Federal Construction and Safety Standards
The Manufacturer's Warranty
The answers to the following questions should help you get the kind of warranty protection you want:
- What warranties come with the manufactured home? You may get warranties from the home manufacturer, the retailer, the transporter, the installer, and the appliance manufacturers.
- What exactly does each of these warranties cover? What don't they cover?
- Do the manufacturer's or retailer's written warranties on the home cover transportation and installation? If not, are installation and transportation covered by separate, written warranties?
- How long do the warranties last?
- How do you get warranty service?
- Who will provide service under the warranties?
- Where will the warranty service be performed?
The Retailer's Warranty
- zoning: In cities and suburban areas, and in some semi-rural areas, you may face zoning requirements that must be met. In certain areas, there may be a prohibition against manufactured homes, or certain requirements regarding their size and exterior appearance. You can find out if there are any restrictions or requirements by contacting the local community's planning and land use department. Consult your local telephone directory for the office nearest you.
- restrictive covenants: These are limitations in property deeds that control how you can use the land. These may include a requirement that homes be a certain size, or a prohibition that lands not be used for certain purposes. The title search, conducted when you buy the land, may reveal information about such restrictions. Sometimes, however, the restrictions are described in ways that are difficult to understand. You may want to check with an experienced real estate attorney to see if there are any restrictive covenants that would keep you from placing your home on the land you are considering.
- utilities: Although a manufactured home comes complete with plumbing, electrical, and heating systems, it must, like all homes, be connected to electrical, water and sewage facilities. If your site is in a well-developed area, all necessary utilities may be available, subject to connection charges. Find out exactly what utilities are available and how much it will cost to connect your home to all utility sources. Contact your local public utilities division for information about utility services in your area. Make sure that the applicable zoning laws and the deed on your land will allow a manufactured home to be placed there.
- Is a written lease required and, if so, for how long?
- What are the charges for utility connections or other services?
- Do the community's rules require that it be responsible for installing your home, or can you let your retailer do the job?
- What charges will be made for installation? Who will be responsible for ground maintenance, snow removal, refuse collection, street maintenance, and mail delivery?
- What are the community's rules and regulations? For example, are pets prohibited? Can you accept and live with such rules?
- Are there any special requirements or restrictions when you sell your home?
- Are there any provisions to protect you if the owner of the manufactured home community where you lease your homesite sells the property for another purpose?
- electrical facilities: Electricity is usually available in all areas. But if the area where you plan to live does not have ready access to electric power, connection could be quite expensive. Check with the local power company to find out whether electricity is readily accessible.
- water facilities: In many locations, there may not be local government-supplied water lines. If there is no water, you may have to drill a well. Do not assume that all drilling will provide water. Check with a local well-drilling company about costs and whether success is guaranteed. Also, check with local health authorities to make certain there are no problems with the quality of the water in the area.
- sewage facilities: Many areas still rely on septic tank systems instead of a city or county sanitary sewage system. If you cannot connect your home to a sewage system, you must check with local authorities about installing a septic tank. Properly installed septic systems can work quite well. But sometimes they cannot be used, for example, where there is soft ground that is not able to absorb the discharged waste. For more information, contact the local health department or the office responsible for granting building permits.
- How do I want my home to look?
- What size home and floor plan do I want or need?
Manufactured homes are available in a variety of floor plans that include spacious living rooms, dining rooms, fully equipped kitchens, one or more bedrooms, family rooms, and utility rooms. Depending upon your needs and the size of your lot, you can choose a single-section home plan or a larger multi-section design. Homes range in size from 400 to 2,500 square feet.
- Check state laws.
They may limit the movement of your home after installation. If there is a chance that you might relocate your home to another state, find out about state laws covering transportation of manufactured homes. Some states, particularly eastern states, have certain regulations, such as weight, size or width limitations, that may prevent you from moving your home. Before you purchase, check with the appropriate authorities in the states through which you may want to transport your home. If you do move your home, you will be faced with extra expenses. Besides transporting costs, which include licensing fees to take your home through a state, you will have the cost of foundation construction, installation, and utility hookups.
- What interior options and features are available?
- What appliance packages are available?
- What energy-efficiency options are available?
The National Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards require separate energy-efficiency levels for the three different temperature zones of the United States. However, you may wish to increase your home's energy-efficiency. There are a variety of optional energy packages available, such as increased insulation, double- and triple-glazed windows, sheathing products, self-storing storm windows, and high-efficiency water heaters, furnaces, refrigerators, and air conditioners. Ask your retailer about available energy-saving features and their costs. You should especially note the "Heating Certificate," which specifies the temperature zone for which the home is designed, and the "Comfort Cooling Certificate," which specifies the appropriate central air-conditioning system for the home. Both certificates are located on the inside of the home. You should not place your home in a climate zone for which it was not designed.
- What written warranty coverage is offered on the home, its transportation, and its installation on the homesite?
Nearly all manufacturers offer a written warranty on the home itself. There are, however, important differences among warranties. For example, manufacturers' warranties may exclude coverage of installation and transportation, although reliable retailers or contractors usually offer written warranties on these services. Although you may never need such warranty services, it is a good idea to check the coverage of any warranties that are offered before you buy.
- The site must be accessible by the truck transporting your home.
- The site must be as level as possible.
- The precise site area must be cleared of trees, rocks, and any other surface debris.
- The soil must be graded and sloped for water runoff.
- The soil must be compacted so that the foundation will not sink or shift on loose earth-fill.
Every manufacturer is required by the federal standards to provide instructions for installing your home. However, the actual installation typically is not within the manufacturer's control. Therefore, the installation of your manufactured home is not covered by the manufacturer's warranty. These cautions are not designed to worry you but, rather, to alert you to the importance of installation. Hundreds of thousands of manufactured homes are installed on sites each year without major problems. You should not have problems if your home is installed by a reliable retailer or by a company that specializes in manufactured-home installation. Check for damage as soon as your home is delivered, and report any problems to the retailer or transporter as soon as possible. The manufacturer's written warranty on the home generally will not cover problems that are caused by improper installation. Usually, the retailer will install your home or will contract with a professional installation crew to do the work. In most cases, the price of your home will include the cost of installation by such qualified professionals. Be sure to check this with your retailer before you sign the sales contract. If installation is not included in the price, you may have to contract with a separate company to install your home. Ask your retailer for the names of such companies.
Clarify in writing what installation services are provided, who is providing them, and who warrants the work. The retailer should spell out, in writing, the full scope of installation services that are included in the price of your home. This should assure you that everything is covered and that there will be no misunderstandings about who is responsible for what. Regardless of whether the retailer or a separate company installs your home, you should follow several guidelines.
- Discuss with the contractor the steps involved in installation so that you understand them.
- Have the contractor write these steps into the contract.
- Ask if there is a written warranty covering your home's installation. If not, then ask to have it put in writing.