Regulation, Legislation and Use of Mobile Homes

Regulation, Legislation and Use of Mobile Homes

Last updated: January 2006

Introduction

Background to Mobile Home Legislation

This material is primarily concerned with residential tenants who rent lots in mobile home parks. Such tenants may own or rent the mobile home they live in, but in either case, tenants rent the ground on which the mobile home sits.  The most important protection for these tenants is the Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant Rights Act (Act), 765 ILCS 745/1 to 26. This chapter will focus on the Act, and review some of the more general problems mobile home residents may encounter.

In 1963, the Illinois Supreme Court referred to mobile homes as "both vehicle and residence." Rezler v. Village of Riverside, 28 Ill.2d 142, 148, 190 N.E.2d 706, 710 (1963). Today, a "double-wide" may be 80 feet long, and have more than 2,000 square feet of space. This modern mobile home is not much of a vehicle, and has led the U.S. Supreme Court to observe:

The term "mobile home" is somewhat misleading. Mobile homes are largely immobile as a practical matter, because the cost of moving one is often a significant fraction of the value of the mobile home itself. They are generally placed permanently in parks; once in place, only about one in every hundred mobile homes is ever moved.

Yee v. City of Escondido, 503 U.S. 519, 523 (1992).

Along with their immobility, mobile homes are handicapped by restrictive zoning laws resulting from a prejudice against "trailers" and "trailer parks." Zoning restrictions have limited the supply of parks and lots, which often makes mobile home owners desperate to find and keep whatever lot they can get.

Some park owners took advantage of this vulnerability. Before 1980, park owners were free to raise rents every month, evict people for no reason, or charge thousands of dollars in "fees" if an owner wanted to sell their mobile home. For example, in Seidelman v. Kouvavus, 57 Ill. App. 3d 350, 373 N.E.2d 53, 14 Ill. Dec. 922 (2d Dist. 1978), a park was permitted to evict a tenant who had tried to organize co-tenants in opposition to a rule requiring the payment of a $200 to $500 fee to the park whenever a mobile home was sold. To protect against such practices, the Illinois legislature passed the Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant Rights Act, which went into effect January 1, 1980. The Act greatly modified traditional landlord-tenant law to protect mobile home tenants. This chapter deals in large part with those protections.

The Act applies to any mobile home park with five or more homes. 765 ILCS 745/1. Parks "operated for the use of recreational campers or recreational campers or travel trailers", are not covered by the Act. 765 ILCS 745/5. Tenants in mobile homes located in smaller parks, or on individual lots, are covered by conventional landlord-tenant law as discussed elsewhere in this handbook.

Constitutionality of Act

The Act's constitutionality has twice been reviewed and upheld. People ex rel. Fahner v. Hedrich, 108 Ill. App. 3d 83, 438 N.E.2d 924, 63 Ill. Dec. 782 (2d Dist. 1982); Beeding v. Miller, 167 Ill. App. 3d 128, 520 N.E.2d 1058, 117 Ill. Dec. 707 (2d Dist. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1097 (1987). Both cases held that there is a "rational basis" for treating mobile home tenancies differently than the traditional landlord-tenant relationship.

Hedrich held that requiring a written lease (765 ILCS 745/6) and limiting fees (765 ILCS 745/9) are not examples of unconstitutional special legislation, given the well-recognized distinctions between conventional and mobile home tenants. In addition, Hedrich held that 745/9 is not unconstitutionally vague.

Similarly, Beeding held that requiring the automatic renewal of all leases (765 ILCS 745/8) was not special legislation, was not an unconstitutional taking of property, and was not an unconstitutional impairment of contract. Beeding summarized the purposes behind the Act:

We have previously held that the purpose of sections 6 and 9 of the Act is to protect tenants from landlords who would take unfair advantage of a tenant by raising rental fees and adding charges after the tenant had incurred the expense of affixing the dwelling onto the rented premises. [citing Hedrich]. This purpose of protecting tenants from unscrupulous landlords is similarly reflected by section 8 and other sections of the Act which limit the bases for which a landlord may elect to terminate a lease by nonrenewal or eviction.

520 N.E.2d at 1064, 117 Ill. Dec. at 713. Beeding went on to note that the "separate classification and regulation of mobile home parks is rationally related to the legitimate governmental interest of protecting tenants renting lots in those parks." 520 N.E.2d at 1068; 117 Ill. Dec. at 717.

The absence of constitutional challenges since Hedrich and Beeding suggests that the Act's constitutionality is no longer in serious question.

General Regulation of Mobile Homes

In addition to the Mobile Home Landlord Tenant Rights Act (765 ILCS 745/1-26), several other Federal and State laws apply to mobile homes. On a Federal level, the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5401 to 5426, went into effect in 1976. Its purpose was:

to reduce the number of personal injuries and deaths and the amount of insurance costs and property damage resulting from manufactured home accidents and to improve the quality and durability of manufactured homes.

42 U.S.C. §5401. These Federal standards established a national building code for mobile homes that, by significantly improving safety, created a dividing line between pre- and post-1976 mobile homes. Pre-1976 mobile homes are often excluded from parks or by zoning laws for safety reasons. The regulations promulgated by HUD to implement the Act are found at 24 C.F.R. §§ 3280.1 to 3280.904  (subpart A, subpart B, subpart C, subpart D, subpart E, subpart F, subpart G, subpart H, subpart I, subpart J), and 24 C.F.R. §§ 3282.1 to 3282.554 (subpart A, subpart B, overview of C.F.R. § 3280).

On the state level, mobile homes and parks are subject to the Mobile Home Park Act, 210 ILCS 115/1 to 27; the Illinois Mobile Home Tiedown Act, 210 ILCS 120/1 to 7; the Illinois Manufactured Housing and Mobile Home Safety Act, 430 ILCS 115/1 to 15; and regulations promulgated under these three acts by the Department of Public Health, 77 Ill. Admin. Code §§ 860.10 to 860.570, 77 Ill. Admin. Code, §§ 870.10 to 870.70, and 77 Ill. Admin. Code, §§ 880.10 to 880.1330. More recently, the legislature has enacted the Manufactured Home Installers Act, 430 ILCS 120/5 to 99, and the Abandoned Mobile Home Act, 210 ILCS 117/1 to 55.

The regulations implementing the Mobile Home Park Act have been completely revised, effective May 8, 1998. 77 Ill. Admin. Code Part 860 . The IDPH’s Division of Environmental Health deals with mobile homes and parks.

The new regulations, entitled the "Manufactured Home Community Code," are significantly more comprehensive and detailed. A familiarity with this new Community Code will help in dealing with park problems. A few of the Code’s new specific requirements are pointed out elsewhere in this Supplement.

The Mobile Home Park Act (210 ILCS 115/1-27), sets general physical standards for things like lot size and road maintenance. Most importantly, the Mobile Home Park Act requires that a mobile home park of five or more units outside a home rule unit must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Within a home rule unit (effectively, in any city with more than 25,000 people or in any county with an elected chief executive officer), a mobile home park is subject to county and municipal licensing. A provision of the new Community Code lists all the Home Rule Communities in Illinois. 77 Ill. Adm. Code §860 Appendix D.

