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Buying A Mobile Home

Rising property taxes, relatively inexpensive cost, a need for security and personal safety, plus the desire for less home maintenance have contributed to the popularity of the mobile home. If you think there might be a mobile home in your future, carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of mobile home living before you invest in a new way of life. The best way to learn about living in a mobile home is ...as the old saying goes... to "ask someone who owns one!"

You should talk to several persons who live in mobile homes. If you are considering a mobile home park where you rent the lot, as distinguished from a residential mobile home community where you own the lot and the mobile home, you should also talk to the manager of a mobile home park about what to look for when selecting a park. If you are considering a mobile home community, talk to the homeowner association manager. Of course, it is important to look into the different kinds of mobile homes for style, construction, costs, taxes, upkeep, guarantees and regulations pertaining to them. Ask about heating systems, storage space and privacy.

There are many dealers in Florida. Some of these mobile homes are new and unproven, so the purchase of such a home should be approached with care. You should have a knowledge of the laws pertaining to mobile homes--for example, every new mobile home must carry a warranty of at least one year. Pursuant to such warranty, the manufacturer or dealer is required to correct any substantial defects in materials or work quality which may appear within that first year of your ownership and must do so within 30 days of receipt of written notification of the claim.

The prevalence of hurricanes and tornadoes in Florida in recent years has raised concern for the safety of mobile homes and their inhabitants. You should make certain that your new mobile home is properly installed according to state law and local codes. The state sets installation standards, licensing requirements and remedies for violation in Chapter 320, Florida Statutes. Further, while having property insurance will not prevent a catastrophe, having adequate insurance will make recovering any loss of property easier. Consult with a licensed insurance agent to determine the proper insurance for your needs.

Chapter 723, Florida Statutes deals with your rights and obligations as a tenant (where you rent the lot) and the rights and obligations of the mobile home park owner to you. Your rental agreement should be in writing, which includes the park's rules and regulations. Be sure to read these before signing an agreement. These may regulate guests, pets, and use of general facilities such as a swimming pool, for example.

Actually, laws alone will not protect the consumer completely. So ... when you purchase a mobile home there are things that should be kept in mind:

First and foremost, shop around. Buy your home from a reputable dealer. Ask that dealer for names and addresses of prior customers and contact these people. Buying from a dealer who will honor the guarantee cannot be overemphasized.

Call the better business bureau in your area and ask about the firm with which you plan to deal. Ask about the dealer's service policy. Will the condition of the home on delivery be guaranteed and will the dealer service it?

If the answers are yes, read your contract and make sure this guarantee is. . . and all other verbal guarantees are--included in writing before you sign it.

Make sure the model you plan to buy was built to perform in the area in which you wish to live. There are different specifications for different parts of the country.

You may be considering a model to which you want to make additions, such as a porch, a storage closet, larger windows. Some of these alterations can adversely affect the warranty. You will need to check the park rules and regulations as well as local ordinances to make sure your alterations are allowed and to secure any needed permits before making any structural changes. You can learn the laws by contacting the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, your attorney, and the local building official. Knowing this information may influence your choice.

Many complaints are concerned with misrepresentation and misunderstanding, so be sure you know what you are going to be paying for before you enter any agreement. When you finally do enter into a contract to buy a mobile home or to buy or rent space, keep a copy of any contracts for your file.

Do not be afraid to ask questions of dealers, manufacturers, park managers, or those persons who are already stretching their dollars in the mobile home way of life. If you have any questions, contact an attorney in your area. Then you can enter your new life style with confidence.

If you believe you need legal advice, call your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, call The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 342-8011, or the local lawyer referral service or legal aid office listed in the yellow pages of your telephone book.

[Revised: 2/10]