The Tenant’s Guide To Renting A Mobile Home (Check-In To Check-Out)
If you’ve never lived in a mobile home before, you might be wondering what’s so different about it and what makes it different than renting an apartment, condo, or piece of real estate. In this article, we’ll show you the differences (and the similarities) by running you through the entire lifecycle of a mobile home tenancy. In the end, you might see that renting a mobile home is not so different at all and that you are just as protected by the law as any other type of housing.
Renting a mobile home | What are your options?
There are three basic ways in which you can rent a mobile home to live in. By far the most common options are either to rent a home and a lot within a mobile home park directly or to rent a home owned by someone else within a mobile home park. As many as 34% of new manufactured homes are placed in communities and out of the total, most homes are located in them.
The other option is to rent a mobile home on private property. It will be up to your particular agreement whether you pay rent for the actual property as well, although this is usually the case. For various reasons unique to the manufactured home industry, this is much rarer, although it could still occur.
There are some generalities that apply to each type of mobile home rental. However, you should always refer to the landlord-tenant act of your state. (Here is an example of the Washington state version.) And don’t forget to consult your lease agreement for specifics. We will make sure to mention where differences apply depending on which type of rental you have throughout the article.
How much does it cost?
Before you even look at what it means to live in a rented out mobile home, you probably want to know how much it costs and whether you can afford it. The main advantage that mobile home living enjoys over real estate, apartments, and condominiums, is its relatively low cost. Rent for both the mobile home and a lot within a park could be as little as $300 to $1,000 in most cases.
Lot rent various anywhere from $200 to $700 and the rent for homes is anywhere between $300 to $700. This may seem unbelievably low. However, you should remember that a new mobile home typically costs between $30,000 to $70,000 and a second-hand one between $15,000 and $50,000. This is a far cry away from stick-built homes that cost hundreds of thousands.
In the same vein, apartment rental in the U.S. averages out to about $1,200 per month. This means that renting a mobile home in a park works out to roughly half of renting in an apartment. Add to this the fact that mobile homes come with way more space and privacy, and you can see why they are becoming increasingly attractive.
Depending on your community, there could be other levies or fees for the maintenance or operation of the park and its facilities. Extra services like cable TV, internet, and utilities may also be billed separately.
The lease agreement
The first thing you should check when moving into a mobile home park is your lease agreement. This document not only guarantees your rights as the tenant but also your responsibilities. Without a proper lease agreement, things can get very gray. You may run into issues regarding your situation in the home and park. Furthermore, the lack of an agreement may be cause for serious doubt about the legitimacy of the park or owner.
The first thing you should do is to compare the lease agreement to your local Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord Tenant Act to see if its clauses are legal. At the very least, your lease agreement should mention or make provision for the following:
- All the fees associated with living in the park and the services provided
- Information about the landlord
- The term of the lease agreement
- The maintenance responsibilities of the landlord/tenant
- Any rules of the mobile home park
- How deposits and refunds are handled
- Notice periods for moving out/being told to move out/rental increases/decreases
- How increases in rent are handled
- The future of the park
- The wind/weather zone of the park
- Any fees or rules relating to guests
A landlord should provide it to you with ample time to go through the lease before you move into the property. Never get rushed into signing a lease prematurely! The protection of the landlord-tenant act only goes so far. Being caution upfront could help you avoid a lot of unnecessary trouble in the long run.
Checklist for moving into a mobile home:
Depending on how the property is managed, you may only have a single inspection of the property and meeting with the landlord. Or you may need to meet multiple times. Regardless, you should cover all of the following before moving into a new rental mobile home and upon signing the lease agreement.
- There are no remaining health or safety concerns.
- You have been handed the keys to the home.
- You have been provided with an inventory of the property and have verified it with the landlord.
- The property is in a properly clean and hygienic state.
- All the utilities are properly connected and the electricity and water are running. If the home is fitted with a prepaid meter, you know where it is and how to operate it.
- Make sure that the furnace, water heater, and/or HVAC system is working correctly.
- You and the landlord have gone over the lease together and agree on its contents.
- Note any damage in the home so that it doesn’t come out of your deposit when you move out.
- You can also have the home inspected for HUD compliance.
- Pay the security deposit as well as the first month’s rent.
Settling into your home
- Change the locks: Although this isn’t a must, most parks are OK with you changing the locks when you move into the home. You can sleep that much more worry-free knowing that no one else may still have keys to your home.
- Meet the neighbors: One of the great advantages of mobile home parks is that most have a community feel to them. Your children can play safely with the neighborhood kids and you can form a real community with all your neighbors. Check if your park has any interest groups where you can get together with like-minded individuals and meet new people.
Living in a rented mobile home
Mobile home park living
There are over 40,000 land lease communities across the U.S. They are located in all states and in or near all major cities. That alone means that the conditions, cost, and laws of mobile home parks can differ significantly across the board. Each mobile home park is unique. Hopefully, that means you’ve taken the time to really look for a mobile home park that’s a good fit for you and your family.
