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The HUD Code Goes to the Ground
By George Porter
In a recent letter to the State of Pennsylvania the U. S. Dept.
Of Housing and Urban Development interpreted that the HUD code
includes specific references to installation. This comes as a
radical departure in the thinking of that department. For the
first 22 years of the HUD building code, the folks in Washington
clearly stated, in no uncertain terms, that they had nothing whatsoever
to do with installation. After Hurricane Andrew in "92 they
said they would look at the construction of the homes, but anchoring,
setup, etc. was a state problem. Over the years we have had one
national building code for our homes, and installation codes that
vary from state to state, county to county, and even some towns
have gotten into the act of inventing their own installation code
for manufactured housing. Some of these installation codes have
been well conceived, but many make demands on the installer that
make it unsafe and even impossible for anyone to follow. Some
local governments use their installation laws to exclude manufactured
housing from their area by making it cost prohibitive to meet
the local code.
Do not be confused into thinking that HUD has written a national
installation code. It has absolutely not done so. What it has
done, in its letter to Pennsylvania, is clearly give authority
to the State Administrative Agency (SAA) to see to it that HUD
Code homes comply with the HUD Code after they are installed.
This changes everything!
For instance, if a home is required to support a certain roof
load or a certain wind zone, then it must have the appropriate
foundation and anchors to do the job. The requirements are spelled
out in the factory installation manual. In states that have adopted
their own installation regulations there are other choices such
as certified engineering drawings or FEMA standards in flood hazzard
area. PA. does not have such regulations, the legislature would
not pass them even after five years of lobbing and pleading by
both the SAA and the industry. So, in PA, the manufacturers manual
or written approval by the factory of an alternative plan is the
only accepted standard.
In the letter to Pennsylvania HUD states that, "As an
SAA, Pennsylvania has concurrent jurisdiction with HUD to enforce
such standards." We would all be well advised to study the
word, CONCURRENT. It means that HUD itself recognizes that it
can look into any installation of a new home nationwide to see
if it places the HUD Code home out of conformance if it wants
to. It also means that HUD recognizes PA's jurisdiction over installation
as it effects the Code any other state SAA in the nation has the
November the 19th is when the letter from HUD was received
in Pennsylvania and that date will be known as the day that the
federal government publicly acknowledged that an improperly installed
home will not meet the performance standards of the HUD Code.
Many questions will be raised in the coming months, and there
will be many learning experiences. In my opinion, it is the beginning
of the right track regarding installation for the industry. It
will, however, require a lot of work and thought. There are many
ways to do this, and great care should be taken to see to it that
the baby is not thrown out with the bath water.
One of the first questions to ask is "where is the hammer?
What will be the enforcement tool?" At this point in time
HUD's main tools are the HUD Seal and the fines spelled out in
the Code. When a Seal is placed on a home, it means that the home
is guaranteed by the federal government to meet certain standards.
If the home doesn't meet the standards, then the party responsible
for causing it to be in nonconformance can be subject to a $1000.00
fine and these penalties are limited to $1,000,000.00 per year.
Who is responsible for paying the fines and/or fixing the home?
The factory is where the HUD label is placed on the home, does
that mean that they are responsible for making it good in the
( This one is my favorite ) What if the installers are following
the directive of a local government? Does the local government
get the fines for the home being out of compliance and become
liable for any losses involved?
What if the setup guy says no one ever told me this wasn't
correct? He says, "the factory has seen hundreds of homes
I have installed. In fact, the dealer himself told me that if
I didn't do it the way he wanted, he wouldn't pay me." Now
who gets the penalties?
It is important to note that there was no new law or
regulation passed, just an interpretation of the Manufactured
Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974. This is
more commonly known as the HUD Code and it became effective July,
Obviously installation in Pennsylvania is about to become very
important. If you are not from PA and think this doesn't affect
you, please read this article again slowly. If the feds say it
applies in PA then it applies everywhere in the nation. Courts
and judges will set precedent for what procedures will be used.
By the time you read this there could be a plan in effect that
no one has conceived of yet. One thing is for sure, all over the
nation, any home that is setup in such a manner that does not
meet the performance standards of the HUD Code is in noncompliance
with the HUD Code until it is corrected and inspected again, period.