Creating Workable Protections for Manufactured Home Owners: Evictions, Foreclosures and the Homestead
(This article originally appeared in the Gonzaga Law Review in 2014. As noted by the authors, the article discusses a problem that has yet to be fixed, so it remains relevant. It is reprinted here with permission.)
Part IV – Statutory Regimes in Other States
Like Washington, most states have regrettably not enacted provisions in their landlord-tenant or summary process laws that take into account the unique challenges faced by manufactured home owners who place their homes on leased land. Several states, however, provide manufactured home owners an extended period of time after judgment has been entered against them in which they may attempt to sell their homes. While this time allowance is undoubtedly helpful in some cases, these statutes generally require that the homeowner continue to pay rent in order to benefit from the additional time allowance, a condition which is impractical in most cases and undercuts the utility of these statutes.
Of the states that provide manufactured home owners with extended time after eviction to sell their homes, Massachusetts currently provides the longest automatic time period. Under Massachusetts law, a manufactured home owner who has been evicted from the land upon which their home is sited is automatically given 120 days after eviction to sell their home.122 The park owner is prohibited from terminating or otherwise interfering with the manufactured home’s utility connections and from moving the home during this time period,123 and moreover, the park owner is prohibited from buying the manufactured home “for a price substantially below the fair market value of the home,” the incidence of which “create[s] a rebuttable presumption that such transaction was unfair or deceptive.”124
While the homeowner may leave the manufactured home in place during this period, the park owner is granted a lien on the home, which, if perfected, must be signed by the homeowner.125 Qualification for this 120-day period, however, depends upon the homeowner continuing to pay rent, even while the homeowner is prohibited from continuing to live in the home.126 This continued rent requirement and prohibition on continued use and occupancy are shared by almost all states that provide an extended time allowance for manufactured home owners to sell their homes.
Several other states also provide an evicted manufactured home owner with extended time to sell the home or remove it from the park, each with their own conditions and restrictions. Virginia automatically provides manufactured home owners with 90 days, “conditioned upon the payment of all rent accrued prior to the date of judgment and prospective monthly rent as it becomes due;”127 Iowa provides up to 60 days, conditioned most restrictively upon the plaintiff’s consent;128 and “[w]here the interests of justice require,” a Minnesota court may grant a manufactured home owner 60 days to sell the home, conditioned upon continued payment of rent and utilities, among other provisions.129 As in Massachusetts, manufactured home owners may not continue to use and occupy their homes during these stay periods in any of these three states.
In addition to granting manufactured home owners reasonable time to move or sell their homes, both Michigan and Connecticut provide for flexibility in this time period for the benefit of the homeowner. In Michigan, homeowners are allowed 90 days after judgment in which to sell their homes if they continue to pay rent and other charges accruing, maintain the manufactured home and lot, and provide the park owner with proof of winterization of the home within 10 days of the judgment.130 If, however, the park owner denies tenancy to a bona fide purchaser of the home within this 90-day period, the period “shall be extended” 90 days from the date of that refusal.131
Connecticut has an even more flexible and potentially protective statutory mechanism for ensuring that manufactured home owners facing eviction have adequate time to sell or move their homes. Under Connecticut law, an eviction judgment against a manufactured home owner is automatically stayed for five days.132 During the stay, a home owner may “move for permission to exercise in good faith the resident’s right to sell the manufactured home in place.”133 If this motion is granted, “the court may stay execution upon such judgment pending sale of the home.”134
While the length of this stay is in the court’s discretion, the court is authorized by statute to stay the execution of the judgment for up to 12 months.135 If the stay extends beyond six months, however, the stay must be “reviewed every two months to determine that the resident is making a good faith effort to sell the home.”136
This level of court discretion to ensure an equitable, post-eviction outcome for both manufactured home owners and park owners is unique to Connecticut, and is surely a good model for other states contemplating making their own eviction proceedings more equitable. And unlike the other states discussed above, evicted homeowners in Connecticut may continue to use and occupy their homes during this stay. Predictably though, this is conditioned upon the homeowner continuing to pay rent and the performance of any other terms and conditions the court may impose.137
The continued rent requirement central to these statutory schemes must in practice discourage many manufactured home owners from pursuing the option for additional time. When it does, this requirement thereby undercuts the general usefulness of these statutory schemes. For example, if the cause of an eviction is nonpayment of rent, and the cause of the nonpayment is financial hardship, it is not likely that a homeowner will suddenly be capable of affording rental payments after eviction. While these states have all rightfully recognized how much more damaging an eviction can be in a manufactured housing context than in others, an effective, predictable and flexible statute that responds to this problem must be structured differently.
Part V – The Solution
As this article has explored, the current legal framework in Washington can lead to significant unpredictability. When manufactured home owners facing eviction fail to exercise their homestead rights, and if they are not able to conduct a sale prior to the sheriff’s sale, they lose their homes and any equity they have accrued. On the other hand, when a homeowner asserts homestead rights, the park owner may not have any way of recovering the loss of rent for that space for as long as it takes the homeowner to sell the manufactured home.
Any statutory proposal to resolve this dilemma must take into account the interests of all affected parties. While park owners have an interest in securing a return on their investments as well as the maintenance of a healthy and safe housing community, homeowners have an interest in protecting their homes, including their accrued equity. The homeowner also has an interest in stable and secure housing. Society at large would benefit as well from a stable and predictable post-eviction process for homeowners.
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