Created January 18, 2016 Tavares, FL Updates added Mar. 17, 2016
Mobile Home Owners Guide on Florida Relocation Assistance and More
by Vance Jochim - FiscalRangers.com is a watchdog blog in Lake County, FL
The short URL to this page is: http://tinyurl.com/FLMobileHomeOwnerGuide
in progress...more to be uploaded soon.
Here is our Powerpoint focused on our blog investigation of the Three Palms Mobile Home Park in Tavares, FL and abuses of tenants by park owner.
HERE is a link to the YouTube video of three speakers at the FMO meeting, including our founder, Vance Jochim. (To be provided soon - i.e. Mar18-19)
Consumer Warning - If you buy a mobile home in Florida in a park where you pay rent for the space:
–Florida does not protect mobile home owners from being evicted due to land use changes and park closures. As a consequence, you could lose all equity in your home or have to move it, costing $3,000 to $8,000.
–Florida prohibits moving mobile homes manufactured before 1985 (? – verify), thus if a park closes or the owner evicts you, you cannot move it.
–Florida has no legal protections for elderly mobile home park owners if the owner bullies or harasses or threatens them to give up their homes so he can get it.
–Florida only provides TWO investigators for complaints about violation of Florida statute chapter 723 which governs mobile homes. There are 2700 mobile home parks in Florida.
–Florida is an open records state. If you file a complaint, your name and contact information is available to the public and park owners and they can harass you.
–Florida does not require that realtors disclose complaints about home owners or disclose pending plans to close parks for development actions. Thus you could buy a home and soon after get a required 6-month eviction due to the park being closed. They are not required to disclose Florida prohibited moves due to age of the home.
- There are some unscrupuolus owners of mobile home parks who treat tenants poorly and harass elders so they "abandon" their home and give title to the park owner who resells it.
Florida has over 2700 mobile home parks, with 88 of them in Lake County, FL and 13 in Tavares, FL.
This guide pertains to Mobile home owners who OWN their mobile home, but not the land. They lease or rent land from a mobile home park owner. Some parks have converted to co-ops where the residents own shares in the park, not a separate individual or corporation, and these issues may not affect them.
The risk in Florida is that a mobile home owner in these parks does not own the land, so they can be evicted for non-payment, etc. which is appropriate. But they also can be evicted if the park owner gets the zoning and land use changed to develop a project and intends on closing the park. They can also be stressed by intimidation tactics used by abusive mobile park owners to force abandonment of the home so it can be resold or rented at a profit by the park owner.
Florida state has rules that regulate mobile home parks and situations like evictions for park closures, but they are weak and poorly enforced.
During a FiscalRangers.com investigation of a mobile home park closure in Tavares, FL, Three Palms Mobile Home Park, we learned about many loopholes and abuses that some park owners might implement to benefit them. We think those actions are not ethical and justify the need for corrective regulation.
What are the actions a mobile home park owner can take that are questionable:
- The park owner stands to gain if the resident being evicted for any reason cannot afford to move their home to another location. In that case, to prevent future monthly rental charges from the park owner, they turn over the title to the park owner. Thus if the park owner is unethical, they can harass or intimidate the resident to move out, and gain a FREE home that can be rented out for income or sold for a profit. Assuming the home owner cannot negotiate a payment for the home from the park owner or other party, they lose all equity in the home. Ethical park owners won't harass home owners for financial gain like this, but unethical ones might. We have documented stories of this happening.
- Florida state has a fund to pay about half of the relocation costs of a mobile home if a park owner changes the land use and closes the park and evicts the residents. However, to qualify, they must wait until the legal eviction 6-month notice is sent to them. If they get stressed, and no eviction notice is received yet, they can move out, and turn the title over to the park owner (called abandonment), but not qualify for the relocation or separate abandonment fees. Since the park owner is required to pay much of the relocation or abandonment fees, he gains by getting people to move out or abandon homes BEFORE he sends out a formal eviction notice.
- The park owner could be a poor business person, and lose track of payments. One park owner did so at least once for two different owners, but sent a physically intimidating relative to collect the "missing" payment which had been paid, just not posted to the park's accounting records.
- Park owners could have two accounts for income. One is for reporting to the IRS, and other rents are deposited in a second personal account and not reported to the IRS.
- Every space renter in a park is required to get a "prospectus" defining the rent, pass through taxes, etc. We understand all residents should have the same prospectus, and rates, not get different ones. Changes cannot be written in, and prospectus changes must go to the State of Florida, but in one park, that is not happening.
