Bill shares DMHOA’s keys to success

Bill Kinnick, President Delaware Manufactured Homeowners Association (DMHOA)

In Delaware we’ve had two big legislative victories this year.

First, we passed an ombudsman program with the Department of Justice (DOJ). In the state of Delaware, we fall under landlord tenant code, which is overseen by DOJ, Consumer Protection Unit. Delaware housing and HUD didn’t want to have anything to do with enforcing the laws for manufactured housing, so we worked out ways for with this new program to be set up within the Delaware DOJ. We now have shingle for manufactured housing under the DOJ. Which is called a Manufactured Housing Ombudsman program.

We’re hoping this will lead to more enforcement and make it easier for people to figure out where to go if they have problems in their manufactured home communities. Through this program there has been funding set aside that will help connect people with legal aid services run through non-profits. We have great laws in Delaware, what we have run into is problems with enforcement, we hope this will be a step towards solving that issue. We’re working to get legal support for every single manufactured homeowner in the state of Delaware.

We also got a bill passed that will transfer the lot rent of a manufactured homeowner to a new buyer if it’s sold. This is important if you’re trying to sell your home, you want to get the best value, you don’t want a road block in your way. If someone can get the same lot rent you’re paying instead of getting another $60-100 increase it makes a difference. This new law will make it easier for homeowners to sell their homes, if they wish, and it will keep rents from spiking when a home is sold.

We started working for these changes in January of 2018 and have been working hard for months. The lot rent transfer was one of ten items we had on our to do list. It worked its way out of committee to the floor in June, and made it onto the agenda on the 1st of July, the last day it could.

It’s a continued effort, it’s a lot of work, being a non-profit with no salary, it’s all coming from the heart. We had to push, stay on top of it, I was up in legislative hall, every week, every month for six months until it got done.

Other leaders, volunteers from other manufactured home communities were also up there pushing. We had “red shirt day” to push a few bills, when we all went in to talk with our representatives and wore our red DMHOA t-shirts. Other times all of us made phone calls to our representatives and senators, we all worked really hard to push this through.

My suggestion to other residents of manufactured home communities in other states is to start by talking with your State Senators and State House Representatives in your district to tell them about manufactured housing issues and learn how they think. It’s also important to figure out where your attorney general stands on these issues, whether they will stand up for you if you file complaints. You need to figure out which state agencies will be willing to enforce laws, and then use them to your advantage. To make sure you have a stronger voice you need Home Owners Associations, they speak volumes by representing many people’s voices and send a stronger message then just individuals.

The other thing that has worked well for us is to introduce many bills, ten bills in a year. That way landlords can’t find all of them, or decide some aren’t worth fighting on, so some get through. The lot rent transfer was the only that got through this year because the landlords didn’t think it was worth fighting compared to the other bills. The ones that didn’t make it through this year we’ll introduce again next year and add another to the bottom of the list. For those of you that are in states that don’t have rent justification you need to grab that and start there.

We were really busy this year and will be next year. Next year we’ll be working to pass our “50 cent bill” which would create a permanent source of funding for legal aid sources for manufactured homeowners. It would add a fee of 50 cents/month for each manufactured homeowner, and for only six dollars a year per person we’d be able to make sure everyone in the state had access to an attorney. This year landlords fought this bill and defeated it. They brought in their attorneys to argue that we don’t need attorneys, it was hilarious and infuriating. But we’ll start working on it again in January and keep fighting until we get it through.

The other on-going work is education, making sure residents know the laws and managers obey them, that’s where this enforcement piece becomes so important. Home Owner’s Associations are also important for this, and in some states, like Delaware, you can only take advantage of certain pieces of the law if you have an HOA. Increasing HOA participation is another thing DMHOA will be working on this year and that I encourage others to think about as well.