The state Department of Public Health is generally good about licensing and enforcement. The local IDPH office can often provide information about whether the park is licensed, or whether any enforcement action is being taken against the park. Such information can be helpful, particularly when dealing with tenant complaints about conditions.

Finally, it should be noted that mobile homes are still classified as "vehicles" by the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code, and are required to have certificates of title. 625 ILCS 5/1-128 and 5/3-104(a).

Zoning of Mobile Homes and Parks

Mobile homes and parks are also subject to local zoning and planning restrictions. Sometimes, zoning laws simply prohibit mobile homes or parks. These zoning restrictions have been extensively litigated, making a complete review of the many reported decisions beyond the scope of this chapter. It is worth noting, though, that the Illinois Supreme Court has upheld an ordinance that restricted mobile homes to properly established parks. Village of Cahokia v. Wright, 57 Ill. 2d 166, 311 N.E.2d 153 (1974). Also, a zoning ordinance prohibiting mobile homes less than 14 feet wide has been invalidated as an arbitrary and unreasonable exclusion. Bach v. County of St. Clair, 217 Ill. App. 3d 291, 576 N.E.2d 1236, 160 Ill. Dec. 282 (5th Dist. 1991).

Taxation of Mobile Homes

The distinction between personal and real property helps determine the different ways mobile homes can be taxed. Mobile homes "resting in whole on a permanent foundation" are taxed as real estate under the Illinois Property Tax Code. (35 ILCS 200/1-155). This provision was applied to determine that a mobile home was part of the real estate sold for unpaid real estate taxes in Pappmeier v. Green Tree Acceptance, Inc., 193 Ill. App. 3d 824, 550 N.E.2d 574, 140 Ill. Dec. 689 (3d Dist. 1990).

If, on the other hand, a mobile home still retains some features of mobility, it's subject to the Mobile Home Local Services Tax Act, (35 ILCS 515/1 to 14). This "privilege tax" has a graduated rate based on the mobile home's age and size. New mobile homes pay the maximum $.15 per square foot, while mobile homes 15 years old or older pay the minimum $.075 per square foot. For the common 14 x 70 mobile home, this is a range from $147 to $73.50 per year. Disabled and elderly persons can get a 20% reduction of that tax. 35 ILCS 515/7. The privilege tax "runs" with the mobile home, and must be paid in full before legally moving a mobile home. 35 ILCS 515/11.

A revision to the Illinois Vehicle Code that went into effect December 1, 1997 deals with the payment of the privilege tax and title transfers. Outside Cook County, a mobile home seller/titleholder must give the seller a certification from the county treasurer that the privilege tax has been paid. The buyer is only liable for the tax "incurred while he or she was the actual titleholder of the mobile home," and is entitled to a refund from the county treasurer of any taxes they paid when they did not have title. 625 ILCS 5/3-112(a), revised by P.A. 90-542.

Other protections

In addition to these different statutory provisions relating to mobile homes, parks, and tenants, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act ("Consumer Fraud Act"), 815 ILCS 505/1 to 12, is applicable to mobile home parks and tenants. It prohibits "unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices," 815 ILCS 505/2, giving tenants a possible remedy to complaints and problems. Three reported cases specifically hold that the Consumer Fraud Act applies to actions brought to enforce the Mobile Home Landlord and Tenant Rights Act: People ex rel. Fahner v. Hedrich, 108 Ill. App. 3d 83, 438 N.E.2d 924, 63 Ill. Dec. 782 (2d Dist. 1982); People ex rel. Fahner v. Testa, 112 Ill. App. 3d 834, 445 N.E.2d 1249, 68 Ill. Dec. 396 (1st Dist. 1983); Beeding v. Miller, 167 Ill. App. 3d 128, 520 N.E.2d 1058, 117 Ill. Dec. 707 (2d Dist. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1097 (1987).

Legal Status of the Mobile Home & Parties

Realty vs. Personalty

It is important to keep the legal status of a mobile home clear, since it can be both personal and real property. While all mobile homes start out as personal property, some turn into real estate. That is, the purchase of a new mobile home from a manufacturer or seller is a sale of goods covered by Article 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code. See, e.g., Carpenter v. Mobile World, Inc., 194 Ill. App. 3d 830, 551 N.E.2d 724, 141 Ill. Dec. 537 (4th Dist. 1990). In fact, any sale of a mobile home unconnected to land is an Article 2 sale of goods, and, if a warranty is involved, subject to the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. 15 U.S.C. §§ 2301 to 2312. The FTC and several courts have said that mobile homes are "consumer products" under "Mag-Moss." See, Boelens v. Redman Homes, Inc., 748 F.2d 1058, 1062 n.6 (5th Cir. 1984) (citing FTC Advisory Opinions); Narjan Co. v. Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc., 659 F.Supp. 1081, 1099 (S.D.Ga. 1986) ("there is little room for doubt . . . that a mobile home is a consumer product within the meaning of the Act.").

A credit sale involving a security interest in a mobile home is also a secured transaction covered by Article 9. A mobile home subject to a security interest can therefore be repossessed by a creditor, just like a car. Credit sales of mobile homes should also be covered by the state Retail Installment Sales Act, (815 ILCS 405/1 to 33), rather than the Motor Vehicle Retail Installment Sales Act, (815 ILCS 375/1 to 26). RISA's definition of goods excludes motor vehicles, but includes "trailers," and

includes goods which are furnished or used, at the time of sale or subsequently, in the modernization, rehabilitation, repair, alteration, improvement, or construction of real estate so as to become a part of that real estate whether or not severable therefrom. 815 ILCS 405/2.1.

Once purchased, a mobile home has to be placed somewhere, which involves some type of real estate transaction. If placed on rented or purchased land, and if it stays somewhat mobile, a mobile home can remain a piece of personal property. Putting the mobile home on a permanent foundation, and making it a permanent part of the land, can transmute it from personal property into real property. As stated above, a mobile home becomes real property for tax purposes when it "rest[s] in whole on a permanent foundation." 35 ILCS 200/1-155. Judge Easterbrook provides an interesting discussion of the dual nature of mobile homes as personal and real property in U.S. v. One 1989 Stratford Fairmount 14 x 70 Mobile Home, 986 F.2d 177, 180 (7th Cir. 1993)("a mobile home is a vehicle; a mobile home is real property").

Any confusion that previously existed over whether a mobile home lease was of realty or personalty has been resolved by this provision in the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act:

The rental of land upon which a mobile home is placed or the rental of a mobile home and the land on which it is placed, for more than 30 days, shall be construed as a lease of real property.

735 ILCS 5/9-103. For all practical purposes, then, anyone renting a mobile home, or renting a mobile home lot, has a lease of real property to which Illinois landlord-tenant law applies. Possibly the only exception would be someone who leases a mobile home, like a car, and places it on land they own. This probably rare situation would involve a lease of personal property only.

