Town refuses to let me rent vacant lots / bring in new homes

*So I purchased a small mobile home park in a small town 1.1 acre with 7 mobile home lots. It has been a mobile home park for years and is still taxed and listed as mobile home park according to the tax assessor and supporting documentation. It currently has one trailer on the property in poor condition but is still set up on the lot . The town passed a Ordinance about 3 years ago stating that no homes could be placed within the town unless it was in certain areas and approved by the board with certain set backs and no mobile homes/ manufactured homes could be used for any type of rental property only for the owner of the land to live in . My argument is that the ordinance applies to a single lot / single home placement not a grandfathered mobile home park the ordinance doesn’t say any about mobile home parks . Do I have a case ? Thanks in advance

If your ordinance does not mention mobile home parks then you may have a case. Many might suggest that you have a solid case that you will win. However it is not wise to rely on opinions other that that of a lawyer. A lawyer will advise you on your specific situation. Your lawyer may also advise you on whether the fight is worth the effort and expense based on the economics of the size of your park. It may be more financially advisable to look into selling the property for alternate development.
I am not suggesting you do not have a case only putting forward the reality that some battles may not be worth fighting. Talk to your lawyer.

We’ve seen cities make rules that they know aren’t on the up-and-up but they basically just say, “come and get us,” knowing that it’s an expensive uphill battle to make it right.

Good luck.

A local municipal attorney can find this answer in 15 minutes. [for your locale and laws]

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What are you trying to do that the city will not let you? This question can best answered by a local land use attorney and the city zoning itself as they are city-specific. We did a 30-minute consultation with an attorney and just this morning we met with the city zoning department and were able to get clarifications on what we may or may not do and the process to get approval. We’ve learned also that the grandfathered use can be revoked if the property has been vacant for a period of time (mine was 2 years).

Did you purchase the mobile home park AFTER the Ordinance was passed that you mentioned?

This is just a comment based on my situation in case that helps: If so, the town may argue “you bought it with that Ordinance in effect”. And if the Ordinance says no MHs can be used for rentals – without specifying any exceptions – there’s probably not a leverage to claim that MHPs are exempt from the ordinance?

I have a small mobile home park that was rezoned to Commercial 27 years ago but I bought it After that was done. So even though I’ve tried to argue that the City did not follow what they said (27 years ago at the City Council meeting) about the zoning change – the city comes back with “too bad for you, you bought it with that zoning”. And they refuse to let me swap my sad homes for decent homes, 1:1 even!
I have talked to 3 different lawyers. One said “no case” without looking into anything, just my little description. One read the ordinances and said “this doesn’t look like it would be easy” and basically did nothing for 6 months except do a polite call to the Zoning person so I gave up on them. And then 3rd agreed with city that I have no leverage when the zoning change 27 years ago was requested by the owner so it is as if I had requested it (even though incorrectly applied to the whole piece of property by the city rather than the one small section owner was requesting).

This city insists they don’t have “grandfathering” so it doesn’t matter that the homes have been there and it’s been run as a MHP all this time they look only at their zoning rules which says Commercial can’t have a home brought onto it. None of the “powers to be” that I spoke with would agree I could have a variance, they all said “no”. They even sent me a letter to sign to promise not to bring in homes in order to get a business license. (I could not sign that. I want any future law that might be favorable, to apply to this property, but thus I have no business license). Seems they just hope to shut it down imho. So maybe your town is like that.

You can check with The MHP Lawyer, he deals with a variety of issues facing MHP owners.

See if the town issued any previous rental permits for the park and any other historical information pertaining to your park. It could have been an omission when they created the ordinance and not knowing/forgetting there was a park in place. You’ll need this info when reaching out to an attorney.

What state is the park in? Contact the state MHA for guidance. The MHA attorney is a great resource and might intervene on your behalf without charge.

I know that in Mississippi the MS Supreme Court ruled in favor of park owners that mobile homes are like cars and the park is like a parking lot. So new laws couldn’t overlook grandfathering essentially. I had a park in a city that fought that and another one that didn’t.

Ordinances apply to conforming properties, not those that have been grandfathered. But at the same time, you need to consider whether you have the burden of proof that your property is still grandfathered and that has not been sunset (e.g. via lack of usage for a certain period of time - having no renters on the property for 12 months could be considered a revocation of your grandfathered status). Check the zoning ordinance(s) for non-conforming use.

If you choose to fight it it will cost you ~$20,000 for an exceptional attorney to get a decision via District Court, and much more if either side appeals. For this property you have described your best option is to hire an attorney to have an “initial dialogue” with the city to see if the matter can be resolved outside of court - but if they hold their ground and want to force a suit you’re sorta screwed even though you’re probably the prevailing party (e.g. the litigation costs would throw your investment upside down).

Just my 2 cents. Good luck.