Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 61

Dirty Jobs Episode Two: Rules Violations

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How do you make mobile home park residents follow the rules? In this second of our six-part series on “Dirty Jobs” we’re going to discuss in detail how owners are able to maintain order in mobile home parks and provide a good quality of life for the residents. If you thought that mobile home parks are bastions of impossible behavior, you’ve watched too much television. Learn the facts in this podcast.

Episode Transcript

Webster's Dictionary defines a rule as the set of explicit or understood regulations or principles. Man, that sounds really boring, I know. Well, we're here at the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast on our six part series on dirty job and in the world of Mobile Home Parks rules are not as cut and dried or as boring as they sound in the dictionary. We're gonna be talking about rules and rules enforcement. It's a very dirty job that many, many people do not look forward to. It's absolutely essential for you to have an accessible home park, you've got to successfully enforce rules. So how do you do?

Well, let's first start off with why do we even have rules in a Mobile Home Park? Why do we? Why can't we just let everyone do whatever they want to do? What's wrong with that? Well, there's a whole lot wrong with that. Bare in mind that a Mobile Home Park is like a very highly dense suburban sub-division and you've got many people living in close proximity and if you don't have rules what happens is they ruin the quality of life for each other. So rules are really designed to make everybody have a decent quality of life, to enjoy where they live, to not have to put up with other people getting in their own turf and hurting the quality of their life.

So the next question would be, well, if you gotta have rules why don't you just follow the city's rules? Why does the Mobile Home Park have to have rules that are tighter than a typical city? Well, here's the reason why. Typically, the rules of the city will not work considering our insurance regulations. It's probably one of the biggest reasons or differences between Mobile Home Park rules. As city rules are, city rules just do not cut it when it comes to having proper insurance. What does the insurance hate about the city's underlying rules? Well, number one, dogs. Most cities do not have any laws against dangerous breeds of dogs. They may have laws against fencing, they have leash laws but they typically, not in a single city in America that I'm aware of, do they ban dangerous breeds.

Dobermans, rottweilers, the dreaded pit bull, those can all happily live in most cities. However, they're not allowed in Mobile Home Parks because insurance mandates they do not allow any dangerous breeds of dogs. Another thing that most insurance companies mandate in a Mobile Home Park is you cannot have any trampolines and you can also not have any swimming pools bigger than those little plastic kiddie pools that you see at Walmart. And even then they want those little kiddie pools dumped out and turned upside down each night. If I go by the city's doctrines, well, the city has no ordinance against trampolines and no ordinance against those Walmart styled inflatable pools. So once again, I cannot follow just city's rules and get my insurance put in effect.

But there's an even bigger reason why Mobile Home Park rules must be tighter than a city. Because that's one of the amenities we bring to the table. If you read the Time magazine article this past year called the home of the future, the writer of the article said that a Mobile Home Park is like a gated community of the less affluent. Now we disagree with the concept of less affluent. Mobile Home Parks are really not about housing poor people. That's not what we do. Section 8 apartments, that's what they do. So I don't think the writer who wrote that really was being fair to the American public by saying Mobile Home Park residents are the less affluent. But they were correct in their assumption that we are like gated communities.

We offer tighter rules than city proper and that's what makes us seem like a gated community and our residents like that. They like having the order. They like having the privacy. They like having someone looking out for their interests because what happens in the city when your neighbor breaks the rules in the city? Well, typically not much of anything happens and that's not really fair to anyone. If you go and called the city about your neighbor doing this or that, unless it's a criminal complaint that the police will respond to, the city is not going to try and get involved at all but a smart Mobile Home Park owner sure will. He doesn't want the other mobile home people to be unhappy or to pull out of the property.

