Mobilehome Park Owners Forbidden from Renting Their Own Mobiles?

Das Williams, a member of the California State Assembly, asked Attorney General Kamala D. Harris for an opinion on the following question: “If the management of a mobilehome park has enacted rules and regulations generally prohibiting mobilehome owners from renting their mobilehomes, is park management bound by these same rules and regulations?”  Opinion No. 11-703, available here.

The attorney general’s answer, somewhat surprisingly, is YES.

Why does this matter?  Because mobilehome park owners often have difficulty filling their parks with mobilehome owners.  On occasion, they have resorted to buying mobiles themselves and placing them in vacant park spaces, and then selling or renting them to potential residents.

In recent years, selling mobiles to residents has gotten much more complicated, as the state legislature is deliberating whether to adopt laws prohibiting park owners from financing the sale of park-owned mobiles to residents unless the mobile home park owner/manager is a licensed mortgage loan originator.   (See SB 376 from the 2011-12 legislative session.  It is still showing as “active,” although no hearings are scheduled as of the time of this writing.  The current status of the bill can be seen here.)  Federal laws may already require this, so the state of the law is a bit unclear.

Many mobilehome park owners have gone the easier route of purchasing mobiles to fill the vacant spaces and renting out those spaces to residents.  But now, based on the Attorney General’s opinion, park owners are prohibited from doing that if they have a park rule that prohibits tenants from renting their homes to third parties.

Many mobilehome parks have rules in place that prohibit mobilehome owners within the park from renting out or subletting their mobiles to others.  The policy behind the rule is that it is generally very difficult for mobilehome park management to enforce the park rules against those subtenants/sublessees, because there is no privity of contract between the park management and the resident.

However, Civil Code Section 798.23(a) states that the owners of the park and all employees of the park are subject to all of the same rules and regulations.  If the rules state that a mobile home owner cannot lease his or her mobilehome to a third party, then the rules also require that the mobilehome park owners are bound by the same restriction, even though the policy behind the no-subletting rule doesn’t apply when the mobilehome park owner is renting out a park-owned mobilehome.

So far, we have been unable to find any litigation that supports the attorney general’s new opinion, and that opinion is not binding law.  However, mobilehome park owners may want to play it safe by amending their park rules (giving the appropriate notice to the tenants, of course) to allow subleases only if the sublessee signs a contract with park management agreeing to abide by the community rules.

Author: Amy Howse