Legal Status of the Parties

There are three different possible rental relationships, all of which are leases of real property under 735 ILCS 5/9-103. All of these leases would be governed by the Act if the parks involved contained five or more mobile homes.

  • (a) Tenant Owns Home but Leases Lot

The first possibility is when the tenant owns their mobile home and leases the mobile home lot from the park wner. This occurs when a tenant moves their mobile home into a park, or when a tenant purchases from the park owner or a third party a mobile home already located in a park. The lease is between the tenant and the park owner, with the tenant paying lot rent to the park owner.  A tenant in this situation has the highest potential for financial loss due to eviction or sudden lease changes that could force the home owner to sell the home, or move it at great expense.

  • (b) Park Owner Owns Lot and Mobile Home

A second possibility is essentially identical to the ordinary landlord-tenant relationship. In this case, the tenant rents both the mobile home and the lot from the park owner. This tenant usually pays one rental amount to the park owner, covering a combined lot and home rent. A tenant in this situation is exposed to the same risks upon termination of a tenancy as a tenant in an apartment or house. This lease is explicitly covered by 765 ILCS 745/1.

  • (c) Tenant Leases Home from Homeowner; Park Owner Owns Lot

The third possibility that occasionally occurs is when the tenant rents a mobile home from someone who does not own the lot. This third possibility has two variations.  If the tenant has a mobile home lease with the home owner, and a separate lot lease with the park owner, both leases are covered by the Act. 765 ILCS 745/1. The tenant in this "two lease" situation can be evicted by either the mobile home owner or the lot owner.

In the second variation, the tenant leases the mobile home from the home owner, who in turn has leased the lot from the park owner. The home owner is therefore a tenant of the park owner, and the home owner is subleasing the lot to the tenant leasing the mobile home. It is important in this sublease situation to keep a clear understanding who is obligated to whom. The mobile home tenant--the person actually living in the park--is both a lessee and a sublessee. In regard to the mobile home, they are lessee, and the mobile home owner is the lessor. At the same time, in regard to the lot, the mobile home tenant is sublessee, the mobile home owner is sublessor, and the park owner is lessor.

The tenant in the second variation can protect against the non-payment of lot rent by paying that rent by agreement directly to the park owner on behalf of the mobile home owner. Otherwise, the general principles of subleases apply: the tenant/sublessee has no remedy against the home owner/sublessor's failure to pay lot rent to the lot owner/lessor, other than an action against the sublessor for indemnification of expenses and damages caused by the sublessor's failure to comply with the sublease. See, e.g., Schoshinski, American Law of Landlord-Tenant §8.3 (1980).

Moving Into and Living in a Park

Moving In

The Act states that:

[T]he park owner shall be allowed to promulgate any general qualifications or lawful restrictions on park residents which limit or define the admission of entrants to the park.

765 ILCS 745/24(a). Although this provision appears in the context of procedures to be followed by purchasers of mobile homes who plan to move into a park, it applies by implication to all admissions. The Fifth District interpreted this to mean that

where a mobile home park owner has promulgated reasonable qualifications and restrictions on entrants to his park pursuant to section 24(a) of the Act, the purchaser of a mobile home in that park may properly be denied a lease where he does not meet those qualifications and restrictions.

Brown v. Veile, 254 Ill. App. 3d 575, 626 N.E.2d 395, 193 Ill. Dec. 362 (5th Dist. 1993) (Brown II). It is reasonable to infer that "promulgated" means "written."

Obviously, a park owner cannot illegally discriminate. Mobile home size and age restrictions must be reasonable. Prohibiting homes less than 12 feet wide may be reasonable, since the Act permits a landlord to require the removal of such homes from a park upon sale. 765 ILCS 745/24(b)(2). Rejecting an applicant because their mobile home was in disrepair was upheld in Brown II, supra. Occupancy limits may be legal if they are supported by objective evidence relating to the actual physical limits of things like sewer and plumbing systems. Mountain Side Mobile Estates v. Secretary of HUD, 56 F.3d 1243 (10th Cir. 1995).

Rent policies designed to keep people out are probably illegal. In People ex rel. Fahner v. Testa, 112 Ill. App. 3d 834, 445 N.E.2d 1249, 68 Ill. Dec. 396 (1st Dist. 1983), the Appellate Court held that requiring applicants to pay a full year's rent in advance may violate the Act. The Attorney General's suit had alleged that such a policy violated "the spirit" of the Act.

Applicants for admission are protected by the Act, and can sue to enforce its provisions. Brown v. Veile, 198 Ill. App. 3d 513, 555 N.E.2d 1227, 144 Ill. Dec. 708 (5th Dist. 1990) (Brown I).

It is important to remember that the park owner controls admission into the park--not the mobile home owner. Therefore, when a mobile home already located in a park is sold, the Act says the buyer "prior to closing, must obtain a written and signed lease." 765 ILCS 745/24(a). Buyers do not have an automatic right to assume the seller's lease: "the park owner cannot be forced to accept as a tenant whomever the home owner chooses as purchaser." Brown II, 626 N.E.2d at 400, 193 Ill. Dec. at 367. Compliance with this provision will save both buyers and sellers from disappointment.

A park owner cannot require a prospective or existing tenant to purchase a mobile home from the owner. 765 ILCS 745/12a.

Move-in or entry fees are prohibited, as is soliciting any "donation, gratuity, bonus or gift" to grease the wheels for admission. 765 ILCS 745/20(a). Application fees are not specifically prohibited, but the Act's general prohibition against anything other than "lawful charges," id., should prevent a park owner from charging fees unrelated to actual services or value provided. In addition, the Consumer Fraud Act's prohibition of unfair and deceptive acts and practices is another way to attack excessive fees.

The park, along with any mobile home rented in a park, must conform to all applicable sanitary, housing, health, and zoning codes. 765 ILCS 745/14.

Once a tenant is accepted for admission, they must be offered "a written lease for a term of not less than 12 months." 765 ILCS 745/6(a). The tenant must also be given a copy of the park rules and regulations "prior to his [sic] signing the lease." 765 ILCS 745/14(a). The Act clearly states that rules and regulations cannot be enforced against an accepted tenant who didn't get a copy before they signed their lease. Park owners are not required, however, to give a copy of the rules and regulations to applicants. Brown II, supra.

The park owner must also offer a new tenant a copy of the Illinois Department of Public Health's pamphlet describing "the tenant's and park operator's rights and obligations under this Act." 765 ILCS 745/14-1. Failing to provide the Department of Public Health pamphlet does not make a lease void or voidable, or provide the tenant with any defense or claim against the landlord.

The Manufactured Home Community Code, effective May 5, 1998, implements this statute by requiring park owners or managers to give park tenants a copy of the Illinois Department of Public Health's publication "Living in a Manufactured Home Community." 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.400(b). That Code provides further that the park manager shall maintain a register which "shall contain acknowledgement by the resident that the information required in Section 860.400 was provided." A sample of the register information to be maintained is contained at 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860 Illustration E.

