A manufactured home is a type of housing that is delivered to a destination and, once there, is usually secured to the ground or a foundation. Read on to learn more about the nature of manufactured housing and what happens if you stop making loan payments on your manufactured home or on the land it sits upon.
Mobile home, manufactured home, and modular home are terms that are frequently used interchangeably; however, there are differences.
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, 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 might 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 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 repossess or foreclose the home. How the creditor does this depends on whether the home is classified as personal or real property.
Generally, if the home is personal property, the creditor repossesses the home. If the property is real property, the creditor forecloses on the manufactured home. However, if a manufactured home is wrapped up with the land as collateral for the loan, the lender will likely foreclose—even if the manufactured home is still classified as personal property.
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. This process is available in most states, but it's 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. (To learn more about repossession and replevin, see our Repossession of Cars & Personal Property topic area.)
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 terms, steps in a foreclosure, and defenses to foreclosure. Also, see our Key Aspects of State Foreclosure Law: 50-State Chart for more information about the foreclosure procedures in your state.)
In states that don't use a certificate of title, the security interest in the manufactured home is typically perfected through a UCC filing. Then, the manufactured home is considered a fixture. If you own the land your home rests on and have a mortgage on the property, but you don’t complete all the steps to convert the manufactured home to real property, things can get complicated if you then default on your payments.
If the manufactured home sits on land you own, the home may be considered a fixture if it has been permanently affixed to the land. In this type of situation, any mortgage on the land might potentially cover the manufactured home too, if the mortgage includes improvements. If this is the case, then you can't remove the manufactured home from the property (and you will lose it along with the land), if you stop making payments on the land.
Example. Let’s say you acquired the land first by taking out a mortgage to purchase it. You later buy the manufactured home outright and permanently attach it to the land. Your mortgage states that the land, as well as all improvements now or later erected on the property, as well as any fixtures, act as security for the debt. As a result, the mortgage on the land covers the manufactured home as well. You therefore cannot simply move the manufactured home to another location if the lender forecloses because you stopped making payments on the mortgaged land.
Generally, whether or not the manufactured home is a fixture is a question of fact. For instance, if the tongue, axles, and wheels have been removed and the home is permanently affixed to the ground, it will probably be considered a fixture.
If your home is classified as personal property, and it is not a fixture, then if you default on payments for a land mortgage, the land will be foreclosed and you can move your manufactured home to a new location.
For more information about manufactured housing, go to HUD.gov and enter "manufactured home" in the home page search box to find a list of relevant links.
If you need specific information about your particular circumstances, consider talking to an attorney in your state.