So having that extra set of rules, that extra tight specifics, actually leads to the amenity, which is seemingly like the gated community effect. So if we're all in agreement that Mobile Home Parks must have rules and we're all in agreement that the city rules just don't cut it, that we must be a step above, then the question is, how do we get people to live by the rules? That's really the dirty job that a Mobile Home Park has, how do you convince people to do what they don't wanna do? Well, let's go over that. Let's talk first about the kinds of things people do that are simply not acceptable. There's behavioral issues which are against the law, such as having late night parties or dealing drugs or domestic violence. Those things are never allowed. All you have to do to enforce that is you call 911 and here come the police. So that solves that.

But what typically are the other issues involved in rule at a Mobile Home Park. Well, a very common one, for example, are not running cars. You're not allowed to have non-running cars. Why are there so many in Mobile Home Parks? Well, a lot of our people buy what you might call a disposable cars. These are cars that cost five or six hundred dollars and they'll drive the car til the car literally quits, til it literally stops. They won't know what to do with it because no one is gonna come pick it up for free and they don't know how to get anyone to come get it, they don't have the money to pay. So they just leave it wherever it dies, typically in their yard somewhere. Although, I see them all the time along highways as I'm sure you do or even just parked and left to rot sometimes in a Walmart parking lot.

What else can they do? Well, they'll put crazy things in the windows. Instead of neutral mini blinds or neutral curtains like they're required by the rules, they'll put a beach towel of the giant tiger eating the gazelle. They'll also often not have the skirting right on their home. They may be missing all of the skirting or a portion and additionally the homes may need to be painted. Maybe they're not mowing their yard. Maybe they've got junk in their yard. These are all things that are not really criminally oriented, they're not worthy of a 911 call but they still greatly, greatly harm everybody around them in the community. So how do you get that stuff cleaned up?

Well, typically what you're gonna do is you're going to send a letter or a notice to the person who has not done what they're supposed to do saying, "You are in violation of the rules and you must get this done." So you first have to put them on notice. Number two, typically, if you can, you wanna have the manager go and talk to them one on one in amiable fashion to see if you can resolve the matter, kind of arbitrated out before the customer gets mad. Say, "I notice you don't have skirting all the way around your house. You're missing two or three pieces. How can we get that fixed? You know what? I think we might have some skirting over in the shop. Could you put in on your home or could we put it on your home?"

Just think outside the box solutions to get stuff fixed. So having your manager take an active role also helps a lot. Let's assume you give them the written notice and you also have the manager talk to them and you're just not getting anywhere, right, then what do you do? Well, in many Mobile Home Parks the only thing you can do at that point is to do the work yourself so here's how you do that. You would give the person the original notice that they have a rule violation and when it has to be fixed by. Then I would typically give them another notice saying, "We noticed you still have not fixed it. You have to have it fixed by this data and if you don't fix it by this date we're going to do it for you and potentially bill it back to you."

Then of another notice saying, "You still haven't done it. This is your final notice. If you don't do it by this certain date we're going to do it and potentially bill it back to you." And then when that day comes and they've done nothing just ahead and do the work yourself. Take a before picture of what you're going to do and then an after picture of that you did and again I'm limiting this to only very minor but huge aesthetically important items. As an example, let's say the resident has a piece of skirting missing in their skirting but you see it, it's laying on the ground. You could chase after that person forever and they've still not gonna put it back because they either don't know how to do it or they're kind of having fun tormenting you. It's so much easier because in five seconds you can put it back.

Within five minutes, you can go out and paint the rusted mailbox. You can go out and paint the plywood piece that fills the window from beyond where the window air conditioner is. So it's a lot easier often to do the work yourself. Now, are you gonna bill it back? Well, probably not. In some cases, you might give it a shot. If you had to go and put a thousand dollars of skirting on the home, lot 14, you might send invoices to the customer $83 a month for a year to get it paid back. But since they never signed an agreement, they're not really technically probably bound. So I'm not really sure you're going to ever get the money back but the big issue here is you can't just wait for the resident.

