The Cross Law Firm's Landlord Law Blog

January 24, 2017

Mobilehome Notices Required by Feb. 1 Under the 2017 MRL

Mobilehome Attorney CaliforniaPer California Law, there are three important notices mobilehome park owners and manufactured housing community owners and/or their management need to send to all homeowners/residents by February 1 of each year:
 
1. Notice of MRL significant change:
 
You need to distribute a copy of the 2017 Mobilehome Residency Law to all homeowners and residents OR notify all homeowners and residents in writing by February 1, 2017 that there has been a significant change in the MRL and notifying the homeowner that he/she can request a copy of the updated MRL from the community management at no charge.  Upon a request by a homeowner, Community owners and management are required to provide a copy of the MRL to the homeowner within 7 days of the request.  
 
2. CARE Notice:
 
The management of a master-meter park shall give written notice to homeowners and residents on or before February 1, 2017 in their utility billing statements about assistance to low-income persons for utility costs available under the California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program, established pursuant to Section 739.1 of the Public Utilities Code. The notice shall include CARE information available to master-meter customers from their serving utility, to include, at a minimum: (1) the fact that CARE offers a discount on monthly gas or electric bills for qualifying low-income residents; and (2) the telephone number of the serving utility which provides CARE information and applications. The park shall also post the notice in a conspicuous place in the clubhouse, or if there is no clubhouse, in a conspicuous public place in the park. 
 
3. Rights & Responsibilities Notice (UPDATED)
 
Management is required to send the below notice of Rights & Responsibilities to all homeowners and residents pursuant to California Civil Code 798.15(i) by February 1, 2017.  The Notice or Rights and Responsibilities was just amended- so please make sure you have the updated language from the MRL.  Here it is: 
IMPORTANT NOTICE TO ALL MANUFACTURED HOME/MOBILEHOME OWNERS: CALIFORNIA LAW REQUIRES THAT YOU BE MADE AWARE OF THE FOLLOWING:
The Mobilehome Residency Law (MRL), found in Section 798 et seq. of the Civil Code, establishes the rights and responsibilities of homeowners and park management. The MRL is deemed a part of the terms of any park rental agreement or lease. This notice is intended to provide you with a general awareness of selected parts of the MRL and other important laws. It does not serve as a legal explanation or interpretation. For authoritative information, you must read and understand the laws. These laws change from time to time. In any year in which the law has changed, you may obtain one copy of the full text of the law from management at no charge. This notice is required by Civil Code Section 798.15(i) and the information provided may not be current.
Homeowners and park management have certain rights and responsibilities under the MRL. These include, but are not limited to:
1. Management must give a homeowner written notice of any increase in his or her rent at least 90 days before the date of the increase. (Civil Code Section 798.30)
2. No rental or sales agreement may contain a provision by which a purchaser or a homeowner waives any of his or her rights under the MRL. (Civil Code Sections 798.19, 798.77)
3. Management may not terminate or refuse to renew a homeowner’s tenancy except for one or more of the authorized reasons set forth in the MRL. (Civil Code Sections 798.55, 798.56) Homeowners must pay rent, utility charges, and reasonable incidental service charges in a timely manner. Failure to comply could be grounds for eviction from the park. (Civil Code Section 798.56)
4. Homeowners, residents, and their guests must comply with the rental agreement or lease, including the reasonable rules and regulations of the park and all applicable local ordinances and state laws and regulations relating to mobilehomes. Failure to comply could be grounds for eviction from the park. (Civil Code Section 798.56)
5. Homeowners have a right to peacefully assemble and freely communicate with respect to mobilehome living and for social or educational purposes. Homeowners have a right to meet in the park, at reasonable hours and in a reasonable manner, for any lawful purpose. Homeowners may not be charged a cleaning deposit in order to use the park clubhouse for meetings of resident organizations or for other lawful purposes, such as to hear from political candidates, so long as a homeowner of the park is hosting the meeting and all park residents are allowed to attend. Homeowners may not be required to obtain liability insurance in order to use common facilities unless alcohol is served. (Civil Code Sections 798.50, 798.51)
6. If a home complies with certain standards, the homeowner is entitled to sell it in place in the park. If you sell your home, you are required to provide a manufactured home and mobilehome transfer disclosure statement to the buyer prior to sale. (Civil Code Section 1102.6d) When a home is sold, the owner is required to transfer the title to the buyer. The sale of the home is not complete until you receive the title from the seller. It is the responsibility of the buyer to also file paperwork with the Department of Housing and Community Development to register the home in his or her name. (Civil Code Sections 798.70–798.74)
7. Management has the right to enter the space upon which a mobilehome is situated for maintenance of utilities, trees, and driveways; for inspection and maintenance of the space in accordance with the rules and regulations of the park when the homeowner or resident fails to maintain the space; and for protection and maintenance of the mobilehome park at any reasonable time, but not in a manner or at a time that would interfere with the resident’s quiet enjoyment of his or her home. (Civil Code Section 798.26)
8. A homeowner may not make any improvements or alterations to his or her space or home without following the rules and regulations of the park and all applicable local ordinances and state laws and regulations, which may include obtaining a permit to construct, and, if required by park rules or the rental agreement, without prior written approval of management. Failure to comply could be grounds for eviction from the park. (Civil Code Section 798.56)
9. In California, mobilehome owners must pay annual property tax to the county tax collector or an annual fee in lieu of taxes to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). If you are unsure which to pay, contact HCD. Failure to pay taxes or in lieu fees can have serious consequences, including losing your home at a tax sale.
10. For more information on registration, titling, and taxes, contact: the Department of Housing and Community Development www.hcd.ca.gov (800) 952-8356; your County Tax Collector; or call your local county government.

