By Jadranko Tomic-Bobas, J.D., Managing Hotline Attorney, and Lauren Sutter, Legal Hotline Intern
For many seniors, the idea of buying a mobile home seems like a great idea. There are often many positives to owning a mobile home, including: potentially lower energy bills, a sense of community, rules and regulations that enforce an atmosphere of calm and quiet, and a smaller property to care for. However, there are a few other things to be aware of before deciding to buy a mobile home, including:
1. You are buying the home, not the land.
In the purchase of a mobile home, the purchaser is buying the mobile home, not the land it sits on. This purchase is more like a vehicle than a traditional home because a title rather than a deed is obtained. The title includes a vehicle identification number, or VIN, which is registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The land the mobile home sits on belongs to the park owner and the mobile home owner must pay monthly lot rental fees to remain in the park. Selling down the road can also be difficult. Technically, any interested party can purchase the mobile home, but new potential buyers must qualify and be accepted by the mobile home park owner to keep the mobile home on the that land. Additionally, mobile homes generally do not appreciate the way traditional homes do. Instead, a mobile home depreciates in value, while lot rent goes up. This, along with the rules set by the mobile home park for eligibility of residents, can make selling difficult.
2. You are at the whim of the property manager/mobile home park owner.
While you may own the mobile home, the property manager/mobile home park owner owns everything else, and any resident is required to obey the rules of the park. Freedom is limited to what is allowed in a specific community, and this can curtail choices ranging from the number of pets in the mobile home, to guests staying over for a certain period of time. Additionally, the lot rent can increase each year since Michigan has no laws concerning capping lot rent. This means a landlord can increase the lot rent by however much they like, if it is not “excessive” or meant to force you out of the mobile home park. A park resident must pay the increased lot rent or sell their mobile home and move out. Selling can be difficult and the option to move out can be very expensive or even impossible. Renting the land in a mobile home park also means residents can be evicted.
3. You can be evicted.
Because you don’t own the land and are renting it from someone else, you can be evicted. If an eviction order has been obtained, there’s generally a period of 90 days where you have the right to keep your mobile home on the property. During the 90 days, you have the right to sell or move the mobile home. If you leave the mobile home in the mobile home park during that time, the mobile home park owner does not automatically take ownership of the mobile home and cannot rent it to someone else but may charge you storage fees to keep it on the property. During the 90 days after an eviction is obtained, you must continue to pay the lot rent to keep the mobile home in the mobile home park and continue to reserve the right to sell or move the mobile home. If rent (including fees) is not paid and the mobile home is therefore “abandoned”, or the 90 days has ended (with no action made to sell or move the mobile home), the park owner may then remove it or begin the process of transferring the title to themselves. To read about mobile home evictions in full, visit Michigan Legal Help. For more information about services for seniors, please contact the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors at 800-347-5297.