For the most part, renting or leasing a mobile home and a space in mobile home park are similar to any other residential lease, but there are some important distinctions. Many states have specific laws that govern and control rentals of mobile homes and spaces in mobile homes parks. This is so, primarily, because of the unique nature of mobile homes: the tenant usually owns the home, which is typically quite large, and once set up in a park, the home is not really "mobile." So, because it's difficult to pick up the home and move the home, the tenant and landlord-the park owner-are not on equal footing when it comes to disputes, such as rent increases.
Some states don't have such laws, and in those that do, there can be some very significant differences. Before you enter into a lease, it's very important that you check the mobile home laws in your area, or get some help from an attorney experienced in real estate law.
Like any other residential lease, most states require that leases for mobile homes or spaces be in writing. Some of the things that need to be included in the lease are:
- The amount of rent, including any rent increases. Many state laws require the landlord to give tenants written notice before a rent increase, so a lease should provide for such a notice if the laws in your state require it. It should address when rent is due and if there's any charge for late payments.
- The amount of any security deposit that must be paid by the tenant, as well as how and when the deposit will be refunded to the tenant and under what conditions the landlord can keep all or part of the deposit.
- The term or length of the lease, which can be for any amount of time if the parties agree to it. In some statutes, if the parties disagree, it will be assumed that the lease is for 12 months, with an automatic renewal of one year, unless the tenant waives the renewal or the lease is otherwise terminated, such through eviction or the tenant's relocation.
- A description of the premises, including the ground on which a mobile home sits, and an exact description of the mobile home itself if the home is being rented.
- An acknowledgment of the warranty of habitability by the landlord, which some states impose by a separate law, and which requires the landlord to keep the mobile park space (and home itself, if rented), in a safe condition, to keep the park's common areas clean and to provide adequate water and power for the park, and provide for garbage pick-up.
Some states that do not have an express law or statutory warranty of habitability have an implied warranty of habitability, that is, the courts assume that the warranty exists as a matter of public policy: to keep landlords from forcing tenants to endure unlivable conditions. The implied warranty usually requires the landlord to do what an express warranty would: make and keep the premises safe and habitable for the tenants.
If your state has an implied warranty of habitability, the lease must contain the warranty's language.
In addition, some state mobile home laws impose requirements on tenants to maintain the premises, unlike most other land-tenant situations, where the tenant's duties, if any, are listed in the lease only. For mobile home park tenants, the statutes typically require them to:
- Keep that part of the mobile home park that a tenant occupies and uses reasonably clean and safe
- Dispose from his or her mobile home space all rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean and safe manner
- Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the mobile home park or knowingly permit any person to do so, and
- Not interfere with other tenants' peaceful enjoyment of the mobile home park
What if the Park Closes?
Another unique facet of leasing a mobile home or mobile home space is the possibility that the park could be sold, closed or that the allowed use of the land will be changed. What happens to the tenants? Some state mobile home laws provide that landlords must give tenants a certain amount of notice prior to the event happening. Some laws even require the park owner to pay for the tenants' relocation expenses. If tenants have these rights under state law, they must be included in the lease.
Subletting, Transferring, or Selling of Tenants' Mobile Homes
Most residential leases have express provisions on a tenant's ability to lease the premises to someone else, or "subletting." A landlord of an apartment complex, for example, can make you get his or her consent to sublet, or even stop you from subletting completely.
Things are a bit different when mobile homes are involved. In the past, it was common to see laws that barred owner-tenants from transferring or selling their homes. Today, landlords can't prohibit tenants from subletting, transferring or selling their own mobile homes. Some laws require landlord approval, however, especially when it comes to subletting, because the landlord needs to protect his or interest in collecting rent.
As for mobile home park spaces, the issue rarely comes up because of the non-mobile aspect of mobile homes: the home usually goes with the space and vice versa. Nonetheless, any sublease or transfer of a lease for a space would likely require at least the landlord's consent.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What kind of insurance should I have if I rent a mobile home?
- The landlord of the park where I live refuses to fix huge pot holes in the street in front of my mobile home, and it's causing damage to my car. What can I do?
- A tenant is selling his mobile home. If he sells it, do I have to lease the lot to the new tenant at the rate I was charging the old tenant, or can I raise the rent on the new tenant under a new lease?