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June 2, 2010

The Red Flags Rule

As of June 1, 2010, mobilehome park owners, landlords and property management companies who use consumer reports in their daily operations (i.e. to screen applicants), are required to create and implement reasonable policies and procedures to identify and assist in combating Identity Theft. The policy must include reasonable steps to be taken if the user of a consumer report receives a Notice of Address Discrepancy (“Notice”) from a consumer reporting agency. This Notice alerts the user that there is an inconsistency between the information obtained from the consumer/applicant and the information on the credit report.

This new law, called the “Identity Theft Red Flags and Address Discrepancies under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003” does not specifically state the steps the community’s policy must include, but some examples of recommended policies are 1. to ask the consumer to explain the inconsistency in the report or to produce further documentation to verify if the information is consistent with the credit report information and 2. compare documents such as notices of change of address or other third-party sources.  It is highly recommended that the community’s policy be in writing and include a requirement that all Notices received and all steps taken in compliance with the policy be documented. Make sure the community’s employees/managers understand and are familiar with the policy.

* If you would like assistance in creating your policy, you’re welcome to visit my California Manufactured Housing Community Owners legal services page.

March 10, 2010

Reasonable Accommodations for the Disabled: Your legal responsibilities as an owner or manager (Part 4)

This is the conclusion of a 4-part blog series advising manufactured home community managers/owners on accommodating disabled tenants.

These laws recognize that a manufactured home community is a business establishment and owners have a legitimate, non-discriminatory interest in renting to individuals who will timely pay the rent and who will obey the rules of the community. Whether or not an individual has a disability should not play a role in this determination. These laws insure that owners of rental properties make business decisions based on legitimate, non-discriminatory factors only, and not on the basis of arbitrary physical or mental disabilities of which an individual cannot control. What owners and managers must and cannot do regarding disabled individuals may seem overwhelming.

This blog series is not designed to scare owners or managers into thinking they absolutely have to rent to a disabled individual or make all requested modifications or accommodations to comply with these laws. The purpose of the disability laws is not to give more benefits to disabled individuals in the rental arena, but simply to insure that disabled individuals receive equal access and enjoyment to the rental premises.

