How To Keep People From Pulling Homes Out Owing Back Rent

As some may recall, we bought a 56-lot park in March and we’re trying to clean it up. We’re having a some problems because we don’t know who owns the homes in the park. They’re titled to a business name and multiple people claim to be that business; one individual signed the titles and “sold” them to residents in the park, but they never transferred the titles because they didn’t want to pay taxes - which haven’t been paid in 7 years. We’ve consulted several attorneys about the matter and I think we’re on the way to resolving it, but in the mean time, when we evict someone, the home sits and no lot rent is being paid. I can’t sue the owner because I don’t know who it is.

The problem we’re having is that in the past few weeks, people have pulled 3 homes from the park. Usually, the cost to move a home is prohibitive enough that it “safeguards” a park owner. But these people are getting a guy with a dually pickup truck to hook up and drag 70’ homes down the road (we’re in city limits - it’s not like we’re in the middle of nowhere). I don’t know about the third home, but I checked at the tax office for the first two homes and the person who moved them to his property does not have title, the taxes haven’t been paid in years, utilities weren’t disconnected by a licensed profesional, he left the lots a mess, and he owed more than $1000. Our attorney told us we can file a lawsuit for back rent against the person who owns/owned the homes until they time they were moved (once we determine who that is). But does anyone have any idea of how to stop this?

Along the same lines, does anyone know of an attorney who specializes in MHP in the state of GA? We need someone experienced in the field. I just met with one who handles the “big” park in town and he told me that it’s not possible to lien a home for back rent (even if I know who owns it). I can only get a judgment against the person and then their wages (tax refunds, etc) could be garnished. It seems like there must be a way to keep someone from pulling a home out when there’s back rent against it. I’m trying to put a system in place so I’ll have recourse going forward. I was going to require a copy of the home’s title and require that my lease be with the titled owner, so I’d know who to sue, but I thought I could then lien the home so somebody couldn’t drag it out of there on a whim.

Ironically, I’m trying to move homes into the park and I have to pay for permits, inspections, etc. to the tune of $4000 to have one moved in and set up. But there’s no permit required to move one out.

Buddy of mine used to get a blow torch and remove the tongue from the trailer. Makes moving it pretty tough. Not sure what the legal ramifications might be. He did that after having the tenant sign a 20-year lease.

It sounds to me like you should do a couple of things. First, block access to the homes by parking trucks/ tractors at the hitch end. Next, learn about the abandoned title/lien title procedure in GA…A google search will probably get you started. here in MO these forms are similar to DMV forms…as for an attorney, you should first contact your state association- they will have the pertinent info.

Our park rules state that axles/wheels and tongues must be removed within 30 days of placement of the home in the park. This is to be completed prior to skirting of the home which also must be completed within 30 days of placement.

Thanks for the input. I’ve looked into the abandoned route and two attorneys told me not to bother. One said he’s tried it and has never been successful. Also, I looked at the form and you have at attest that nobody is claiming the trailer. While that’s true of the ones that are condemned, there are multiple people claiming the ones that are worth saving.

It’s tempting to cut the tongues off, but since I don’t own them, I don’t think I could legally do that. My attorney said I can’t even change the locks to keep new people from moving into the ones that have been sitting vacant. Moving forward, we will require the tongues be removed. But for the ones already there, even if we make it a requirement and the people don’t comply, I’m back to square one. I can evict them, but I can’t do anything with the home.

As far as blocking access, I’m not sure we can legally do that either without a judgment and lien. In the most recent case, the guy sold his home and the buyer owes me nothing, since he just bought it and there was no lien. As for the guy who sold it, he never put title in his name. He used the title he received in 2009 that had been signed by the seller, but never dated or completed with the buyer’s name at that time. He just dated it 2013 and entered the current buyer, so it looks like he bought it directly from the guy who actually sold it in 2009. It seems that person may be responsible for the lot rent until the title changed, but it’s a business name and nobody knows who owns the business. The Secretary of State has no record; the Clerk of Court doesn’t know; I requested a title history from the DMV, but I received a response saying they only maintain records for 5 years, so they can’t help me. Tax office doesn’t know who owns them either; taxes haven’t been paid in years. But before they’ll issue duplicate titles, they want all back taxes paid ($20k+).

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Sounds like a mess Animalfriend. Johnny Paycheck said “Always go hard and fast enough so that when you hit the ditch you can pull out the other side.” So, keep moving forward and you’ll get it worked out! I’m in GA too. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

Animal, the process of abandoned/lien title is designed to eliminate situations like you are dealing with; you notify the owner of record/ lienholder of record (you can access this info with a VIN# and probably a registration/license of your intentions, ie:title loan biz, buy here pay here auto biz) that the home is abandoned and the amount of fees due, they have a specified length of time in which to respond or they are wiped out and you can get title. They have specified amount of time to pay your fees or they are wiped out and you can get title.

As for blocking acccess, all that you are trying to acomplish is to stall until you can get title or payment- you can’t block them forever- but the legal process takes their time too. If you have no intention of pursuing abandoned title/lien title, then there is no point in blocking access.

Again, I suggest contacting GA association instead of your attorney.

First, put a hitch lock on the hitch so the home can not be moved. This is much cheaper and quicker than cutting off the hitch. I believe all mobile homes going back to the beginning of the industry in the 1920s have all been made with a 2 5/16" ball hitch. This is the one thing about mobile homes that has not changed in all those years!

Here are a few links to hitch locks:

Second, file a Possessory Lien Notice. Hire a local attorney to help you do this the first time. (Then you’ll learn how to do it yourself.) The fact of the matter is that the owner of the mobile home (in the eyes of the law) is whomever is the registered owner with the County. It does not matter what documents have been signed by that ‘previous’ owner. That ‘previous’ owner is in fact THE owner. Your only obligation, prior to taking title to the home through an abandoned property proceeding, is to notify that owner at whatever is the address of record. It makes no difference that the owner was a business that has gone out of business. There will be a name and an address recorded with the County. That’s all you need.

While government may want all back taxes paid before granting a duplicate title, this is NOT what you are doing. You are getting the title put into your name through an abandoned property process and you are becoming the responsible party for all taxes going forward. All back taxes will be wiped away.

Your attorney will be able to advise you on your state’s procedural requirements, but this process usually requires a notice to be placed in the local newspaper for a period of 30 days, and then that an auction be held at which the public can come and buy the trailer for all the lot rent owed you. You can bid against those bidders if any show up (which rarely happens).

By taking these steps, the mobile homes will not be pulled out of your community, and in 30 days you’ll either get paid what you are owed, or become the legal owner of the mobile home. Then you can cut off the hitch and sell it to a deserving family who will respect your park rules.

Good luck,