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Mobile Home Park Utilities: When can the Mobile Home Park owner relax and pass the responsibility on to the Resident?
Thu 07/16/09 10:20:26 am
by Dave Reynolds

This is a question with an answer that is not always the same for every mobile home park, but is common among most.  Most of the time if you use common sense and discover the real issue the answer will be clear.  Other times, the issue may be clouded.  There have been times that I have owned a mobile home park and did not clarify my policies with my manager's and I ended up paying for many mobile home repairs that were not my responsibility.  I assumed my manager would understand and that assumption has cost me thousands of dollars over the years.  It was not their fault but mine. 

Let's look at each different type of utility.

1. Water - there are a few different types of water systems and the park is usually responsible for the water lines underground up to the point of the water meter.  If there is not a water meter, then up to the point of the shut off valve.  If there is not a shut off valve, then it is the responsibility of the resident at ground level where the resident connects his home to the water line.  It is my policy that the resident must heat tape and insulate the water lines (and meters) on any exposed area. 

What about frozen water lines?  My policy here is that it is the resident's responsibility to heat tape and insulate the water lines from the point they are exposed in the ground throughout.  Most of the time when the water line freezes up, it is because the heat tape is not working, is not plugged in, or is not there at all.  A park owner/manager should inspect these periodically and spell it out clearly in the rules.  If a line breaks or a meter freezes up and it is due to their negligence, then I bill them for that repair expense.

Note:  in some cases, for those lucky park owners out there, the city will own and maintain the water lines all the way to the meter.  In this case, the park owner will have little or no exposure to repair the water lines.  The resident will still be responsible from the point of connection throughout the home.

2. Sewer Lines - with the sewer, the resident is responsible from the point that their sewer line is connected to the sewer line owned by the park at ground level.  That would include any sewer lines running under their mobile home.  With sewer, there are additional issues that come up with plugged lines that run from their connection and underground to the main lines (lateral lines).  Using common sense and rationality (if there is such a thing), the sewer clogs or problems that are caused by the resident (personal items, grease, baseballs, toys, etc) should be the resident's responsibility.  Problems with the sewer that are caused by collapsed lines and tree roots would usually be the park's responsibility.

Note:  again for those lucky park owners out there, the city will sometimes own and maintain the sewer lines all the way to the point at ground level where the connection is made by the resident.  In this case, the park owner will have little or no exposure to repair the sewer lines.  The resident will still be responsible from the point of connection throughout the home.

3. Septic Tanks - with septic tanks this will often depend on the circumstances and state of repair that the tanks and leach lines are in.  It is my policy that I will have a septic tank pumped one time for each resident.  After that time, it is up to the resident to pump it as needed.  If the septic tank or leach lines are bad, then it would not be fair to pass this constant pumping on to the resident.  However, if the resident has leaks all over the home and the water is constantly running then a tank that is filling up is most likely caused by their negligence.  The easiest way to find out whose problem it is would be to monitor the water consumption by reading the meters every day or so where you suspect a problem (more rationale for water meters).

4. Electricity - with electricity the resident's responsibility will begin at the point where they connect to the meter or fuse box.  In the olden days this was where the resident plugged in their home like you do an extension cord.
In some cases, the city or electrical company will own the meter and if a meter goes bad, they will replace at no charge to the resident or park owner.  With sub-master metered electric, you will own all the meters and all the electric lines from the master meter throughout the park.
Mobile Home Park Boot Camp There are additional issues with electricity and I will touch on just a couple of them here.  Suppose that your fuse box or meter goes out and a sudden surge of electricity goes through the home and blows up the computer and television and whatever else.  Is this the park owner's responsibility or the residents?  I think it will again vary on a case basis.  If it is due to faulty electrical lines on your part, then it may be your problem.  If it is from a surge of lightening, then it is an act of God and would be covered by the homeowners insurance or be their responsibility.
In another case, suppose that your electricity goes out in the park due to a widespread power outage in your city.  Would it be your responsibility to reimburse the residents for spoiled food in the fridge?  I think not.  The electric company is not going to reimburse the people in single family homes due to a power outage, are they?  On the other hand, suppose that your park has a power outage due to your backhoe operator digging up a sewer line.  Would you be liable to reimburse for spoiled steaks and milk in this case?  Once again, I doubt it as long as you give the resident's warning about the problem and you work diligently at getting the problem fixed.  Sidenote - have you ever noticed that when the electricity goes out it is often the day after your resident just went shopping and bought a side of beef and about $1,000 in other groceries?  It is amazing that it seems to happen this way!
5. Gas Lines - with gas lines this works very much like electricity.  With gas metered individually to the residents by the gas company, you will typically have zero responsibility.  The gas company owns the lines with an easement through your park up to and including the meter.  The resident hooks up to the meter and then is responsible for the line from the meter throughout the home.
With sub-master metered gas (the worst case), the mobile home park owner will own all the gas lines underground from the master meter up to and including the sub-meter and the resident will have the same responsibility from the meter throughout the home.
6. Cable TV & Telephone - this is usually not an issue of responsibility for the mobile home park owner or the resident.  The cable company and telephone company like to have customers and will run the phone and cable lines all the way up to the mobile home.  The only time I have had to fix a cable or TV cable was when we happened to be digging and cut into one of the lines.  This can be alleviated by getting locates done before you dig.

Some of these items will depend on the rules and your lease and in some cases local or state law will prevail.  It is important to make sure that your lease and rules are in compliance with the local and state laws to avoid any issues that may arise.
For the past decade, Dave Reynolds has been involved in most aspects of the manufactured housing industry, from buying and selling mobile home parks to running  Mr. Reynolds has authored several books and cd's on investing in and operating Mobile Homes and Mobile Home Parks.  If you are looking to buy or turnaround a mobile home or park, he is available for consultation at 800-950-1364If you have any thoughts about this article or have any circumstances to add, I would appreciate hearing from you.  Once I have all the comments and additions I will include them in a future updated article.  You can email your comments to [email protected]    
by Edward Hicks

The new edition consists of 107 pages and includes all information necessary for making an application (with a qualified mortgagee) to HUD multi-family staff for FHA 207m m/h land lease community loans or FHA 221(d)4 apartment loans using HUD code home units.

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Includes forms, base costs, high cost percentages for many areas of the US, MAP regulations, plus charts, graphs, & forms.

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Print Version Click Here

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