If you recently purchased a mobile home park, or if you are a seasoned landlord in Utah who is thinking about purchasing a mobile home park, you will want to become familiar with the requirements in Utah’s Mobile Home Park Residency Act. You will also want to be familiar with this act if are considering purchasing a mobile home and renting a space in a mobile home park. Not all the normal rules, statutes, and laws that govern typical landlord-tenant relationships in Utah apply to mobile home parks. Rather, the Mobile Home Park Residency Act contains unique provisions. Its stated purpose is to protect both owners of the mobile parks and the people who own mobile homes located in these parks. It recognizes and accounts for some of the major differences between a mobile home park and other forms of real estate used for rental purposes. This blog post outlines some of the protections in the Mobile Home Park Residency Act, along with the related consequences of non-compliance.
Cause Required for Owner to Terminate a Lease
Unlike a tenant in a typical landlord tenant relationship, a tenant living in a mobile park cannot remove its personal belongings by packing them up in boxes and simply hiring a moving crew. Rather, the resident must relocate the actual mobile home. The use of “mobile” to describe such homes can be misleading. A mobile home is “a transportable structure in one or more sections with the plumbing, heating, and electrical systems contained within the unit, which when erected on a site, may be used with or without a permanent foundation as a family dwelling.” If a resident at a mobile home park is evicted, he must relocate all his property, including the “mobile” home that generally has no wheels and that rests its foundation directly on the ground. The cost to move such a home can be high, and sometimes a mobile home cannot be moved at all. And even after the mobile home is moved, there may be other costs associated with installing and landscaping the home at a new location. For these reasons, Utah’s Mobile Home Park Residency Act will not allow a resident owner of a mobile park to be forced to move as easily as a typical tenant who, for example, lives in an apartment building.
A lease at a mobile home park can only be terminated for very specific reasons, as stated in the Mobile Home Park Residency Act. Any other reason written into a lease cannot be used to lawfully evict a resident at a mobile home park. A resident is generally safe from being evicted unless he or she commits one of the following:
- Fails to follow a mobile home park rule after receiving a 60-day or 7-day notice to comply, depending on the rule
- After receiving a notice of non-compliance and complying, fails thereafter to follow the same rule or another rule, if the original notice states that future non-compliance will be grounds for eviction
- Commits acts that are dangerous or harmful, such as drug use, distributing alcohol to minors, or other crimes
- Fails to pay rent after five days from the due date
- Fails to enter a written lease provided to the resident by the park owner
- Provides false information about a resident’s criminal history in a rental application
Typical leases between landlords and tenants can be ended for a variety of reasons and at various times. Usually, leases begin with a specific initial term (whether six months or two years) and then convert to periodic tenancies. Once a lease converts to a periodic lease, it automatically renews after each period ends. For example, a month-to-month lease renews for another month at the end of each month. Outside of the mobile home park context, a lease for a specific period can sometimes have termination clauses that allow the owner to unilaterally end the lease for a number of reasons. For example, a lease may state that the owner may end the tenancy if the property sells. And once the initial term ends, the lease can usually be terminated for any or no reason, with a little advance notice. In contrast, with respect to leases in mobile home parks, any provision that tries to allow the owner the ability to terminate the lease for reasons not stated in the Mobile Home Park Residency Act—along with any provision that waives any of the resident’s rights under this act—is not enforceable. It also does not matter whether the lease has just begun or if the initial terms of the lease has expired. Cause is still required before the owner can end the lease.
Also, to better protect residents, the lease must disclose to the resident that the owner cannot unilaterally terminate the lease except for one of the reasons specified in the Mobile Home Park Residency Act.
Longer Notice Required Before Raising Rent
During the initial term of a lease, the rent usually cannot change, but a landlord can usually raise the rent on a periodic lease by simply giving the tenant notice 15 days before the next rent check is due. This is not the case for residents of mobile home parks. Under Utah’s Mobile Home Park Residency Act, a resident must be given 60 days prior notice before rent can increase.
Owner’s Right to Set and Enforce Rules at a Mobile Home Park
There are also protections for owners under the Mobile Home Park Residency Act. Among these, owners of mobile parks may make and enforce rules for the mobile home park. These rules, however, cannot address any and all topics—owners cannot create arbitrary rules willy-nilly. Rules must be “related to the health, safety, and appropriate conduct of residents and to the maintenance and upkeep of the mobile home park,” as stated in the Mobile Home Park Residency Act. Even if related to these topics, rules at mobile parks cannot be “unconscionable.” What constitutes an unconscionable rule is difficult to pin down and depends on the facts. It also depends on who (which judge or which jury, if the case gets to trial) is deciding whether a rule is unconscionable. Reasonable minds can differ. Certainly, an owner who wants to evict certain residents may be tempted to create unconscionable rules that target these residents. This is not allowed.
The rules of a mobile park cannot be changed without proper notice. Also, once a rule is accepted that pertains to physical improvements of the mobile home park, it cannot be enforced for a certain period, depending on the cost to make the improvement. For example, if a new rule requires residents to construct decks that will cost more than $2,000, residents have 120 days to build the required deck. Less expensive improvement can be enforced in less time.
As explained above, an owner of a mobile home park in Utah can only terminate a resident’s lease for cause. If the cause is based on a violation of a rule, a 60-day notice is required for violations of rules related to maintenance and repair of awnings, skirting, decks, and sheds, and a 7-day notice is required for other violations. If the resident corrects the non-compliance within the notice period, he cannot be evicted based on this violation. However, the Mobile Home Park Residency Act has little mercy for repeat offenders. If the initial notice states that another violation of the same or a different rule might result in eviction without a notice and cure period, the owner has the right to immediately evict a tenant who breaks another rule. In essence, it may be that residents are only given two strikes, a rather harsh aspect of living in mobile parks. This type of punishment is not apparent in general eviction laws for normal landlord-tenant relationships.
Assistance with Mobile Home Park Issues
If you own a mobile home park, it is important that you strictly comply with the unique rules of the Mobile Home Park Residency Act. If you are resident of a mobile home park, you too must be aware of these requirements. If you have questions about rules, rights, and evictions pertaining to a mobile home park, I am happy to help. Contact me to schedule a consultation. My direct dial is 801-365-1021, and you can e-mail me at [email protected].