For tenants moving in with their own mobile home, the Mobile Home Tiedown Act requires the park to "make available" a copy of the Department of Public Health's "Mobile Home Owner's Tiedown Guide." "This pamphlet shall be made available to the homeowner prior to the installation of the home." 210 ILCS 120/5. The Tiedown Act requires that mobile homes moved into a park be properly tied down within 30 days (or when the ground thaws or dries out). 210 ILCS 120/5; 77 Ill. Adm. Code § 870.40(a).

During the first 30 days of occupancy, the tenant may terminate the lease and move out if the park owner "fails to substantially conform to the lease agreement or fails to substantially conform" to codes or statutes. 765 ILCS 745/21. The tenant must give written notice to the park owner of this decision.

The Lease and its Terms

General Requirements

One of the Act's greatest protections is its requirement of a one year written lease. 765 ILCS 745/6. The owner must therefore have a one year written lease which can be offered to all tenants. The parties can agree to a different term, but only after the one year lease has been offered. Although not specifically required, any agreement for a term other than one year should be supported by documentation that the one year lease was offered. Without proof of compliance with the Act, a court could incorporate the one year term into a lease by implication.

An oral lease cannot comply with the Act. This conclusion is compelled by certain language in the Act. For example, 765 ICLS 745/17 states that an "Important Notice Required By Law" must be "printed verbatim in a clear and conspicuous manner in each lease or rental agreement." That "Important Notice" goes on to state that "the rules set forth below govern the terms of your lease of occupancy arrangement." Similarly, the tenant must get a copy of the rules and regulations "prior to his signing the lease." 765 ILCS 745/14(a). Probably only a written lease can fulfill the requirement that the lease contain the owner's name and address. 765 ILCS 745/11(h). Finally, purchasers of mobile homes "must obtain a written and signed lease." 765 ILCS 745/24(a). For this language to be meaningful, a written lease is required.

Therefore, a park owner should not be permitted to offer the "option" of an oral lease. The parties may vary the length of the term of the lease, but cannot waive the fundamental protection the Act provides through a written lease. 765 ILCS 745/10.

The "Important Notice" requirement is another of the Act's major protections, containing as it does an explicit statement of the tenant's right to "continue to reside in the park as long as you pay your rent and abide by the rules and regulations of the park." 765 ILCS 745/17. Its language suggests that it should appear at the beginning of the written lease. A lease that omits the "Important Notice" is illegal, and an obvious sign that the park owner is either ignoring the Act, or ignorant.

The lease "shall contain an option which automatically renews the lease." 765 ILCS 745/8. Since all lease terms renew, the renewed lease should be for the same length of time as the original lease. The rent amount also renews automatically, unless "notification of a rent increase [is] delivered 60 days prior to the expiration of the lease," 765 ILCS 745/9. Under the Act, rent is the only lease term that may be modified unilaterally by the park owner.

The Act states that "any lease . . . shall also contain" certain "covenants" specifying the landlord's obligations. These should be contained in a written lease, stating that the owner must:

-- Identify the tenant's lot. 765 ILCS 745/11(a).

-- Keep the exterior areas free of weeds and noxious growth. 765 ILCS 745/11(b).

-- Maintain in good condition all "electrical, plumbing, gas or other utilities." 765 ILCS 745/11(c). This would appear to include appliances provided to the tenant.

-- Maintain in good condition water lines, sewer lines, and roads. 765 ILCS 745/11(d) & (f).

-- Respect the tenant's privacy. The owner can't enter a tenant-owned mobile home without permission. Unless it's an emergency, the owner can't enter a park-owned mobile home without giving "due notice." 765 ILCS 745/11(e).

-- State all services and facilities provided by the owner, and the name and address of either the owner(s) or "the owners' designated agent." 765 ILCS 745/11(g) & (h).

-- "Provide a custodian's office and furnish each tenant with the name, address and telephone number of the custodian and designated office." 765 ILCS 745/11(i). (In addition, the Manufactured Home Community Code now requires that "[a]n answering machine shall be connected to the manufactured home community manager’s phone if someone is not normally available to answer the calls." 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.400(d).)

The Act also defines the tenant's duties. Unlike the owner's obligations, these duties are not specifically required to be "contained" in the lease as "covenants." However, since they would be legally implied in any lease, these duties should be included in a written lease. The tenant must:

-- Keep what they rent clean and sanitary. 765 ILCS 745/13(a) & (f). If the tenant just rents the lot, that's all they have to keep clean.

-- Not store junk cars, not do major car repairs, and wash cars only in designated areas. 765 ILCS 745/13(b), (c), & (d). (The Community Code also states that park rules should, in addition to prohibiting unlicensed vehicles, "contain language that allows the manufactured home community owner to have unlicensed vehicles towed at the owner's expense after seven days' notice is provided." 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860 Appendix C.)

-- Not store appliances, "building material, furniture or similar items on the exterior premises." 765 ILCS 745/13(e).

-- Use reasonable care when using any "supplied basic facilities." 765 ILCS 745/13(f).

-- "Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or knowingly permit any person to do so." 765 ILCS 745/13(g).

-- Not bother the neighbors, and not let guests bother the neighbors. 765 ILCS 745/13(h).

-- Obey the rules and regulations, and obey reasonable regulations on guest parking. 765 ILCS 745/13(i) & (j).

A lease provision that waives any provision of the Act is void. 765 ILCS 745/10. Any lease provision that conflicts with the Act is unenforceable. 765 ILCS 745/1.

The lease cannot permit the owner to move the mobile home during the term of the lease. 765 ILCS 745/12(d). The lease cannot require a tenant wishing to purchase a mobile home to buy only from the owner. 765 ILCS 745/12a.

Illinois law prohibits a lease from exempting the landlord from liability for personal or property injuries caused by the landlord's negligence. 765 ILCS 705/1. Any lease provision attempting to do that is "void as against public policy and wholly unenforceable."

If the owner tenders a signed, written lease, and the tenant rejects that lease in writing, "the tenant's continuation of possession and payment of rent without reservation shall constitute an acceptance of the lease," just as if the tenant had signed it. 765 ILCS 745/7. The only court interpreting this section held that it "is applicable only where a landlord tenders a written lease to a tenant without one." Fyke v. Melton, 279 Ill. App. 3d 415, 664 N.E.2d 1070, 1074, 216 Ill. Dec. 142, 146 (4th Dist. 1996). Since all tenants who moved in after January 1, 1980 should have a written lease, this section may have been intended to cover tenants in place when the Act went into effect.

Rent & Fees

Besides containing the "Important Notice," the lease must specify the rent and other charges. It must "clearly set forth" the rent amount and due date, and itemize all other charges or fees. 765 ILCS 745/9. This provision also extends to "all billings of the tenant by the park owner." If the park owner collects periodic utility charges, for example, those amounts should be itemized in writing.

