The Journal

July 2014

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 31

JULY 2014 16 THE JOURNAL BY GEORGE PORTER SERVICE & SET-UP Fit For The Purpose Intended The thought occurred to me that I have left community owners completely out of my arti- cles concerning installation of manufactured housing. My apologies to those who have wished to see the subject explored and my con- dolences to those who were very happy to have been left out of this mess till now. If you are a land lease community owner/op- erator who does not engage in the retailing of homes in any way then you probably think that you have escaped involvement in installation entirely because you don't set up homes. All you do is rent the lots to people who want to put their home on them and that's all. Well, think about this for a moment. Most of the state and federal laws in this country are based on English Common Law. Louisiana is the only notable exception and its laws tend to follow the Code Napoleon, (a French thing). One of the basic principles of law is whenever you rent or sell something to someone it must be fit for the purpose intended. This means that if you sell someone something, such as a steak dinner, it must be fit to eat. Now it may or may not be the best tasting steak in the world but it is certainly not supposed to cause them to have to have their stomach pumped at the local hospital. The steak was meant to be eaten and it must be at least fit for human consumption. If you rented someone a car to get to the next town and the car would not start, then it would not be fit for the pur- pose intended either. These laws make sense, are reasonable, and protect us from each other in a civilized society. So here is the big ques- tion, are the lots you are renting fit for the pur- pose intended? Some of us have seen a few that were not! When you do nothing but rent the bare lot you are still involved in the installation process. Every new home has an installation manual and it usually starts out by saying that the lot must be graded and shaped so the water runs away from the home on all sides. Failure to do so can cause endless problems to occur in the home. Mold, mildew, rot, footings settling, particle board floors crumbling, cabinets warping, enormous frost heaving in cold climates, walls cracking, and many other problems can all be caused by a little water running under the home. Any lot that does all this to a home must not have been very fit for the purpose intended. Does this mean that you as the landowner must grade each lot especially for each home? Maybe not. Let's go back to the car rental example. Suppose you informed the person who wanted to rent the car that it would not start because it needs a new battery, if they fix this themselves then the car would be fine for the purpose in- tended. You would of course do this in writing and most lawyers would agree you have covered yourself well. (There is nothing that all lawyers would agree to; they make their living as a re- sult of disagreements and confusion.) It would seem to be a prudent action to warn or advise lessees that the lot might not be cor- rect for their home and that they may have to do some grading to have the home conform with the instructions in the installation manual from the factory. What about if you as the landowner forbid them to do any grading or modification to the site whatsoever? Where does this put you if the home rots? The jury is still out on this. (pardon the pun) This prob- lem has never come up in court to my knowl- edge, but it surely will. When new homes are costing $30,000 to $100,000 or more and are being put on leased lots with 25-year mort- gages, there is the potential for large loss. The home does not have what it needs to last at least as long as the loan if the lot is not properly pre- pared. The bank collateral and the homeowner equity are at stake here. If there are loses then either or both parties might try to find someone to blame and pay them back, that very well might be you the land owner if there was a site related problem. This is probably not what you want to hear but it is better to think about this now than when it is handed to you on legal sta- tionary. If you are renting lots that include a founda- tion for the home then your potential problems are far more complicated. What are the chances of that foundation looking the one in the factory manual for that home? If you can see the prob- lem with only the lot then this scenario should cause severe sweat to form if you have not in some way warned the customer that he may have to do some modifications to make the lot appropriate for his home. The correct set up of a manufactured home is a physics problem. Politics and finances have nothing to do with gravity and wind. Renting the lot or owning it doesn't matter either. It is not the 40's and 50's and we are not in the travel trailer business anymore. Someone is going to get stung by this, don't let it be you. George Porter is a consultant to the manufactured housing industry. His Company is Manufactured Housing Resources, P.O. Box 863, Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971, (302) 645 5552, Web: Some of his services are both in person and On-line training for certification in many states plus expert witness and investigation for the industry. T J

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Journal - July 2014