California Mobilehome Homeowners Repair Rights
Owners of mobile homes live in a unique situation. First, they own their home while renting someone else’s land. Second, they often make a greater financial investment in their home and lot than the park owner makes in the park. Still, park owners greatly influence mobilehome owners’ living conditions. This is why mobilehome owners need to fully understand the protections that California law provides. The primary source of those legal protections is the California Mobilehome Residency Law, which is codified at Cal. Civil Code § 798 et seq. Other provisions of California law as well as local ordinances may provide additional protections.
What are the responsibilities of the mobilehome park owner or management regarding physical improvements in common park facilities?
Under Cal. Civil Code § 798.15(d), the mobilehome park owner or management is responsible for the following:
- (1) providing and maintaining physical improvements in the common facilities (including utilities) in good working order and condition, and
- (2) repairing, within a “reasonable period of time,” the sudden or unforeseen breakdown or deterioration of any such improvements and bringing them into good working order and condition.
If the situation affects health or safety, a “reasonable period of time” means as soon as possible after the mobilehome park owner or management knows or should have known of the breakdown or deterioration. The repair generally must take place within thirty days. Under Cal. Civil Code § 798.15, the rental agreement must state that the park owner is responsible for maintenance f common area facilities.
If the park owner or management substantially fails to provide and maintain physical improvements in the common facilities in good working order, it is then considered a public nuisance, as a matter of law. Cal. Civil Code § 798.87(a). A park resident may bring a civil action to abate such a nuisance. Cal. Civil Code § 798.87(c).
Reinforcing these requirements, 25 Cal. Code of Regulations § 1102 requires that the owner or management of a mobilehome park “be responsible for the safe operation and maintenance of all common areas, park-owned electrical, gas, and plumbing equipment and their installations, and all park-owned permanent buildings or structures, within the park” (emphasis added). Similarly, where a park is operated or maintained unsafely or otherwise unlawfully, the park owner or management is responsible for abating the violation. 25 Cal. Code of Regulations § 1610(b).
What are the preliminary requirements for bringing a lawsuit for failure to maintain (or for reductions in services)?
Under Cal. Civil Code § 798.84(a), a mobilehome owner must give the park owner or management written and signed notice at least thirty days before bringing suit. The notice must describe the physical improvements in the park’s common facilities that the owner or management failed to maintain in good working order or the services that were reduced. The notice must make specific allegations and explain the remedies requested. If one mobilehome owner gives notice, it counts as notice on behalf of all homeowners in the park. Substantial compliance with the notice provisions of Cal. Civil Code § 798.84(a)-(b) is sufficient to put the park owner or management “on notice,” as is notice by a state or local agency. Cal. Civil Code § 798.84(d).
What are the provisions governing apportionment of attorney’s fees and costs?
Under Cal. Civil Code § 798.85, the “prevailing party” of a lawsuit concerning the Mobilehome Residency Law is entitled to “reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.”
What damages are available against the park owner or management in a suit for failure to maintain?
If a mobilehome owner prevails against the park owner or management, the court may award actual damages, plus an additional penalty of up to $2,000 for each “willful” violation of the Mobilehome Residency Law. Cal. Civil Code § 798.86. “Willful” means intentional conduct undertaken with knowledge or consciousness of its probable results. Patarak v. Williams, 91 Cal. App. 4th 826, 830 (2001) (holding that a penalty was properly imposed because a mobilehome park owner willfully failed to maintain a septic system with knowledge or consciousness that it would probably fail with “malodorous and unsanitary consequences”).
Actual damages include (1) emotional distress; (2) moving costs; (3) property damage; (4) loss of use of a mobile home; (5) medical expenses; (6) pain and suffering; and (7) decrease in value of a mobile home.
What are the responsibilities of the mobilehome park owner or management regarding the driveways of the park?
Patk owners are “solely responsible” for maintaining, repairing, replacing, paving, sealing and paying all expenses for the maintenance of any driveways installed by the park owner or management. Cal. Civil Code § 798.37.5(c). This includes the repair of any damage to driveways and foundation systems caused by trees, as well as the removal of any such trees. A mobilehome owner, however, may be responsible for the cost of any damage to a park driveway if the homeowner installed the driveway or if the homeowner caused the damage.