A five day grace period for rent payments is required before a late fee may be charged. 765 ILCS 745/12(a). Any fees not specified in the lease are prohibited, and therefore unenforceable. 765 ILCS 745/12(c).

The rent amount can be changed only if "notification of a rent increase shall be delivered 60 days prior to the expiration of the lease." 765 ILCS 745/9. The parties cannot agree to shorten that notice period. Fyke, supra. An attempt to raise the rent is ineffective unless the 60 day notice is properly given. In Fyke, the park owner's failure to follow to give 60 days notice was a defense to an eviction brought for the tenant's failure to pay the increased rent. The tenant's acquiescence to a rent increase was not a voluntary termination of the old lease, and the Act prohibited the landlord from unilaterally terminating that old lease without cause.

For the background to the current version of 765 ILCS 745/9, see Aydt v. De Anza Santa Cruz Mobile Estates, 708 F.Supp. 192 (N.D.Ill. 1989) (holding that the old version did not permit rent increases unless specifically set forth in the lease); and Aydt v. De Anza Santa Cruz Mobile Estates, 763 F.Supp. 970 (N.D.Ill. 1991) (discussing the adoption of the current version).

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously held that a municipal rent- control ordinance applying to mobile home parks was not an unconstitutional taking under the Fifth Amendment. Yee v. City of Escondido, 503 U.S. 519 (1992).

Security Deposits

The security deposit cannot be more than one month's rent. 765 ILCS 745/12(b). Otherwise, security deposits are governed by 765 ILCS 745/18.

The landlord can make deductions for unpaid rent or actual damages. Such deductions can only be made if the park owner delivers to the tenant

within 15 days after termination or expiration of the lease, an itemized list of the damages incurred upon the premises and the estimated cost for the repair of each item.

765 ICLS 745/18(a). If the tenant does not object to the itemized list within 15 days of getting the list, the tenant has agreed "upon the amount of damages specified therein." Id. It is therefore important that the tenant notify the park owner of any objections to the deductions. This provision should not be interpreted to prevent a tenant from later defending against a damage claim in court, for an amount exceeding the security deposit. Such an interpretation would give unscrupulous landlords a way to exploit tenants, which would be directly contrary to the Act's primary purpose.

If the park owner fails to provide the itemization of damages within 15 days, the full deposit must be returned. The tenant must provide a forwarding address. Id.

Interest on the deposit must be paid if the park contains 25 or more mobile homes. The Act requires landlords to pay interest on deposits:

computed from the date of the deposit at a rate equal to the interest paid by the largest commercial bank, as measured by total assets, having its main banking premises in this State on minimum deposit passbook savings accounts as of December 31 of the preceding year on any such deposit held by the park owner for more than 6 months.

765 ILCS 745/18(b). As of June 1, 2002, Bank One. N.A., was the largest Illinois bank, and therefore its passbook rate provides the benchmark for interest on deposits.

Currently, interest on deposits will be disappointingly nominal. According to Bank One's information, their basic savings account interest rates on the statute's annual trigger dates have been:

  • December 31, 2001 0.45%
  • December 31, 2000 0.45
  • December 31, 1999 1.73
  • December 31, 1998 1.88
  • December 31, 1997 2.50
  • December 31, 1996 2.50

Each $100.00 of security deposit, then, now earns the tenant $0.45 of annual interest.  "[W]ithin 30 days after the end of each 12-month period," that interest must be paid in cash, unless the parties agree to a rent credit. Id. (The reference to the "12-month period" is unclear; it may be presuming a 12-month lease term.) If the park owner "willfully fails or refuses to pay the interest required," the tenant may recover an amount equal to the deposit, along with attorney fees. Id.

Living in the Park

Rules & Regulations

As the "Important Notice" makes clear, the tenant can live in the park as long as they pay rent and obey the park rules and regulations. 765 ILCS 745/17. Those rules must be in writing, since a copy must be given to the tenant before the lease is signed. 765 ILCS 745/14(a). The rules and regulations must be reasonable, "apply to all tenants in a fair manner," be clear enough for the tenant to know "what he [sic] must or must not do to comply," and not be designed as a way around an owner's statutory obligations. 765 ILCS 745/14(c)-(f).

The Manufactured Home Community Code lists about 16 different specific subjects that park rules "shall include." 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.410. Some of those subjects are garbage storage, the control of weeds and grass, of insects and rodents, and the need for each mobile home to be "equipped with fire extinguishers in working order, one in each end of the mobile home," as required by the Mobile Home Park Act at 210 ILCS 115/9.9. The rules must also address the control of pets, which, according to another section of the Code, must be "confined in a fenced area or on a cable or similar restraint at all times the animals are outdoors." 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.370.

Rules and regulations can specify "the style or quality of exterior equipment to be purchased by the tenant from a vendor of the tenant's choosing." 765 ILCS 745/19(a). The Community Code requires skirting to be constructed of material with a specific fire safety rating. It also prohibits the use of straw bales, or other flammable materials, as skirting. 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.270(a) & (b). Other sections of the Code require that skirting provide access to utility connections, either through "a sliding or hinged inspection door at least 24 inches wide," or through "panels removable without the use of tools." 77 Ill. Admin. Code §§ 860.350.

Mobile homes moved into a park must be properly tied down. 210 ILCS 120/5.

After the tenant moves in, a new rule or regulation can be adopted "only if 30 days written notice of its adoption is given the tenant." 765 ILCS 745/14. New rules can't violate the lease. Improperly adopted rules are unenforceable.

Miscellaneous Provisions of the Act

Tenants are free to organize and join a home owners association. 765 ILCS 745/15(c). The owner cannot prohibit tenant meetings "relating to mobile home living" on the park premises at reasonable hours. The owner also cannot prohibit use of park facilities for those meetings if such facilities "are available and not otherwise in use." 765 ILCS 745/25. A tenant can't be evicted for complaining to a "governmental authority" about violations of codes or laws, or for trying to enforce any legal rights. 765 ILCS 745/15(a) & (b); 745/17. In Testa, supra, the Attorney General was allowed to proceed with a suit against a park owner for violating 765 ILCS 745/15 by trying to evict tenants who had filed complaints with the Attorney General.

The owner cannot require a tenant to remove a conventional TV antenna, unless free cable TV is offered. 765 ILCS 745/4a. The owner cannot dictate a fuel supplier to tenants, unless "a centralized distribution system" for that fuel is provided. 765 ILCS 745/19(b).

The tenant cannot be required to move their mobile home to a different lot during the term of the lease. 765 ILCS 745/12(d). This applies to any mobile home, even one leased by the park to a tenant.

The park owner can't enter a tenant-owned mobile home without the mobile home owner's permission. Unless it's an emergency, the park owner can't enter a park-owned mobile home without giving "due notice." 765 ILCS 745/11(e).

Maintenance and Conditions

Defective conditions can make a tenant's life miserable, and sour the relationship between landlord and tenant. When tenants complain about conditions, then, it is important to be able to provide a remedy. Those remedies are contained in the Act, and in the Mobile Home Park Act. Enforcing those remedies is essential if the protections of the law are to have meaning for tenants.

