Need Advice on New Trailer Setup Gone Bad

We recently bought a new (used) home for our park; it’s the first one we had moved in. I had a contract for $3650 to move it (about 25 miles) and set it up. I paid $1825 down with the balance due when the job was finished. The contract stated the job would be completed “on or before Oct 31” and would pass inspection.

We drove to the park (7 hours) on Oct 30, thinking the home would be setup on/by Oct 31 and we could give it the final touches and then rent it out. They delivered the home Oct 31 and said they couldn’t set it up until the following week. We had to be back in NC on Nov 3, so we left Nov 2.

The following week, the contractor couldn’t get to it, but he promised it would be done the next Monday (Nov 11). When we checked with him later that week, he said it was ready for inspection, except for the electrical. He said he needed to change the contract because he couldn’t do the electrical work, as the contract stated he would. He said he took $800 off the balance (we never negotiated this or agreed to it - he just decided on this amount). My partner (Don) was in PA at the time, but drove to GA, thinking he could get the electrical done, do the final touches, and get it rented. He got the electrical done, but the Code Enforcement said the installer was supposed to put plastic down before they blocked it, so it wouldn’t pass inspection. Don called the installer and he said he’d come by and put the plastic down the following week. He couldn’t wait (and was paying $80/night for a hotel while there), so he left.

The installer kept saying he’d be there “next Monday” and the Code Enforcement contacted us because he had taken all of the skirting and threw it in the yard (violating code) and also to inform us that the heat/air unit was left on the lot and in jeopardy of being stolen. After more excuses and delays from the installer, Don went back to GA on Dec 7 to finish the setup himself.

That weekend, the installer called again and promised he’d complete the job on Monday (December 9). When he hadn’t shown up by Monday afternoon, Don went and got the plastic himself and started putting it down. At 5pm on Monday, the installer called again and said he’d get to the plastic as soon as he could. Don told him not to bother, that he had already gotten it and started putting it down. The following morning (Dec 10), the installer showed up and finished putting it down.

He’s now demanding payment of the full balance (less the $800 he decided to deduct because he couldn’t do the electrical). We told him we were going to reduce it by the amount of rent we would have received for the 40 days it was past schedule. At $475/month, this comes out to $633.

Unless we pay the full amount, he’s refusing to give us some sticker that we need to connect the utilities. I think we’re being more than fair. We’ve had two extra trips there (one from PA), which cost $500+ in fuel and $600+ in hotel bills. We’re not asking for that - just compensation for the time the trailer was unavailable because he didn’t meet his contractual obligations.

I’ve just left a message for our attorney, but I thought I’d run it by you as well.



Obviously, if you truly have to have a “sticker” from the installer to get the utilities turned on and occupy the house, then you have no choice but to pay the mover and get the sticker. You might then file a lawsuit in small claims court against the mover for all the bad things he did, and raise the ante by turning him into the state body that governs installers (they are licensed by the state). But the truth is that you’re never going to do that, because the cost to go to court is more than the money involved, and you might lose (remember the O.J. jury). So the only lesson learned is that mobile home movers/installers are a pretty lousy group, and you better vet any mover in depth before hiring them on. Talk to retailers and people who move a lot of homes, and see who they recommend. You also need to put in more items into your contract, such as daily penalties for failing to get the job done by a certain date. Those would hold up in court, if you had to go there. Also have Kurt Kelley at Mobile Insurance make sure that you have the correct insurance protections against their screw-ups. And don’t forget to use smart phone photos more aggressively. You don’t need to fly down there to check on things – have your manager send you a photo of the lot and/or home at each step in the process.

Thanks Frank. Good advice, especially about having the contract be more specific. We did ask around for mover recommendations, but there was no consensus - one person would recommend someone and the next person would tell us to avoid them. Surprisingly, most movers we called either didn’t return calls or couldn’t do the job for a month or more (and we needed it moved quickly because the lot rent was $400 where it sat).

Since this dispute arose, we also discovered (via the zoning office) that the person we have a contract with isn’t licensed in the state. The city has a different name on the contract, so Don (my partner) called that guy (who has to issue the sticker) and he said the lets this guy “use” his license.

We were also fined $70 because he didn’t get the permit before he moved it into the park. Originally, he added the cost of the fine to the bill, but he agreed to deduct that when we pointed out that it was his fault. I called him to be sure he had the permit information taken care of, but I (foolishly) didn’t call the city to verify when he said he did. Live and learn. I just wouldn’t think they’d require this kind of oversight.

Actually, small claims court is only $69, so that’s a possibility. Since buying the park, I’ve gotten rather familair with the courtroom (evictions).

We do have someone there who can send photos, but Don wanted to be there himself to oversee the electrical and to get it ready to rent.