So the really dirty job here is, and it's not that dirty, but you're going to have to take a more active role in resolving these issues. Now if this was a McMansion sub-division, that single warning from the city would probably do the trick. The customer would say, "Well, I don't wanna be embarrassed with my neighbor. I'm gonna go out and get this done right now." But that McMansion resident might have a capital to hire someone to do it. Your resident typically does not have the money to hire an actual workman so any work they would have do they would have to do themselves. And that really, really slows them down. So, again, give them notice, see if your manager can in an amiable fashion resolve how to get it fixed, give them even more notice with the threat to fix and then if nothing else works, after you give them plenty of notice and they still refuse go ahead and basically do the work yourself, bill it back to them if you can and if they'll pay and if not then don't.

Same process the city really follows, right? The city has the same thing. However, at the city, typically before they'll go and do the forced mow or the repair of the property they actually have to go through several more layers of legal process before they will do that. So this is a little less official than what the city does but then, again, a lot more effective. And another thing the city does not do is it does not try in any way to amiably resolve that with the city employee talking to the home owner, which, in this case, you're gonna try and do. But now what happens in the event that you do everything I just mentioned and the person simply will not obey the rules? You go and you put the piece of skirting back in and they come home from work and they yank it back out and throw it on the ground or do any of a number of items, which is terribly damaging to all of the neighbors, what do you do?

Well, of course, the dirty job answer is you non-renew their lease. Most Mobile Home Parks operate a system of month to month leases and you can get rid of the customer at any time by not renewing their lease. Typically, with 60 days notice from the end of the month, you notify them. So, you still hold all the cards. Now there are some exemptions to that. You cannot non-renew the lease in the event the lease is still in force of fact. If they have a one year lease and you're in month three, you can't just non-renew their lease. You also cannot non-renew their lease if it's in the form of any kind of vendetta against the customer, known as landlord retaliation. And there may be other issues. However, you can find these out by talking to your state Mobile Home Association and whether they apply to you or not.

But in pretty much all cases in all states probably with the exception of California, you can pretty easily effectively non-renew the lease. So that is your ultimate weapon against a resident who absolutely refuses to follow their directions. However, even if you do that, if you non-renew the lease, when the customer then says, "Wait. I don't wanna go and they clean it up," then back off. Don't follow through. Drop your request to have them leave the property, cancel your non-renew because the point has been made. You've finally taught them who is boss. Now they know, now they understand and now they've probably more than willing to comply. Sometimes people just like to push their boundaries in life to see what they can and cannot get away with and once you let them know they can't get away with it, they're typically cured for life.

So, again, it's a dirty job working with the rules in a Mobile Home Park. However, it's a very, very important job. If you don't work the rules, here are all the bad things that will happen. Number one, you may have poor customer retention. People say, "I don't wanna live in that Mobile Home Park. It's got no rules. I'm afraid of that pit bull next door." And that will kill your business. Item number two, it might be very, very hard for you to get a decent loan because the appraiser will look at your park and say, "No one's got pride of ownership. The place is a total pit. I'm not gonna give it a very high value." Number three, if you can't get a good appraisal and the park looks bad you may not be able to get any kind of lending at all and additionally not any kind of future buyer because buyers all use lending.

If you poison the property with its appearance, how in the world are you ever going to be able to sell the property? So there's every reason that rules enforcement should be a number one job of park owners but yet again it's always gonna be a dirty job. It's not fun. Nobody likes to go around and tell people they're doing a bad job. No one likes the negativity of the home owner being unhappy. But nevertheless it's something that's been entrusted to you as the owner to get it done and you must transfer all that same responsibility onto your community manager to make sure that they work with you in tandem to make sure that all rules are adequately enforced.

This is Frank Ralph the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast Series. Join us next week for the third in our six part series on dirty jobs in Mobile Home Parks. We're gonna be talking all about one of the physically dirtiest water and sewer leaks and all the things that go on underground. This is Frank Ralph with Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast and we'll talk to you again next week.