The park owner is clearly required to maintain the park, 765 ILCS 745/11, and to comply with the Mobile Home Park Act's provisions in order to stay licensed. 210 ILCS 115/7. Violations of these specific statutory requirements provide the clearest basis for relief.

The Community Code now states that the "owner or manager shall inspect the manufactured home community at least weekly" to determine violations of the Mobile Home Park Act, and of the Code. 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.430. The Code also requires weekly removal of garbage, and requires a 40 gallon container per site (20 gallon if emptied twice weekly), unless bulk containers are within 250 feet from a site. 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.300(a).

The Mobile Home Park Act requires that mobile homes shall be "equipped with fire extinguishers in working order, one in each end of the mobile home." 210 ILCS 115/9.9. The Community Code indicates that residents who own their own mobile homes are responsible for providing their own fire extinguishers. 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.410. By implication, the park owner must provide them in park-owned homes.

Abandoned mobile homes "shall be removed." 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.310(b). Damaged homes must be repaired or removed within 60 days of being damaged.

In general, a tenant has two choices if a park owner will not voluntarily fix defective conditions: move out, or sue to force repairs. 765 ILCS 745/21. In either case, the tenant can sue for damages. The Act emphasizes the "move out" remedy, but this should not deter tenants from trying to force repairs.

The "move out" remedy means terminating the lease and vacating the premises. The Act permits the tenant to do this in three different situations:

-- If the park owner fails to "substantially" comply with the lease, or with codes and statutes, the tenant may move out during the first 30 days of occupancy by giving written notice, and after the first 30 days if they "remained in possession in reliance upon the park owner's written promise to correct" the defective conditions.

-- If a condition "deprives the tenant of substantial benefit and enjoyment," the tenant may move out if the park owner does not make corrections within 30 days of getting a written notice of defects.

-- If a condition "renders the mobile home uninhabitable or poses an imminent threat to the health, welfare and safety of any occupant," the tenant may move out without giving notice.

765 ILCS 745/21. A tenant invoking one of these "move out" remedies can also recover damages from the park owner "if such condition was proximately caused by the willful or negligent act or omission of the park owner."

Instead of moving out, though, most tenants would prefer that the owner make repairs. Fortunately, the Act contains a clear grant to tenants of a private right of action to enforce its protections:

The tenant may sue to enforce all Sections of this Act and the court may award damages or grant any injunctive or other relief.

765 ILCS 745/21. No reported decisions deal with suits under this particular Section, but several have granted relief to tenants suing for relief for violations of the Act. See, e.g., Brown II, Aydt I and II, Hedrich, supra.

If all else fails, then, the tenant can sue. A court can enter an injunctive order requiring repairs, and award damages. Claims under the Consumer Fraud Act can be combined with claims under the Act. See, §I.F, supra. In California, for example, mobile home tenants have obtained a jury verdict of more than $2,000,000 against a park owner who had negligently failed to maintain common areas. Smith v. San Joaquin Mobile Partners, (Cal.Super.Ct. March 1986), cited in Housing L.Bull., March/April 1986, pp. 17-18.

Tenants may also get help from the Illinois Department of Public Health. By enforcing the licensing requirements of the Mobile Home Park Act, the Department can prompt the owner to make repairs. The Department may ultimately revoke a park owner's license if serious defects are not corrected. The Mobile Home Park Act applies generally to a park's common areas, but also specifically requires the park owner to provide a proper sewer connection to each mobile home, 210 ILCS 115/9.6--a frequent source of tenant complaints.

Moving Out / Selling a Mobile Home

Under 765 ILCS 745/8, a tenant "has an unfettered right to terminate his lease for any reason at all," as long as they give

park owner at least 30 days advance notice before their lease expires. Aydt v. De Anza Santa Cruz Mobile Estates, 763 F.Supp. 970, 975 (N.D.Ill. 1991). The Act requires this written notice to be delivered by "certified mail or personal service." 765 ILCS 745/8. If notice is not given, the lease automatically renews. If a tenant gives notice, but then does not move out, they may apparently be liable for up to twice the monthly rental. 765 ILCS 745/23.

A moving permit will not be issued unless the mobile home privilege tax has been paid. 35 ILCS 515/11. Therefore, anyone planning to move a mobile home, including a buyer who has not been liable for the privilege tax payment, must be sure that the tax has been paid in full.

The Act explicitly prohibits any interference with mobile home sales:

The park owner shall be enjoined and restrained from prohibiting, limiting, restricting, obstructing or in any manner interfering with the freedom of any mobile home owner to:

(a) Sell his [sic] mobile home to a purchaser of his choice, . . . .

(b) Employ or secure the services of an independent sale person in connection with the sale of said mobile home, . . . .

765 ILCS 745/24. This prohibition was designed to prevent parks from telling tenants they couldn't sell their mobile homes to anyone but the park. This practice, giving the park owner a monopsonist's power to depress price, cheated home owners out of the higher prices they could get from sales to other buyers. This Section also prohibits the kind of gouging that occurred before the Act went into effect. For example, the park owner in Hedrich, supra, charged tenants $1,500 when they sold their mobile homes, even though the park owner provided no services. That practice was successfully enjoined under the Act.

The Act does not apply to someone who has been evicted. Therefore, an evicted tenant's claim that a park owner had interfered with a post-eviction sale of her mobile home were properly dismissed in Sonntag v. Whippletree Village Partnership, 207 Ill. App. 3d 892, 566 N.E.2d 467, 152 Ill. Dec. 780 (1st Dist. 1990).

Disguising fees as "sales commissions" is also prohibited. Commissions are permitted only if the mobile home owner has actually asked the park owner for help in a sale. Then, commissions can only be a percentage of the sale price, and that percentage must be disclosed in writing to the mobile home owner before the sale. 765 ILCS 745/24(b)(1) & (2). Sale fees cannot be disguised as donations, gratuities, bonuses, or gifts to the owner. 765 ILCS 745/20.

In addition to being violations of the Act, illegal fees can be a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. Hedrich, Testa, supra.

In general, a park owner cannot require that a mobile home be moved after it is sold. The only exceptions are where "the mobile home is less than 12 feet wide or is significantly deteriorated and in substantial disrepair." 765 ILCS 745/24. In those situations, the park owner must have notified the tenant in writing, prior to the sale, that removal would be required. The park owner has the burden of proving that the mobile home is in poor condition. One of the claims in Testa, supra, was that requiring buyers to move their mobile homes violated both the Act and the Consumer Fraud Act. In Brown II, supra, the Appellate Court held that a park owner did not violate 765 ILCS 745/24 by requiring a buyer to remove from a park a "dilapidated, deplorable, and unsanitary" mobile home.

