Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 191

The Issues With Being One Platted Tract Of Land

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The definition of a mobile home park is “two or more mobile homes on one platted piece of property”. Of course, with just two people on one tract, that would not be too complicated, but the reality is typically 50 to 100 households or more, and that can create issues. In this Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast we’re going to review what the key problems can be and how to mitigate these issues. As you’ll see, there’s no shortage of needed discussions when you have many people happily co-existing in the absence of lot lines.

Episode 191: The Issues With Being One Platted Tract Of Land Transcript

A mobile home park is defined as two or more mobile homes on one platted piece of property. Now, that's not really normally how we see things as mobile home park owners because typically we have a whole lot more than two units, but we are definitely on one platted piece of property and that can cause some unusual circumstances. This is Frank Rolfe with the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. We're going to talk about the issues of being one giant platted tract of land with multiple inhabitants on it.

Let's first start off discussing lot lines. In a mobile home park, there in fact are no lot lines. There's just one basic boundary line for the entire mobile home park so it sets in motion issues between residents because they can't delineate where their yard begins and their neighbor's ends. You can understand the complexity here. Most Americans in the world of single family, they have very defined lot lines. They know the limits of their yard both front and back, and on both sides. And they have a very clear indication of this typically by a curb out front, sometimes a curb at the back if they have trash service going down an alley, and then typically fence lines or vegetation on either side so it's very clear to see where their property begins and ends. But in a mobile home park the resident is just renting from you the right to be on that certain lot to park their mobile home. But they don't get in writing or even just visually any clues as to where those lot lines truly are.

The concept is everyone will just happily coexist, live together on this one platted tract, but there really is nothing to give people an idea of where their property begins and ends. There's really no way to resolve this because again mobile home park is just one piece of l and. So what it means is people have to work together. Now often when there's a dispute, and it's really pretty rare in mobile home parks, the manager has to go over and meet with the resident or residents and carve a happy ending as far as what they all can live with. So if the one resident says, "It's not fair because their kid toys end up on my lot," the manager has to remind them there is no set lot boundary, and then tell the neighbor, "Can you please not put your toys or allow the toys to fall beyond let's say this tree here." Sometimes, properties are marked by such landmarks as a tree, the end or edge of a concrete parking pad, but that's how it has to work. There is no way around that. That's why having a great manager is so essential, because whenever there are any of these types of disputes between residents there has to be someone like a referee to go out and make everyone happy.

The next issue is resident responsibilities. Where do they mow to, for example? Again, it just has to be worked out. Everyone knows they mow to the street, that's a given. People can typically tell where the back of their lot is, kind of sort of. But from a side perspective again there just has to be some kind of understanding between neighbors of where one person mows to and then the next. Now, in mobile home parks that have two car paved parking pads, people get into kind of a rhythm based on those parking pads. Those kind of become the visual lines between neighbors. But in some properties you don't have parking pads. You may have on street parking with parallel parking and there's no clue as to where things begin and end. Again, this is where a good manager comes in. A good manager can go over, they can mediate any concerns with people lacking the knowledge of knowing what they are and aren't supposed to mow. Once they figure it out they can pretty much stick with it all of the time.

The next thing is parking. How do you park when it's just one big platted tract? What happens? Well, the good news here is that most mobile home parks have some kind of parking plan. Either a parking pad, most typically a 20x20 square of either concrete or asphalt that the resident parks on, or it may be set up to have on street parking with parallel parking. You'll know when you see that because the roads are extra wide, and you'll see the striping there to allow cars to park along the street. So the parking typically that's not an issue with being just one big platted tract because there is in fact a very visible parking plan for all the residents. But what happens when someone has three cars and only space for two? Well, once again the manager will have to get into play. They may have to find another resident who only has one car and they have a two car parking pad to see if they would be willing to share half of their pad with a neighbor needing a place to park. In some mobile home parks we go ahead and install overflow parking or guest parking just to serve this purpose. We acknowledge that many people have more cars than they can handle with the existing parking program, so we go in to try and enhance the number of available parking spaces.