* For specific inquiries regarding a disabled tenant you may have, your welcome to visit my California Manufactured Housing Community and Mobilehome Park Owners legal services page.

March 4, 2010

Reasonable Accommodations for the Disabled: Your legal responsibilities as an owner or manager (Part 3)

This is Part 3 of a 4-part blog series advising manufactured home community managers/owners on accommodating disabled tenants focusing  on DISCRIMINATION IN RENTING.

In addition to failing to make reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals to equally use and enjoy the premises, owners and managers need to be aware that they are prohibited from discriminating against disabled individuals in all aspects of renting based on the fact that the individual is disabled. Discrimination means treating individuals unequally due to their disability, to their perceived disability or due to their association with a disabled individual. Unlawful discrimination can occur in various ways, including, but not limited to, refusing to rent to a disabled individual, imposing additional rental terms, denying certain rental privileges, charging higher rent, limiting access to the premises or common areas, or terminating the tenancy.

Who is a disabled individual under the federal and state disability laws? Under state and federal law, a disability is one that impairs a “major life activity” such as performing normal household chores, walking, hearing or seeing. The impairment can be of a physical or mental nature and includes such conditions as physical handicaps, disfigurements, disease, mental disabilities, mental retardation, emotional or mental illness, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV status, just to name a few. Certain impairments, however, have been determined not to be disabilities entitled to protections under federal and state law. These impairments include sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania and current substance abuse. Be careful, however.

The California Unruh Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, is very broad in its protection. This act also prohibits communities from discriminating against individuals for “arbitrary characteristics,” which could include several disabilities or perceived disabilities not commonly categorized. Also note that discrimination can occur without the individual actually having a protected disability if that individual is perceived as having a disability and unlawfully discriminated against because of the perceived disability.

Penalties for discrimination As an owner or manager of a manufactured home community, you must be aware of these laws and your responsibilities because these laws impose fines and penalties for non-compliance. An individual who is unlawfully discriminated against in the renting arena or who is not afforded reasonable accommodations under these laws can be awarded actual damages incurred, embarrassment and emotional distress damages, statutory damages of three times the amount of actual damages, injunctive relief, and in some circumstances, even punitive (punishment) damages are available. Both owners and managers have liability for discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Owners may be held responsible for the discriminatory acts of their managers whether these acts were negligent, intentional, or directly against community policy or orders. If the act of the manager was authorized or ratified by the owner, the owner may face punitive damages. Managers also face individual liability for their discriminatory acts, even if they were following orders of the owner. Therefore, establish fair rental policies, train managers on these policies, adequately supervise managers and discipline any violation of these policies.

* For specific inquiries regarding a discrimination in renting, your welcome to visit my California Manufactured Housing Community and Mobilehome Park Owners legal services page.

February 25, 2010

Reasonable Accommodations for the Disabled: Your legal responsibilities as an owner or manager (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of a 4-part blog series advising manufactured home community managers/owners on accommodating disabled tenants.

Obviously not all requests or demands made by disabled applicants or residents fall under the category of reasonable. What will determine reasonableness tends to be based on the extent of the modification to the community’s policies and procedures, the expense or burden of the modification to the community, as well as the necessity of the modification to the disabled individual’s equal use and enjoyment of the premises.

The courts have found the following situations not to be reasonable accommodations.

1. Waiver of a credit check or modifications to policies regarding establishing financial ability to pay rent (not including aggregate income of spouse requirement stated above)

2. Waiver of a guest-parking fee for a caretaker of a disabled individual when the parking of the caretaker was not shown to be necessary for the use and enjoyment of the premises by the disabled individual

3. Requiring the landlord to modify policy to accept Section 8 certificate holders to accommodate a disabled individual.

State and federal disability laws also require reasonable modifications to the existing premises if the modification is necessary to afford the disabled individual full and equal enjoyment of the premises. However, the disabled resident is required to pay for the expense of the modification to the inside of the premises, as well as return the premises to its original condition upon departure. An owner can require that a disabled resident sign an agreement to return the premises to its original condition once the disabled resident vacates the premises. The owner should not, however, request an additional security deposit. The courts have upheld the installation of a wheelchair ramp to the entrance of a home as a reasonable modification to the premises.

