Mobile home, manufactured home, and modular home are terms that are frequently used interchangeably. However, there are differences that you should be aware of.
Mobile Homes and Manufactured Homes. In 1974, Congress passed the Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act (the Act), which directed the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to put forth federal construction standards for mobile homes. (Prior to the Act, mobile homes were built with little uniformity regarding construction or safety standards.)
All mobile home units constructed after the effective date of the HUD standards (June 16, 1976) must have a HUD label certifying that the home has been inspected and constructed in compliance with the Act. On October 8, 1980, Congress enacted public law 96-399, which officially changed the name of this type of home from “mobile home” to “manufactured home.” The term “manufactured home” typically means a unit that is constructed pursuant to the HUD construction and safety standards, whereas a “mobile home” refers to homes built before June 15, 1976, when the federal standards took effect.
A manufactured home is structurally complete when it leaves the factory, and is transported in one or more sections. Manufactured homes are constructed on a permanent chassis, with a tongue, axles, and wheels for transport.
Modular Homes. Modular homes, on the other hand, are constructed to the same state, local, or regional building codes as site-built homes. Sections of a modular home are transported to the building site on truck beds, where they are then connected together by local contractors.
Initially, a manufactured home is considered personal property, like an automobile. In most states, parties convey ownership of manufactured homes by a certificate of title, with security interests noted on the title. In states that do not use a certificate of title, a security interest in a manufactured home is perfected (made) through a UCC filing.
Though a manufactured home is considered personal property to begin with, a homeowner can usually take steps to change the classification from personal property to real property.
Many states have statutes that provide procedures for converting a manufactured home to real property, while a few states have statutes that specify whether a manufactured home is considered personal property or real estate in credit transactions. Other states have a statutory scheme that establishes criteria for taxing the home as real property and certain other states have no statute on topic.
Generally, to be classified as real property, a manufactured home must be permanently affixed to the land.
In some states, a manufactured home can be converted to real property if it is permanently affixed to leased land, while other states require that the manufactured home owner must also own the land. (Sometimes manufactured homeowners own the land on which the home is situated, but in other cases, the manufactured home may be located on rented land or on a leased space in a manufactured home park.)
Typically, the requirements for a manufactured home to become real property may include:
Manufactured homes that are not permanently affixed to the land, or where proper procedures have not been following to convert the manufactured home to real property, will remain classified as personal property.
If the borrower defaults on loan payments for a manufactured home, the creditor can take the manufactured home. How the creditor does this depends on whether the home is classified as personal or real property. If the home is personal property, the creditor repossesses the home. If the property is real property, the creditor forecloses on the manufactured home.
If the property is considered personal property, then the creditor can repossess it.
Replevin. To do this, creditors often use a judicial process called replevin. A replevin is similar to a judicial foreclosure in that a creditor files a lawsuit in court and asks the court to grant an order for repossession.
Self-help repossession. With self-help repossession, the creditor retakes possession without the use of judicial process, like when a repo agent comes and takes a car away. his process is available in most states, but it is not especially practical for manufactured homes. It would difficult, if not impossible, to take the home without breaching the peace (a requirement for self-help repossession) or taking the borrower’s other belongings, like furniture or other personal property located in the home. Moreover, a few states prohibit self-help repossession for manufactured homes.
If a manufactured home is part of the real property, then the home is treated as real estate and the lender must use state foreclosure procedures. (Learn more about foreclosure, options to avoid it, defenses to foreclosure, and more, in Nolo's Foreclosure topic area. Also, see our Summary of State Foreclosure Laws for more information about the foreclosure procedures in your state.)
In states that do not use a certificate of title, the security interest in the manufactured home is usually perfected through a UCC filing. Then, the manufactured home is considered a fixture. In this case, the creditor can retake possession of the manufactured home through self-help repossession or replevin (if available in the state), or through state foreclosure law.