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Removal of Running Gear
By George Porter
We now have the latest definitive answer to the question, "to
whom do the wheels and axles belong?" Well, it still depends
on where you are located, but we are closer to a nationwide understanding
of the problem. To tell the truth many folks don't even know there
is a wheels crisis. Neither the customer nor the dealer give it
much thought. The customer doesn't want the wheels laying around
his yard so the dealer removes them on multi-section homes when
assembling the two halves. Generally, the dealer sells these wheels
to a recycler. Nobody cared until a fellow from California read
in the HUD Code that wheels and axles were part of the transportation
system of the home and that the transportation system is a necessary
part of the HUD Code. He then preceded to take legal action on
behalf of consumers against dealers who keep the wheels and axles.
His case premise is that if a person buys a HUD Code home and
they don't get all the parts that they are somehow being cheated
and the dealer is in violation of federal law. This case further
implies that the consumer is not receiving the value of the transportation
system and should be compensated by the courts for that loss.
Of course punitive damages ($$$) are requested against the evil
dealer who Astole@ the poor customer's axles. The grateful customer
then compensates the legal hero for his efforts and all are happy
except the bewildered dealer.
As strange as this seems, the California fellow even has a
letter signed by a HUD official that says, "yes, the wheels
and axles are indeed a part of a HUD Code home and they belong
to the person who buys the HUD Code home." If the consumer
wants to sell or donate them back to the dealer or anybody else
they chose after they buy the home then that is up to them.
This latest letter has a paragraph that states: The federal
regulations require that a manufactured home conform to the Federal
standards at the time the dealer sells the home. If, under the
terms of the sales contract, the dealer is responsible for setup,
removal of the running gear during setup does not violate the
requirement to sell homes in conformance with Federal standards.
Thus, the dealers' possession of the running gear after the setup
is a matter of State law and is not governed by the National Manufactured
Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974.
The letter further states on the second page: By copying this
letter to industry representatives, however, we hope to encourage
manufacturers and retailers to ensure that all sales contracts
clearly disclose to consumers whether they are being charged for
the running gear or whether the dealer is buying it back, and
any costs of charges involved.
OK the first page says you can take the axles, unless your
state says you can't, and the second page says that HUD wants
you tell the customer about it on the sales contract.
So how does this help the California thing? Well, I'm not sure.
The problem is that dealers simply kept the axles and never told
anyone anything, at least not in writing, the same as most of
the rest of the country has been doing. The consumer didn't know
that he had not been charged for the axles (if that was the case)
and he was not given a credit for them either. So who did the
axles really belong to and who sold them to a recycler? I think
this mess has not exactly been put to rest yet.
The sad part is that this ruckus has been going on for almost
three years. There are real problems in this industry that need
major attention from HUD. The Code and wheels and axles are just
not anywhere near the top of that list. How do wheels that nobody
needs anymore take priority over matters of anchoring and foundations?
How do axles get to be more important than federal preemption
for local zoning problems? When do you suppose we will see a letter
on these items? Probably not too soon.