Parks can offer all kinds of amenities now; from pools to barbecue areas to clubhouses. There are even mobile home parks on the waterfront with their very own boat clubs and marinas. Usually, mobile home parks are also located outside of the busiest parts of the cities which means you get to experience some more fresh air and be closer to nature.
Make sure to find out if your mobile home park has any community meetings or groups that discuss tenants’ issues or where people meet to discuss general living inside it. By law, the landlord may not stop the forming of these groups or disband them. It could be a great platform to have your voice heard and to solve issues together as a community.
Upkeep and maintenance
When it comes to the upkeep and maintenance of your mobile home, there are a lot of similarities and a lot of big differences between it and a stick-built home. Generally, maintenance for mobile homes is much cheaper and easier to DIY.
However, you should still be aware of the differences between manufactured homes and stick-built homes if you want to attempt some DIY projects and make sure you are comfortable working with the different materials.
Generally speaking, tenants are responsible for most of the upkeep of the home when it comes to the interior and superficial features of the exterior. However, what really is whose responsibility should be laid out in your lease agreement. Some of the common things you might need to learn to do are:
- Use caulk to fix cracks or slight damage in the walls.
- Do some minor electrical work (major work should be covered by the park).
- Protect against and avoid water damage.
- Replace broken windows (if it’s your fault).
Although it might not fall under your responsibilities, it can’t hurt to take care of it yourself (unless otherwise stipulated in your lease agreement). Remember, this is your home for the near future and small problems can quickly spiral into bigger ones.
The maintenance of the park grounds and its amenities are generally the landlord’s responsibilities. (It’s also stated as such under the landlord/tenant act.) You shouldn’t have to worry about it.
Sprucing up your home
Many people still live with the outdated mindset that you can’t upgrade or renovate a mobile home and that, even if you want to, it’s not really worth it. Nothing can be further from the truth! There are many cost-effective ways to beautify a mobile home on the inside and outside and it’s never a bad investment to improve you and your family’s living conditions. Even if it is a temporary home.
Once again, you should always refer to your lease agreement about what’s possible or not. However, generally, any aesthetic upgrades that improve the home and doesn’t affect its HUD compliance or can easily be redone is fair game. Some of the things you could do are:
- Upgrade your kitchen cabinets by installing new ones, replacing the handles, or painting/treating them
- Paint the interior or exterior
- Replace the skirting
- Install eaves
- Replace the window or door frames
- Replace the superficial flooring
- Install new storage units
- Replace the appliances
- Install floor strips, ceiling strips, etc.
- Replace the windows
- Landscape the yard but don’t overdo it. Your landlord won’t be happy if you create a landscape that’s very hard to maintain or requires a lot of water.
Be especially careful about doing things like hammering in nails or fixtures to hang things on your walls. Just like with other rental units, your landlord might not be happy to see them once you take your things down. Luckily, this is an easy fix with some caulk and the original paint.
Reasons to move out
Whether you or your landlord calls it quits in the end, there are still some formalities that must be observed to part ways legally and on good terms. The following guidelines should usually be followed (depending on your lease agreement and local landlord/tenant act):
- The park shuts down: Parks are often bought out for other developments. In this case, the landlord must provide tenants with at least 3 to 12 month’s notice (it could even be 2 years).
- Moving out before your lease is up: You have to give your landlord at least 30 days notice. Also, he has the right to not waiver your remaining monthly rental until the end of the agreement or until a new tenant is found.
- Moving when your lease is up: You still need to provide the landlord with sufficient time to find a new tenant if you will not be renewing your lease. This is usually 30 days. The same goes if the landlord does not want to renew your lease but in most cases, you need to be given 90-days notice.
- You are being evicted: Depending on the reason, the landlord could legally evict you in anywhere between 5 (for not paying rent) or 15 days (breaking park rules or committing a crime).
Moving out inspections
There are also multiple steps that must be observed when moving out of a rented mobile home. When either of you signals the intent to end the tenancy, the landlord needs to provide you with a notice and ample time to prepare for an inspection. At this first inspection, the landlord will check for any damage or wear and tear. If there is anything you should fix, he should describe it to you and make sure you are notified of it.
The landlord will then give you time to repair the damage before a final inspection. At this inspection, he will note the remaining damage, you will go through the inventory list together, and you will formally end the tenancy, handing back the keys.
The landlord then has two weeks to use the deposit to repair any remaining damage before paying it back to you within 10 days.
Get ready to rent!
That’s it from start to finish for renting a mobile home. As you can see, the process looks very similar to any other type of rental situation. The main difference is in the unique features of a mobile home and a mobile home park. Be sure to choose a park that takes the laws and rights of the tenant seriously, and you should have a fantastic experience.