- If the park owner or other resident sells their home to a new owner, they should get official title to the mobile home. In at least one case, a park owner sold a mobile home to a new resident without providing title, which we believe is illegal.
- If a park owner is an Attorney, they must follow certain ethical attorney guidelines. We have documentation where one Attorney park owner has apparently violated some Florida Attorney rules (being documented now). In such cases, the home owner could or should submit a complaint to the BAR. One unacceptable practice might be constant verbal (not written) threats to seniors about being sued if they say anything bad about the park owner.
- If a park owner is planning to close a park, they might take some questionable actions to prevent residents from moving their mobile homes until the end of a required 6-month notice period in order to maintain cash flow. Examples would be calling the police on a visiting mobile home mover who was asked by residents to give quotes on moving costs. The cited reason is solicitation, but that is not correct, since the mover was invited in. Another example is verbal threats (this really happened) to a home owner that he would be sued if he moved without approval of the park owner and the new site's park owner would be sued since a handwritten note in the prospectus said the resident had to get permission from the park owner to move. This is bullying.
- Uncertainty causes stress. After a park owner issued an illegal eviction notice, one elderly resident stressed out, went into the hospital, and ran up a $20,000 bill. The eviction notice was rescinded two weeks later. Then the park owner made another stress inducing statement at a Tavares, FL City Council meeting he would evict tenants as soon as a land use change was approved by the State of Florida. This uncertainty resulted in several owners moving out and giving title of their homes to the park owner. Then the owner had a third party verbally tell some, not all, residents he would not evict them for another 6 months, causing more stress. This notice should have been made in writing to ALL residents AND posted on the park's central bulletin board.
- Florida mobile home park regulations allow passing taxes, like ad valorem taxes on the land, to the home owners. In the case we examined, the owner did so, but did not provide any documentation how he calculated the pass on cost (about $300/year). In the case of an expected park closure, the park owner billed the tenants for the entire annual tax in a lump sum, apparently trying to collect a full year's payment rather than pro-rating the tax for time in the park.
- State regulations require posting of the park "rules" in a public place. We could not find them anywhere in our specific investigation, even with help of residents.
- A park owner runs background checks on new residents who buy or move a new mobile home into the park. But if he also OWNS some mobile homes and rents them, he should be required to run the same checks. In one case, and park owner did not do that, and residents found the renter was a registered pedophile. They complained enough that the park owner made the man move, but later, the park owner used the pedophile to visit residents and tell them verbally of changes, which caused more stress, especially among single women residents.
- Prospectuses contain certain rules. In one case they said homes could not be rented, and residents count on that to ensure only people with pride of home ownership move into the park and have a vested interest. However, the park owner ignored that rule and rented out some homes he had obtained via abandonment, increasing stress of other residents who owned their homes.
What needs to be improved in Florida regulations over Mobile Homes
- A Complete Guide to Mobile Home Owner Rights and Responsibilites is Needed: We have not been able to find a publication on mobile home owner rights and where to complain. Smart ones can track down the regulations and some FAQ's on a website, but there is no central publication and it is needed. Regulations should also require the guide be attached to the prospectus when given to the resident, and the prospectus should contain a statment where to find updated guides. The guide should also describe park owner actions that are prohibited, including:
- Verbal harrassment without written notices.
- Requirement to process any prospectus revisions properly, and not hand write them.
- Requirements that the park owner publish rules as specified and a fine if not done.
- New regulations are needed to protect the equity of mobile home owners due to the high cost of moving homes. If they end up in a park owned by a predatory bully, they face substantial costs, perhaps more than the home is worth, to move it.
- Florida prohibits moving mobile homes made earlier than 1985 due to weaker hurricane tie down standards. There needs to be a clear waiver to allow moving older homes when evictions are issued for any reason or the home owner has cause to suspect the park owner is shutting down the park or practicing other abusive methods.
- Some park owners can profit substantially by converting the land use and evicting residents so the land can be used for other development purposes. In such cases, where they stand to profit there should be a cost sharing requirement that the owner pays the market value to move a resident's home directly. If the owner actually processes a land use change, that action, not park closure or eviction notices, should trigger the relocation payments to the home owners. Another method might be a 50-100% discount on the space rent for a six month period (with or without formal evictions) until the park is formally closed.