* For specific inquiries regarding a disabled tenant you may have, your welcome to visit my California Manufactured Housing Community and Mobilehome Park Owners legal services page.

February 17, 2010

Reasonable Accommodations for the Disabled: Your legal responsibilities as an owner or manager (Part 1)

This is Part 1 of a 4-part blog series advising manufactured home community managers/owners on accommodating disabled tenants.

Under both federal and state laws, owners of manufactured home communities and their agents are prohibited from discriminating against disabled individuals in the renting of homesites spaces or community-owned manufactured homes. Discrimination against disabled individuals includes not only the refusal of an owner or manager to rent to a disabled person, but also the failure to make reasonable accommodations to allow disabled individuals an equal opportunity to fully use and enjoy the premises.

WHAT IS A REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION?

There are two types of “reasonable accommodations” that affect rentals of manufactured home communities:

(1) Reasonable modifications of community policies, procedures and practices

(2) Reasonable modifications of the premises.

Modifying community policies, procedures and practices If an existing rule or policy of the community limits or restricts a disabled individual from equally and fully enjoying the premises, the community may have a responsibility to modify the rule or policy in an effort to “reasonably accommodate” the disabled individual. What constitutes a reasonable accommodation is difficult to define, just as it is difficult to apply a bright-line definition to what constitutes a reasonable rule or regulation under the Mobilehome Residency Law. Examples of what courts have determined to be a reasonable accommodation, and the factors on which the courts base these decisions, is the best source for determining what constitutes a reasonable accommodation. Please note that what constitutes a reasonable accommodation will be based on the specific facts of each situation.

There are, however, a few bright-line modifications of community policies that have been established by law. Use of guide, signal, or service dog California Civil Code Section 54.1, otherwise known as the Unruh Act, prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals who require guide, signal or service dogs. If the applicant or resident is blind or visually impaired and needs a guide dog, is deaf or hearing impaired and needs a signal dog, or has any other disability that requires the use of a service dog, the pet policies of the community must be modified to allow the individual to keep the dog on the premises. The community is prohibited from charging a pet fee or additional deposit for the guide, signal, or service dog. The community may, however, create reasonable pet rules for this dog and the disabled individual will be liable for any property damage caused by the dog. Income of spouse Another required modification to a community’s policies under the Unruh Act is that the aggregate income of both a disabled individual and his or her spouse shall be considered when determining the financial ability to qualify for residency. The community cannot refuse to rent to a disabled individual on the basis the individual is financially dependent on his or her spouse if the spouse is also party to the lease agreement [Civil Code Section 54.1(b)(7)]. Please note, however, that it is not illegal discrimination to deny residency to a disabled individual if they are unmarried and cannot establish financial ability, or if with the aggregate income with a spouse does not meet the community’s financial ability requirement. Other examples of reasonable accommodations Other reasonable accommodations are not as clear, and will be based on the individual facts of the situation.

Following are some examples of reasonable modifications to community policies that have been upheld by the courts:

1. Changing parking policies to accommodate a handicap individual

2. Waiving a first-come-first-serve parking policy to accommodate a disabled resident with multiple sclerosis

3. Reducing or eliminating guest fees for a live-in aide for a disabled resident

4. Waiving or modifying a pet policy to allow an emotionally disabled individual to keep a dog when it has been determined that the dog is therapeutic to his or her disability.

* For specific inquiries regarding a disabled tenant you may have, your welcome to visit my California Manufactured Housing Community and Mobilehome Park Owners legal services page.

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