Creating Workable Protections for Manufactured Home Owners: Evictions, Foreclosures, and the Homestead

For many, the financial burdens of owning a traditional, site-built home are overly burdensome. Many individuals who earn substantially lower income than the average site-built home owner have instead turned to manufactured housing in pursuit of homeownership. In Washington State, the Department of Revenue estimates that there are 1,400 manufactured housing communities in which 62,745 manufactured homes are placed.

Since about the middle of the last century, manufactured housing has become a source of quality housing for low-income residents of Washington State. In recognition of this, when adopting certain amendments to the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act (MHLTA) in 2008, the Washington legislature articulated in its findings of intent,

Manufactured/mobile home communities provide a significant source of homeownership opportunities for Washington residents . . . . Many tenants who reside in manufactured/mobile home communities are low-income households and senior citizens and are, therefore, those residents most in need of reasonable security in the siting of their manufactured/mobile homes because of the adverse impacts on the health, safety, and welfare of tenants forced to move . . . .

Along with federal statutes, Washington’s MHLTA has evolved to protect manufactured home owners from unscrupulous park owners, predatory lending, and other problems unique to manufactured housing.

Despite these protections, there remains a significant gap in Washington law with respect to post-eviction remedies available to individuals who own a manufactured home but rent the land upon which the home is sited (hereinafter referred to as a “manufactured home owner”). As this article argues, while manufactured home owners facing eviction are explicitly protected by Washington State’s “Homestead Act” from forced sales of their homes, many manufactured home owners are, in practice, unaware of the Homestead Act’s protections or how to enforce them. The result is often that when manufactured home owners are evicted from manufactured housing communities, they lose their home along with any accrued equity.

This article further argues that a more appropriately balanced eviction process for manufactured home owners should be modeled on the foreclosure process of site-built homes in the mortgage loan context. Such a system would recognize the significant equity that many manufactured home owners have at stake in their homes, while at the same time respecting the need of manufactured housing community owners to maintain their housing communities as businesses and each individual lot as a profitable investment. The appendix to this article includes the text of a bill that could be enacted based on this article’s proposed legislative framework.

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Rory O’Sullivan and Gabe Medrash, Creating Workable Protections for Manufactured Home Owners: Evictions, Foreclosures, and the Homestead, 49 Gonz. L. Rev. 286 (2014).

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