Mobile Home Basics - Tenant Resource Center



Mobile Home Basics

Mobile Homes are not our best subject. I'm going to just start right there. We do many things well, and we are the stronger for knowing our limitations. 

However, when landlords are not following laws that regulate mobile home parks, there can be a breathtaking imbalance of power. Tenants in an eviction can end up with many thousands of dollars in moving costs, far more than an average, non-mobile home eviction. Since mobile home laws are difficult to figure out, and we like giving people good information, today I'm going over some basics, the laws that apply to different situations, and the agencies that you can talk to if you need an expert.

The most basic information to have about mobile homes is to figure out which category you are in, and the laws that apply to you:

  1. Do you own your mobile home (you have the title), but you rent the lot (the piece of land)? Then ATCP 125 and Wis. Stat. 710.15 protect you as a mobile home owner. Your rights as a tenant of the lot are protected by Wis. Stat. 704, ATCP 134, and Wis. Stat. 799, but these only apply to the lot, and not inside the mobile home, where you have sole ownership. 
  2. Do you rent both the mobile home and the lot? Then ATCP 125 does NOT apply to you. Your rights as a tenant (of both the home and the lot) are protected by Wis. Stat. 710.15, Wis. Stat. 704, ATCP 134, and Wis. Stat. 799.
  3. Do you rent-to-own the mobile home but rent the lot? Then it depends on the contract. Many rent-to-own contracts say that there is a phase where you are a tenant of the mobile home, and also a phase where you are the owner of the mobile home.* When you are a tenant of the mobile home, you fall into category #2, above. When you are the owner of the mobile home, but rent the lot, then you fall into category #1, above. If you're trying to figure out which of these you are, that might be a great time to call an attorney.

----

Here are the mobile home laws:

ATCP 125 (here)

  • Some important things that this law says:
    • All leases for the rental of the lot must be in writing. ATCP 125.03(1)
    • The lease for renting the lot cannot be shorter than one year. This can only change if the person renting the lot (the tenant/owner of the mobile home) asks for a shorter lease in writing and the owner of the lot agrees. ATCP 125.03(2)
    • If the mobile home is purchased through the same folks that run the mobile home park, then the rental agreement has to be given to the person who is buying the mobile home before they sign the contract to purchase that home. ATCP 125.03(1)
    • Rules and regulations cannot be changed in the middle of a lease agreement. The law lists some things which definitely cannot be changed in the middle of a lease, including parking regulations, rules restricting guests, rules restricting pets. ATCP 125.05(2)
    • If the owner of the lot wants to change the amount of rent or fees, or make big changes to the lot rental agreement, the land owner must give the mobile home owner 28 days notice before the lease renewal. ATCP 125.05(1) 
    • If the owner of the land wants to ask the mobile home owner to leave (or to give a non-renewal), then the lot owner must give the mobile home owner a written reason. ATCP 125.08 (in the notes)
  • This law covers: People who own the mobile home, but rent the lot. Only for mobile home parks with 2 or more lots. Covers all of Wisconsin. ATCP 125.01(2)
  • If the lot owner doesn't follow these rules, then:
    • Complain to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). They have an online complaint form here, and you can also call 800-422-7128.
    • Sue the mobile home park owner/manager in Small Claims Court. If there's a violation of ATCP 125, and you lose money because of that violation, then you can sue in Small Claims Court for 2 times the amount of money that you lost, plus court costs and reasonable attorneys fees. More information is available at our Small Claims Court Tips page.

Wisconsin Statute 710.15 (here)

  • Some important things that this law says
    • Every agreement for the rental of a mobile home site must be by written lease. Wis. Stat. 710.15(1m) & 710.15(1)ag
    • Every lease must be for a term of at least one year, unless the resident asks for a shorter lease, and the lot owner agrees to that amount of time. Wis. Stat. 710.15(1m)
    • The owner of the lot cannot require that a mobile home be moved just because it was sold to a new owner. Wis. Stat. 710.15(4)
    • If the lease is terminated or nonrenewed, it can only be for certain reasons. The 12 reasons are listed in Wis. Stat. 710.15(5m), plus an extra in Wis. Stat. 710.15(5t). (There is no requirement in this law that the reason be written, but the reason must be written for  those who qualify for protections under ATCP 125)
  • This law covers: People who own mobile homes OR who rent mobile homes as well as the lot it sits on. Only for mobile home parks with 3 or more lots. Covers all of Wisconsin. Wis. Stat. 710.15(1)ad
  • If there lot owner doesn't follow these rules, then:
    • Sue the landlord in Small Claims Court. If there's a violation of Wis. Stat. 710.15, and you lose money because of that violation, then you can sue in Small Claims Court for the amount of money that you lost, plus court costs and reasonable attorneys fees. More information is available at our Small Claims Court Tips page.

