Manufactured Housing Resources George Porter


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Home Installation Manager Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc.

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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 same authority.

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 field?

( 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, 1976.

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.