Real Estate

Leasing a Mobile Home or Space in a Mobile Home Park

By Will Van Vactor, J.D. | Reviewed By Ilona Bray, J.D., University of Washington Law School
Mobile homes create unique legal issues for both tenants and landlords. This is because the tenant often owns the mobile home, but rents the space in the mobile home park. After a tenant hooks utilities up, constructs decks and patios, and makes other improvements around the mobile home, the mobile home is really no longer “mobile.” An unscrupulous landlord may take advantage of an established tenant by raising rent and imposing additional charges.

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Mobile homes create unique legal issues for both tenants and landlords. This is because the tenant often owns the mobile home, but rents the space in the mobile home park. After a tenant hooks utilities up, constructs decks and patios, and makes other improvements around the mobile home, the mobile home is really no longer “mobile.” An unscrupulous landlord may take advantage of an established tenant by raising rent and imposing additional charges.

To protect tenants, many states have adopted laws to control mobile home owners and clarify the duties and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant. 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.

Two Types of Mobile Home Leases

There are two common types of mobile home leases. In the first, the tenant owns the mobile home, but leases a space in a mobile home park from the park owner. This is the situation described above that creates unique legal problems. Also common, though, is the situation where the landlord owns both the mobile home and the land. In some states, like Oregon, the law treats this type of mobile home lease the same as when you rent an apartment.

Lease Provisions to Look for When Renting a Mobile Home

Like with any other residential lease, the laws of most states require that leases for mobile homes or spaces in a mobile home park be in writing. Some of the things that need to be included or covered in the lease are:

  • Rent. The lease agreement should state how much, when, and where rent is due each month.
  • Rent increases. Many states require the landlord to give tenants written notice before a rent increase. For example, in Washington, the landlord must give three months’ written notice before increasing rent.
  • Charges for late payments. The lease must state when late charges accrue and how much the late charges are.
  • Security deposit and refunds. This provision should specifically state what deposit must be paid and under what conditions the landlord can keep all or part of the deposit.
  • Lease term. In many states, the term of the lease can be for any amount of time so long as the parties agree to it. In Illinois, the tenant can get a 24-month initial term. And in Washington, if the parties fail to specify a term in the written lease, it will be treated as a 12-month lease.
  • Description of the space. The lease should specifically identify the space being rented. If a mobile home is also being rented, the lease should include an exact description of the mobile home itself, too.
  • Warranty of habitability. The lease should include an express acknowledgement by the landlord of the warranty of habitability. What this normally means is that the landlord must keep the mobile park space (and the home itself, if rented), in a safe and livable condition.
  • Park rules. The lease should also include a provision relating to the applicable park rules, which the tenant will need to agree to abide by. Often, the park rules will be included as part of the lease.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Landlord

Although the laws vary from state to state, the landlord typically must:

  • maintain the common areas and roads in the mobile home park (keep the park clean and safe)
  • maintain utilities used by tenants up to the point of hookup
  • respect the privacy of tenants and get permission from a tenant before entering a space or mobile home
  • allow tenants to have tenant meetings, and
  • allow the tenant (if leasing only the space) to sell the mobile home.

Additional duties may be found in applicable state law and the lease agreement.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Tenant

Whether imposed by state law or lease, tenants generally must ordinarily:

  • pay rent on time
  • keep that part of the mobile home park that the tenant occupies and uses reasonably clean, safe, and functional
  • 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, and otherwise obey all park rules.

Additional duties may be found in applicable state law and the lease agreement.

What If the Mobile Home Park Closes?

Another unique facet of leasing a mobile home or mobile home space is the possibility that the park might be sold, closed, or that the owner may decide to redevelop the property as something different. What does a change like that mean for park tenants?

The landlord/park owner must ordinarily give tenants a certain amount of notice before closing the park or changing its use. For example, in Oregon, the landlord must give the tenant 365 days’ notice. Some laws even require the park owner to pay for the tenants' relocation expenses. If the landlord intends to sell, in most cases, the new owner will have to honor any existing leases.

When Tenants Can Sublet, Transfer, or Sell Their Mobile Homes

In most states, landlords cannot prohibit tenants from subletting, transferring, or selling their own mobile homes. Some states allow for landlord approval, though. This permits the landlord to take reasonable precautions to make sure the next tenant will pay rent and not pose a threat to other tenants.

Although a landlord generally has the right to approve a subtenant or new tenant (one buying a mobile home already located in the park), a landlord cannot unreasonably withhold approval. What this means will vary state to state, and even case by case. It many cases, though, it would likely be reasonable for a landlord to withhold approval of a subtenant who is a sex offender. Or someone who has no job and a criminal history.

Lawful Reasons for Eviction

In addition to the usual reasons for eviction (such as failing to pay rent), a tenant leasing space in a mobile home park can normally be evicted for violating park rules and failing to promptly correct the violation or harming or threatening to harm someone in or near the mobile home park.

On the other hand, a landlord cannot evict a tenant who makes a good faith complaint to a housing authority (or like agency), for attending mobile home park tenant meetings, or because of the tenant’s race, gender, or family status.

Protecting Yourself

Whether you are a landlord or a tenant in a mobile home park, to protect yourself, you should:

  • Keep notes about all important conversations, and follow up by sending the other party a letter confirming the important points made during the conversation.
  • Keep copies of all important documents, including the lease and written notices (whether sent or received).
  • Take pictures of the space, and if applicable the mobile home, before starting a new lease, and
  • If you you are a tenant paying in cash, be sure to get a receipt that confirms payment.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What kind of insurance should I have if I rent a space in mobile home park?
  • The landlord of the park where I live refuses to fix huge potholes in the street in front of my mobile home, and it's causing damage to my car. What can I do?
  • My neighbor’s space is piled high with garbage. My landlord won’t make him clean it up and I am concerned it is a health hazard. What can I do?
  • A tenant on my property is selling his mobile home. 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?
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