Uniform Manufactured Housing Act Approved

(July 23, 2012) -

Uniform Law Commission
111 N. Wabash Ave., Suite 1010, Chicago IL 60602
312/450-6600, www.uniformlaws.org

Contact:     Katie Robinson, ULC Communications Officer, katie.robinson@uniformlaws.org

For Immediate Release:

New Act on Manufactured Housing Completed

July 23, 2012 — A new act approved recently by a national law group gives owners the option to classify manufactured homes as either real property or personal property.  The Uniform Manufactured Housing Act (UMHA) was approved by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) at its recently concluded 121st Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Act’s primary focus is to enable a purchaser to elect to treat his or her manufactured home (also commonly called mobile homes) as real property.

The Act is intended to modernize the law in this area, increase the supply of affordable housing by making manufactured home financing more available and affordable, and provide owners of manufactured homes with many of the same legal protections as owners of site-built homes.

Although only a small percentage of manufactured homes are moved after being sited, the historic assumption is that the manufactured home is personal property – a remaining vestige of its ancestor, the travel trailer.  As a result, 42 states issue a certificate of title for manufactured homes, as they do for cars.  Though most of these states provide a statutory method by which a manufactured home can be reclassified as real property, the methods are cumbersome and often confusing.  The Act provides an efficient and effective method for having a manufactured home classified as real property at the time of the first retail sale, thereby obviating the need for a certificate of title, or at any other time.

Three-quarters of manufactured homes are sited on the owner’s land, and the average lot size is more than twice the average lot size for site-built homes.  Moreover, a manufactured home’s appearance can be virtually indistinguishable from that of a site-built home.  Today’s manufactured home is functionally more equivalent to a site-built home than to a travel trailer, but only 25% of manufactured homes are classified as real property.

In addition to being generally outdated, existing state laws vary tremendously from state to state, which creates substantial inefficiencies in the manufactured home sale and finance markets.  Depending on the state, manufactured homes are (1) personal property even after they are attached to the land, (2) real property for all purposes, (3) real property for some purposes and personal property for others, or (4) personal property until they become a fixture or until the completion of statutorily specified procedures for “converting” the home from personal property to real property.

Modernizing these laws and creating uniformity among the states is particularly important because manufactured housing is the most significant form of unsubsidized housing in this country for low-income households.  As a result, approximately 8% of the United States population—more than twenty-four million people—live in manufactured homes.  In some states, the percentage is almost 20%. 

By electing to be treated as real estate, the home will qualify for real estate financing and will achieve all the benefits and burdens of real estate ownership.  The Act also allows an owner to treat the home as personal property.

Further information on the Uniform Manufactured Housing Act can be found at the ULC’s website at www.uniformlaws.org

The drafting committee on the Uniform Manufactured Housing Act was chaired by Carl H. Lisman of Burlington, Vermont.  Other committee members included:  Boris Auerbach, Indianapolis, Indiana; William R. Breetz, Jr., Hartford, Connecticut; Thomas J. Buiteweg, Ann Arbor, Michigan; Ellen F. Dyke, Reston, Virginia; Thomas T. Grimshaw, Denver, Colorado; Lawrence J. Klemin, Bismarck, North Dakota; Janice L. Pauls, Hutchinson, Kansas; Hiroshi Sakai, Honolulu, Hawaii; Edwin E. Smith, Boston, Massachusetts; and Cam Ward, Alabaster, Alabama.  Ann M. Burkhart of Minneapolis, Minnesota, served as the committee’s reporter.

The ULC, now in its 121st year, comprises more than 350 practicing lawyers, governmental lawyers, judges, law professors, and lawyer-legislators from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Commissioners are appointed by their states to draft and promote enactment of uniform laws that are designed to solve problems common to all the states.

After receiving the ULC’s seal of approval, a uniform act is officially promulgated for consideration by the states, and legislatures are urged to adopt it.  Since its inception in 1892, the ULC has been responsible for more than 200 acts, among them such bulwarks of state statutory law as the Uniform Commercial Code, the Uniform Probate Code, the Uniform Partnership Act, and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.