New Legislation Helps Protect Manufactured Homeowners Against Rising Land Costs
Manufactured homes are an affordable and popular option for homeownership – especially among veterans, individuals with disabilities, and seniors. More than 70,000 residents live in manufactured homes in Delaware. In a manufactured home community, homebuyers own their home but rent the land the home sits on. This unique situation can lead to disputes between the homeowner and landlord.
A recently passed bill (House Bill 46) aims to provide quality legal representation to homeowners in these manufactured housing communities. U.S. Census data shows many of these homeowners are economically vulnerable, which previously left them at a financial disadvantage when entering into legal conflicts with landowners.
It’s an unfortunate truth that many homeowners in manufactured home communities are vulnerable to their landlord’s decisions and occasional negligence. Representative Madinah Wilson-Anton (D) recounted her experiences dealing with these issues as a legislative aide in the article Manufactured Home Owners Need to Know, Exercise Their Rights. In her experiences, hundreds of families living in the manufactured homes had their water shut off because their landlord didn’t pay the water bill.
She also recalls, “There was the time the landlord’s husband moved a portion of the homes in the neighborhood, breaking several in the process and causing many to go without heat in the winter.”
While serious cases of negligence do occur, more often than not manufactured homeowners are struggling with rising land prices or the fear that the land their home sits on will literally be sold out from underneath them. Senator Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna said, “These excessive rent hikes deplete local manufactured-home owners of their limited disposable income and leave them unable to afford proper legal representation. Our legislation simply gives those homeowners a way to pool their resources and level the playing field.”
For years, residents of these communities in Delaware, and their landlords, each contributed $2.50 per month to Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority. House Bill 46 takes 50 cents of the homeowner’s payment and puts it toward a new fund called the Delaware Manufactured Home Owner Attorney Fund. This fund is supported by a contract between the non-profit Delaware Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. and the Delaware Department of Justice.
“Constituents in all three counties have called for this kind of resource for years,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings in a Department of Justice press release. “This is a hard-fought victory for the more than 20,000 homeowners in Delaware’s manufactured home communities, many of whom live on fixed incomes and feel trapped by economic circumstance, even when the law is on their side. This agreement makes the system more fair and equal and brings justice within reach for people who simply want a fair deal.”
To receive financial assistance through this fund, homeowners can file a complaint through the Delaware Department of Justice’s website. The Manufactured Housing Consumer Complaint Form can be submitted electronically or printed and returned to the Delaware Department of Justice’s office in Wilmington.
“For decades, manufactured homeowners have found themselves at a significant financial disadvantage in legal conflicts with landowners,” said Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark South. “Not being able to afford professional legal assistance often led to an unfair conclusion. […] This [Bill] will ensure more fairness in outcomes in disputes and level the legal playing field for the homeowners.”