Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 342

After-Sale Repairs

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Even if you sell a mobile home in “as is” condition and make no warranties, there is always the risk that the phone will ring with the homebuyer asking for a needed repair. In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to review the obligations of the park owner from both a theoretical and practical perspective.

Episode 342: After-Sale Repairs Transcript

So you sold a mobile home in your mobile home park, you sold it as is, there were no warranties to it. And nevertheless, you get a call from the resident later on who calls saying they need some additional repairs. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. We're gonna talk about after-sale repairs. What happens when the phone rings and it's a customer, and even though you have no theoretical obligation to do so, you now are faced with the prospect of either fixing the home or having a problem with the customer? So what are the steps? What is the methodology to try to analyze what your next step should be? The first item you need to do is you need to figure out what are your legal requirements in your state regarding cases of homes that you have sold when the resident later claims or some additional thing that you need to fix.

Not all states are created equal. America is much like Europe where every state is its own country seemingly, and the laws are very, very different as is the case law. The best thing you can do when you buy a mobile home park is to join your state mobile home association, also known as an MHA. Because they are a repository of the facts and the case law regarding all things mobile home park and mobile home. And I would call them and say, "Look, here's my situation. I sold a home and now the customer is saying they want some additional repair. Am I required in this state to do that?" And if the answer is, "Yes, you are," well then there's your answer. You gotta go ahead and fix it. But instead, what if they say, "No, actually you've done it all correctly, you don't really have any further obligation to the customer." Do you stop there? No, you need to go a little further.

You need to look at how big a deal it is that they are requesting. Is it something minor? Is it something major? Is it something that's, as small as a light switch or as big as something structurally wrong with the home? And also, if the request is reasonable, is it something that you should have known about or they should have thought that came with the home that you failed to provide? And you also have to remember that the court costs thousands of dollars to appear in it. So all a tenant would have to do is file a small claims court case, which in most states you can do up to $10,000 or even more. You don't have to have an attorney. They don't have to have anything other than a filing fee.

And if they were to file that case against you, you would then have to respond and you would probably have to use an attorney, and it would require you to find an attorney to make the response and then to have that attorney show up in court on your behalf. And you know that's gonna cost you thousands of dollars right there just to respond to whatever they should happen to write on that sheet of paper that they filed at small claims court. And also, you don't really wanna have the optics in today's politically charged environment as being evil, not a good idea for future evictions. 'Cause remember that those small claims court cases typically funnel through the exact same judges that you'll have to be seen on a somewhat recurring basis to file evictions. And if that judge has a bad first impression of you and says, "Oh, this is a bad character, I need to go ahead and make sure that they did everything perfectly, that they did the right service, and oh, what the heck, I'll this missed the case anyway just for fun." You don't really want that to start happening.

So in most cases, when you look at the facts and you see what the downside would be if the customer was to claim that you had done something wrong, even if you didn't, and were to file in small claims court, even though it's unfair and make all kinds of claims and things that you have a clear paper trail that should not be, you're probably better off just trying to solve it. So then how do you solve it? Well, in most cases, if it's some kind of a repair to the home, you probably don't wanna make the repair because if you make the repair and that doesn't work, they'll again blame it on you. Far better to let them select who will repair and for them to do the repair if the repair is done at all.

Normally, what you'll wanna do is solve it simply by a cash payment to them, which is their money they can then use to have the repair done but they have to choose and approve the repair. And we all know what happens, repair never gets done. They take the cash when you pay them and they find other things they like to do more. But the good news is they can't come back to you later and say, "Well, my home needs repair and you didn't get it fixed because you provided the money to get it fixed." And as long as you are providing the money to get it fixed, you certainly are gonna want to have some kind of written release from them stating this is the full and final payment in this obligation and all future obligations as far as repair to the home have now ended.

Because you cannot make this a revolving door scenario where they're constantly going to you saying, "My home has another problem and it needs another repair, ad infinitum." So you need to go definitely build a good, solid paper trail, and yes, that does mean you more than likely will have to employ an attorney to go ahead and get that release written, unless your state MHA has one that they find to be acceptable that you've read and you understand and you think is also acceptable.

But nevertheless, the concept of then arguing with the tenant saying, "Theoretically, I'm not responsible and theoretically under state law under subsection X, Y, Z, I have no further obligation to you." That probably worked up into 1960s, '70s America, but in the modern world where the court system is so completely dysfunctional and where the tenant basically has all the power over you when it comes to court, as far as running up the clock on you where they have no law cost at all, it makes it probably a bad idea to try and just stand behind the theory and wave sheets of paper saying, "Don't you see, don't you understand? I have no obligation." When in fact the impractical purposes you do in as much as it's your choice between making the needed repair or payment of cash or having to go to court.

Now, that's not to say there aren't some cases when you sell a mobile home that it probably is very reasonable for the customer come back you later. And the biggest of these is regarding heating and air conditioning. If you sell a home in the dead of winter, you can't test out the air conditioner. So as a result, when it finally gets warm and they kick the air conditioner on and it's not functioning, you can see the problem there. And of course, the reverse is true if it's in the middle of summer. So as a result, we typically will always fix that issue because that is a timing issue that most customers could have never foreseen.

And also, if you've got any problems with your mobile home that you know are just inches away from disaster, if you sense that the hot water heater is just about to spring a leak, well let's go ahead and get those things fixed 'cause there's also the moral issue to selling products. Good merchants back in the 19th century, they really stood behind their products. It's kind of lessened in America to some degree today, but nevertheless, it's just good business to go ahead and provide something when someone buys something to provide them what they think they're buying. Disappointment arises when things don't work out as we plan. And when someone buys a mobile home for you, they're anticipating they have free use and enjoyment of the home with nothing to come in and cut that short.

So when you know there are issues that need to be addressed and often you know more than the customer who has no familiarity whatsoever with how mobile homes are built or maintained, it would just make sense to go ahead and go forward and make that repair in advance so these issues don't pop up. And also, don't forget that you have a mobile home park and this home is in your own mobile home park and you really want all customers to be happy. If this doesn't make sense in a modern world or even in the olden world, to have a community filled with people who don't think that you're a good business person or that you treat everyone fairly.

And don't forget the modern issue of social media reviews. It's very important you maintain very high ratings on social media today. Everyone uses it, I use it, you use it, I use it to choose everything from restaurants to hotels, to tourism attractions. And of course, people also use that same social media reviews when selecting a place to live. You're not gonna be able to hit four and five stars if you foster an attitude among customers that you're actually not a fair business person and don't treat people properly.

The golden rule is a worn out phrase, but yet it is very true. You definitely should keep treating customers that you would like to be treated because without question, that's what propels your mobile home park to a higher level, giving you much greater resonance retention, and attraction for new customers. The bottom line to it all is just use common sense. It's something that modern people who've lost track of in the modern America, but common sense is just a very good tool to use in these situations. If it seems that what they're asking is perfectly reasonable, then you probably just need to do it regardless of theoretically what the law may show. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.