A buyer planning to move into a mobile home already located in a park must qualify for admission, and obtain a written and signed lease. 765 ILCS 745/24(a). An unreasonable refusal to lease to a buyer may be a violation of the Act. Testa, supra; and Brown I, supra ("To allow a park owner to unreasonably refuse to tender a lease to a buyer would allow park owners to defeat the statute"). A claim for a violation of this section of the Act against a park owner for rejecting a prospective buyer should include an allegation "that the purchaser was a qualified purchaser for the mobile home, who met the legal qualifications for entry to the park." Sonntag, supra, 566 N.E.2d at 469-70, 152 Ill. Dec. 780-81.

Evictions

Grounds for Eviction: Generally

A tenant can't be evicted unless they breach their lease. This requirement of grounds for eviction is a major modification of standard landlord-tenant eviction law. The "statutory grounds for eviction" are:

  • (a) Non-payment of rent due;
  • (b) Failure to comply with the park rules; or
  • (c) Failure to comply with local ordinances and State laws regulating mobile homes.

765 ILCS 745/15. The "Important Notice" gives the tenant a simple restatement of this limitation on eviction: "You may continue to reside in the park as long as you pay your rent and abide by the rules and regulations of the park." 765 ILCS 745/17.

The statutory grounds for eviction create, in effect, a "good cause" standard for evictions. This is similar to the restrictions on evictions in federally owned or subsidized housing, which generally require "material noncompliance" with the lease, or "other good cause," for termination of a tenancy. Cases decided under those federal standards can be helpful in determining what courts consider to be good cause for eviction.

A park that is not properly licensed under the Mobile Home Park Act may not have the capacity to enter into or enforce a legal contract. A Michigan trial court enjoined an unlicensed park from evicting tenants by holding that, under the common law, one who enters into a contract to provide services in violation of a statute enacted to protect the public cannot maintain an action to recover for those services. Burton v. Herriff, Mich. Dist. Ct., Clinton Co. # 90-1255LT; summarized at 24 Clearinghouse Rev. 1175 (February 1991).

Grounds for Eviction: Non-payment of Rent

The park owner must properly terminate the tenancy before filing an eviction case under the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act. For non-payment of rent, a Five Day Notice can be used. 765 ILCS 745/22. In Bank of Belleville v. Stidmire, 119 Ill. App. 3d 373, 456 N.E.2d 673, 74 Ill. Dec. 175 (5th Dist. 1983), the Appellate Court held that this Section requires the Five Day Notice to state the amount of rent due, and provide the tenant with at least five days for payment. The defective "Notice to Vacate" in Stidmire simply said the tenant had to move out in five days. Because it did not comply with the statute, it did not effectively terminate the tenancy, and the eviction judgment based on that notice was reversed.

The tenant may have a defense to an eviction based on non-payment of rent if the claimed non-payment is for an improperly increased rent amount. For example, in Fyke v. Melton, 279 Ill. App. 3d 415, 664 N.E.2d 1070, 216 Ill. Dec. 142 (4th Dist. 1996), the fact that the park owner had failed to give the required 60 days advance notice of a rent increase was a defense to an eviction brought for the failure to pay the increased rent. In Fyke, the original lease set lot rent at $90 per month. The tenant acquiesced to one increase to $96 per month, but refused to go along with a second increase to $126 per month. The Appellate Court held that the park owner's attempts to raise rents with 30 days notice was ineffective. The tenant could not be evicted because, "[b]y paying $96 per month, tenant not only met, but exceeded her rent obligations." 664 N.E.2d at 1104, 216 Ill. Dec. at 146.

Grounds for Eviction: Lease or Rule Violations

For lease violations other than non-payment of rent, the park owner may terminate in the middle of the lease by giving a Ten Day Notice under the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act, or, under 765 ILCS 745/8(b), wait and give a notice of nonrenewal 30 days before the lease expires. Any notice for lease violations other than non-payment of rent must be preceded by the Act's special "24 Hour Notice:"

If the tenant breaches any provision of the lease or rule and regulations of the mobile home park, the park owner shall notify the tenant in writing of his [sic] breach. Such notice shall specify the violation and advise the tenant that if the violation shall continue for more than 24 hours after receipt of such notice the park owner may terminate the lease.

765 ILCS 745/22. This notice gives the tenant an opportunity to cure any alleged violation. If the park owner fails to give this "24 Hour Notice" before giving the actual termination notice, the tenancy has not been terminated in compliance with the statute, and, as in Stidmire, supra, a subsequent eviction case should be dismissed.

A tenant's failure to fulfill the "Tenant's Duties" under the Act at 765 ILCS 745/13 may constitute a "[f]ailure to comply with . . . State laws regulating mobile homes," and may therefore amount to statutory grounds for eviction under 765 ILCS 745/15(c).

The 30 day notice of nonrenewal must "specify in writing the reasons, such as violations of park rules, health and safety codes or irregular or non-payment of rent." 765 ILCS 745/8(b). In Aydt v. De Anza Santa Ana Cruz Mobile Estates, 763 F.Supp. 970 (N.D.Ill. 1991), the District Court stated that a notice saying leases would not be renewed, without specifying the reasons for nonrenewal, would be "ineffective." It would be consistent with the Act if a Ten Day Notice to Quit, in the middle of the lease term, also specified the reasons for termination.

The 30 day notice of nonrenewal shall be delivered "by certified mail or personal service." 765 ILCS 745/8. A Five or Ten Day Notice must be served in compliance with the more restrictive requirements of the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act. 735 ILCS 5/9-211 (personal service, or "certified or registered mail, with a returned receipt from the addressee").

The park owner must prove the alleged lease violations at the eviction trial. In Beeding v. Miller, 167 Ill. App. 3d 128, 520 N.E.2d 1058, 117 Ill. Dec. 707 (2d Dist. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1097 (1987), an eviction was denied because the park owner was unable to prove the tenant had violated park rules requiring the tenant to keep the lot clean and dispose of garbage properly. The Appellate Court stated:

[T]he Act indicates that the legislature did not intend that mere recitation of the reasons for nonrenewal should be sufficient for termination of the lease. . . . [The] purpose of protecting tenants from unscrupulous landlords . . . would not be extended were the Act to be construed to allow a landlord to merely recite the stated grounds without proving those grounds exist.

520 N.E.2d at 1063-64, 117 Ill. Dec. at 712-13 (emphasis in original).

A tenant cannot be evicted for violating rules the tenant did not receive before signing a lease, or for violating rules which were not properly adopted after the tenant moved in. 765 ILCS 745/14. Nor can the tenant be evicted in retaliation for enforcing lease or statutory rights, for complaining about conditions, or for organizing or joining a home owners association. 765 ILCS 745/16.

After Eviction

A person who has been evicted is not a "tenant" under the Act, and is therefore not entitled to its protections. Sonntag v. Whippletree Village Partnership, 207 Ill. App. 3d 892, 566 N.E.2d 467, 469, 152 Ill. Dec. 780, 782 (1st Dist. 1990) ("[W]hen the judgment for possession terminated the lease, the Mobile Home Act ceased to apply").

