have to be notarized. One step in this transaction requires the buyer to state if he is going to own the home as real estate or personal property. The only time a buyer should declare the home as personal property is if it is going to be located on property that does not belong to the buyer. The document also requires the label and the serial number of the home. The label number will be found on a metal plaque that is usually attached to the left corner of the end of the home that had the tongue on it. There will also be a paper document that will be located in a closet or inside a cupboard door that will have the serial number, certificate number, and label number. The label I.D. typically begins with three capital letters. As part of the sale transaction, one should go to the TDHCA website to verify that the home is in the name of the seller. Many times a manufactured home is sold without the “Statement of Ownership and Location” having been filled out and sent to the TDHCA, and it will show up as being owned by a prior owner. Usually, this happens out of innocent ignorance. If the prior owner can be located and he is cooperative, the situation can be rectified. If the individual is not cooperative, the title can still be resolved, but it takes a lot more steps and a lot more time.
A few years ago two couples came to my office asking for advice about two manufactured homes they were wanting to buy from an individual. When I went to the TDHCA website I learned that the homes were not owned by the individual wanting to sell them. I called the TDHCA and they went after the individual with a vengeance. They were going to fine him $20,000.00; but if he would agree to cease and desist they would reduce the fine to $2,000.00. I honestly do not know how that episode played out. What I did learn is that, if a person sells, moves, refurbishes or builds more than one manufactured home a year, he must be licensed, bonded and take continuing education courses.
In some instances, there are manufactured homes without any identification whatsoever. The label plaques have been removed and there are no documents inside the home. If one will call the TDHCA, at 800-500-7074, one of the employees can help walk you through the steps of establishing a new label. There are some instances where the label will still be on the home and it will show the name of a prior owner on the TDHCA website. The TDHCA may require a demonstrated attempt to reach the owner......usually via certified mail. If no answer is received the TDHCA will walk you through the steps of getting it into your name. The following link will take you to a “Statement of Ownership & Location”: https://www.tdhca.state.tx.us/mh/docs/1023-applsol.pdf . Feel free to call us if we can help further.
Mike McEwen is a real estate broker with 29 years in the business.