What about fences? How do you put fences up if you don't have any lot lines? Well, once again you've just kind of got to guess this looks appropriate, this is where the line must be. And again we're back to the manager. So if someone wants to put in a fence, and our parks require them to be no greater than four feet in height and see through, which means either chain link or picket so they're not a visual blight. We don't allow those six and eight food solid privacy fences, even though some people may want them. The problem is it's not for the public good because again we're one platted piece of property. We can't have someone putting up a really obnoxious, large ugly fence to the detriment of the neighbors when they really don't theoretically have that right. So the management can help instruct them on where to put it. We try and typically dissuade residents from having fences unless there's a certain purpose for it. If they're trying to basically build a fence for greater safety and security of pets or children, then we're more than happy to accommodate that. But again, everyone has to acknowledge there is and will be no lot lines so the manager will have to work with them to come up with a happy solution so they don't impinge on the neighbor's property.

Next, property taxes. It's not really a big issue, it's just kind of odd. Typically in America when you have any kind of housing situation the homeowner is paying the tax for both their home and the lot beneath. They pay just one tax bill because in fact in that case it's all real property. In a mobile home park of course the mobile homes are personal property and the land is real property. So while they pay their personal property tax on their mobile homes, we pay just one giant bill for the entire mobile home park. It's not really a big deal, it's just kind of a little unusual. Sometimes that causes you grief though with city inspectors because a city inspector thinks that we are responsible for those resident's homes and what they do on those lots, and that's not true. In many states there are state law, case law proving the fact that you cannot fine the mobile home park owner for the resident's home. You can only fine, you can only cite, the inspector can only go after the resident for any issues, not the park owner. It only makes sense because again we're a parking lot. People instead of parking cars, while they do park cars too but they park mobile homes on our land.

But we're not really responsible then for the condition of those homes, those cars, that have been parked there. That falls to the resident. When the city comes to us and says, "Hey, we've got a problem with that home on lot 14," we explain to them, "Well, what's the problem? If you have a problem with the home on lot 14 you need to write a citation.  You need to go knock on their door. Don't go looking for us to do that. That's not any of our concern." Most common item they'll have is they'll have concerns about home additions. Sometimes people will build a lean-to addition to the home, typically on top of their deck, or maybe a shed behind that they don't like the condition of. And of course we don't much like it either if it's not attractive, but if you buy an old mobile home park from the 1960s and there are homes in there that have additions that may date as just as long, they may be 40 years in length, and you have a new inspector suddenly on the job that wants to conquer the world and suddenly calls into question these additions that we know nothing about. They predate us by half a century. It is absolutely unfair and unjust for them to come to us with any questions on them, because again we own the land, we don't own the homes. We are just one big platted tract, one big parking lot, but we don't monitor or control particularly the history of the things that were parked on what is basically a parking lot.

Finally, there are certain survey issues that can come up by being just one big platted tract. The most common is homes, since there is no boundaries of the front and the sides and all that type of thing, sometimes mom and pop didn't put them in properly and has them leaning into other people's property. They got so carried away with this concept of there being absolutely no technical boundaries for each home that they lose sight of the whole mission. Often when they were building these mobile home parks back in the 60s they didn't even bother to have a surveyor survey where their tract began and ended. So what you'll have is you'll have homes stick into the neighbor's property. Now what do you do when that happens? Well, if you have a home that overhangs into the neighbor there are options to fix it. Sometimes you can pull the home forward. Sometimes you can go to the neighbor and you can get a document giving you the ability to pay them rent to overhang. Sometimes you can buy the land next to it or sometimes you can, through adverse possession, claim ownership to the land. If they didn't give you any notice that you were overhanging for a period of years, in some states then that property right begins and you can't be removed.

But the bottom line, it is kind of awkward. That's why when you're buying a mobile home park it's always a good idea to get a survey showing where all the homes are located on that survey to see if you do have any overhang the boundary. That's kind of the one platted property concept taken to the extreme, where mom and pop just didn't even pay attention and just threw the homes down on that tract in a haphazard fashion. In fact we've had to go through in some cases, in some mobile home parks over the years, and realign the homes because mom and pop didn't even have them all parallel, they're all kind of various angles.

So again mobile home parks are all about owning one platted tract. We're just one big tract of land with a lot of smaller units located in the form of mobile homes on that tract. But that doesn’t mean you can't successfully do it. As you probably have already learned from this podcast, the key element to having a happy relationship with the residents and their knowledge and ability to stay within their lot lines is in fact the manager. But it's also important to remember that most of these mobile home parks at this point are fairly old and over the years people have all learned how to happily coexist. They've learned the basics of where they believe their responsibilities begin and end. So it's not an issue that comes up frequently, but yet it is kind of an unusual attribute, one of the unique attributes, of mobile home parks. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast. Hope you enjoyed this. Talk to you again soon.