A provision headed "Termination of Tenancy" states that a tenant can be liable for double rent if they remain in possession after a lease expires "without having notified the park owner of his [sic] acceptance or rejection of a renewal of the lease and without the park owner's consent." 765 ILCS 745/23. It is unclear when this "double rent" situation would ever occur, since all leases renew automatically under 765 ILCS 745/8, so that tenants don't have to notify the owner that they intend to renew the lease. This Section may be intended to protect the park owner against a tenant who gives notice that they're moving out but then does not. It may also be analogous to the Forcible Entry and Detainer Act's provision at 735 ILCS 5/9-202, permitting double rent when a tenant wilfully holds over after the landlord has terminated the tenancy. If that is correct, it should be noted that the Appellate Court in Brown II held that 9-202's double rent provision should be applied cautiously, and that the double rent penalty is "inappropriate where a bona fide dispute existed between the parties as to who had the right of possession." Brown II, 626 N.E.2d at 402, 193 Ill. Dec. at 369.

A judgment for possession in an eviction case against a tenant requires a mobile home owner to remove the home from the lot. If the home owner does not comply with the judgment for possession and remove the home, the park owner may treat the situation as a constructive bailment. Lescha Maschinefabrik GmbH v. GSC Properties, 719 F.Supp. 715 (N.D.Ill. 1989).

Cases from other states hold that, unless the landlord takes possession of the tenant's property, the landlord is not a gratuitous bailee who owes a duty to not wilfully destroy or damage the property. For example, in Ringler v. Sias, 428 N.E.2d 869, 870 (Ohio App. 1980), the court stated, "[u]nless the landlord takes some act consistent with an intent to possess the former tenant's property, the landlord does not become a gratuitous bailee of the property."

If a park owner puts the mobile home into storage as the result of an eviction order, and if a mobile home is considered to be "household goods," the storage company may not have a valid lien for their storage costs. In Rubin v. City National Bank & Trust Co., 81 Ill. App. 3d 1020, 402 N.E.2d 281 (2d Dist. 1980), the Second District held that when the landlord stored the tenant's personal property after an eviction judgment was entered, the storage company did not have a valid warehouseman's lien for storage because the landlord was not the "legal possessor of the goods at the time of deposit" under 810 ILCS 5/7-209(3)(b). According to the court's analysis, an eviction judgment restores the landlord's right to possession of the premises, but creates no right to possession of the tenant's personal property, beyond removal of that property from the premises.

A judgment for possession expires 90 days after it is entered, unless the court grants "an extension of the period of enforcement of the judgment." 735 ILCS 5/9-117. After that 90 days, then, the sheriff has no authority to remove a mobile home from a park site. By that point, though, the mobile home might be considered to be abandoned property. "Whether property is abandoned is a question of fact requiring an examination of the intent and actions of the defendant." People v. Hundley, 156 Ill.2d 135, 146, 619 N.E.2d 744, 749 (1993) (Freeman, dissenting). The statutory definition of "abandoned mobile home" that applies when a municipality removes and disposes of a mobile home (210 ILCS 117/10) is probably a stricter standard than what a landlord would have to apply when deciding if a mobile home was abandoned.

Abandoned Mobile Homes

Abandoned mobile homes "shall be removed," and damaged homes must be repaired or removed within 60 days of being damaged. 77 Ill. Admin. Code §860.310(b).

An abandoned mobile home is like any abandoned property: whoever wants to may disposed of it. A municipality may also dispose of an abandoned mobile home through an action brought under the Abandoned Mobile Home Act, 210 ILCS 117/1 to 55. That act contains a definition of "abandoned mobile home." 210 ILCS 117/10.

Obtaining title to an abandoned mobile home can be problematic. The Illinois Secretary of State's materials for replacing a lost or missing title say that the "bonded title" procedures cannot be used on abandoned vehicles. An alternative sometimes used is to obtain title by mechanic's or storage lien. That, however, requires the applicant to affirm that storage of the vehicle "was completed at the request of or with the consent of its owner, authorized agent of the owner, or lawful possessor thereof." The Rubin case, noted above, held that a landlord taking possession after an eviction is not a "lawful possessor."

Park Closings

Generally

The difficulty and expense of moving a mobile home, and the limited number of available lots, can make a park closing a serious crisis for mobile home owners. To ease that hardship, the Act now requires 12 months advance notice of a park closing. This 1 year notice is required when the "park owner elects to cease the operation of either all or a portion of the mobile home park." 765 ILCS 745/8(c). If a tenant's lease has more than 12 months remaining, the tenant can stay in the park until the lease expires. Tenants whose leases expire before the 12 months are up are entitled to "a written month to month tenancy, at the expiring lease rate," for the remainder of the 12 months before closing. Id.

This is an extremely important protection for mobile home owners. If a park owner refuses to give this notice, tenants can sue to stop a premature closing, to enforce full compliance with the Act, and for damages.

Mobile Home Resources

Publications

Manufactured Housing Park Tenants: Shifting the Balance of Power AARP (1991).

A model state statute developed by AARP for the protection of mobile home residents. This model statute has been introduced in Illinois, but has not passed.

Final Report, National Commission on Manufactured Housing (1994).

Recommendations to Congress for revisions to the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act. Available from AARP.

The National Consumer Law Center’s Consumer Credit and Sales Legal Practice Series has several manuals with chapters or sections dealing with mobile home issues:

Access to Utility to Utility Service (1998 Supplement).

"Mobile Homes," Chapter 11.

Consumer Warranty Law (1997 & 1999 Cumulative Supplement).

"Mobile Home Sales," Chapter 15.

Consumer Law Pleadings, Number 5 (1999).

"Manufactured Homes: Warranties, Deception, and Financing Issues," Chapter 4.

Part 4.1: Suit Against Manufactured Home Dealer and Financer.

Part 4.2: Suit Against Mobile Home Dealer and Manufacturer.

Consumer Law Pleadings, Number 2 (1995).

Part 4.1: Complaint for Damages and Cancellation Regarding Sale of Mobile Home.

Web Sites

http://www.mobilehome.com/  A central site of the Manufactured Housing Global Network, with links to many different companies and organizations.

http://www.imha.org/  The site of the Illinois Manufactured Housing Association, a trade organization representing builders, sellers, and park owners.

Organizations

Mobile Home Owners Association of Illinois
Terry Nelson President
1330 E. Rand Rd. #135
DesPlaines, Illinois 60016
(847) 296-5762, fax (847) 813-7917

For mobile home owners and park residents. Their web site says they are "a non-profit, state-wide organization. Our goals include educating mobile and manufactured home owners of their rights, assist in passing laws to protect home owners and help enforce existing laws." Membership is $10 a year.

Federation of Mobile Home Owners of Florida, Inc.
P.O. Box 5350
Largo, FL 33779-5350
(727) 530-7539

For Florida residents, but probably the largest organization for mobile home owners and park residents. A $12 annual membership includes a subscription to their slick monthly, FMO News, which is an excellent overview of developing mobile home issues and legislation.

Helpful Organizations
The following organizations may be able to help you with

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