Madison General Ordinance 9.23 (here, scroll to the 93rd page)

  • Some important things that this law says:
    • All leases for the rental of the lot must be in writing. MGO 9.23(5)a
    • The lease for renting the lot cannot be shorter than one year. This can only change if the person renting the lot (the owner of the mobile home) asks for a shorter lease in writing and the owner of the lot agrees. MGO 9.23(5)b
    • If the mobile home is purchased through the same folks that run the mobile home park, then the rental agreement has to be given to the person who is buying the mobile home before they sign the contract to purchase that home. MGO 9.23(5)a
    • Rules and regulations cannot be changed in the middle of a lease agreement. The law lists some things which definitely cannot be changed in the middle of a lease, including parking regulations, rules restricting guests, rules restricting pets. MGO 9.23(8)b
    • If the owner of the lot wants to change the amount of rent or fees, or make big changes to the lot rental agreement, the land owner must give the mobile home owner 28 days notice before the lease renewal. MGO 9.23(8)a
    • If the owner of the land wants to ask the mobile home owner to leave (or to give a non-renewal), then the lot owner must give the mobile home owner a written reason. MGO 9.23(6)(e)2 and MGO 9.23(13)a. Reasons are those allowed under Wis. Stat. 710.15.
    • Rental agreements for the lot cannot require the removal of any vehicle (including recreational vehicles and boats), if previous rental agreements allowed those vehicles. The mobile home park can ask that they be moved, but only if the mobile home park provides sufficient other parking space at no additional charge. MGO 9.23(6)c
  • This law covers:  People who own the mobile home, but rent the lot. (MGO 9.23(1)f) Only for mobile home parks with 2 or more lots. Only covers mobile home parks inside the City of Madison. (Not sure if you're the city or town of Madison? Check your address with Access Dane.)
  • If there lot owner doesn't follow these rules, then:
    • Contact the City of Madison City Attorney's office. The attorney currently handling complaints under this law is, at the time of this writing, Steve Brist. The City Attorney's Office phone number is 608-266-4511. The attorney helping you can write a letter to the mobile home park saying that the laws haven't been followed, and ask for them to respond. This works better if you have a police report, or written documentation to show evidence of the problem.
    • The City of Madison Police have "citation authority" (ie, they can write tickets) for violations to MGO 9.23(5), MGO 9.23(6) and MGO 9.23(7). To ask the police to come out and write a ticket, you need to call the police (the non-emergency dispatch number is  608-255-2345), and if they are confused, you can ask that they check their "bail schedule," which should show that they could write tickets for violations that they can verify. 
    • Sue the mobile home park owner/manager in Small Claims Court. If there's a violation of MGO 9.23, and you lose money because of that violation, then you can sue in Small Claims Court for 2 times the amount of money that you lost, plus court costs and reasonable attorneys fees. (MGO 9.23(16)) More information is available at our Small Claims Court Tips page.
  • Beware: Madison General Ordinances haven't made changes since 2011 Wis. Act 108, 2011 Wis. Act 143 & 2013 Wis. Act 76 were passed. These acts have language in them that alter local laws, and must be followed. It is important to check the acts to see if the acts contradict (and therefore trump) any part of the local law that you're trying to assert. If there's a conflict, these acts win, and you need to follow the acts' rules over this ordinance. The main points of contention involve security deposits, landlord entry and disclosures prior to renting. More information available here

Other State Laws

  • Your own city's ordinances: If you are not in the City of Madison, it is quite possible that your city or town has mobile home laws beyond the state's. If you find local ordinances about mobile homes, then you have the option to complain to the city attorney on a local level.
  • Wisconsin Statute 704: This statute regulates all tenants and landlords, statewide (with a few exceptions). Most of the tenant-landlord laws cited across this website are from Wis. Stat. 704 and ATCP 134. The tenant-landlord regulations from this law apply to all tenant-landlord relationships (for example, if you rent the lot but own the home, then Wis. Stat. 704 would apply to the tenant-landlord relationship you have on the lot. If you rent both the lot and the home, then Wis. Stat. 704 would apply to both, as well). Especially important to understand is the laws about Evictions.
  • ATCP 134: This regulates all residential landlords, statewide (with a few exceptions). Most of the tenant-landlord law cited across this here website is from ATCP 134 and Wis. Stat. 704. The regulations from this law would apply to landlords in a mobile home park situation (for example, if you rent the lot but own the home, then ATCP 134 would apply to the tenant-landlord relationship you have on the lot. If you rent both the lot and the home, then ATCP 134 would apply to both, as well). Especially important to understand are the laws about Landlord Entry and Security Deposits.
  • Wisconsin Statute 799: This statute regulates the court procedure in small claims court, including eviction. 

Useful Resources:

  • Building Inspectors are often a great resource for folks renting either a mobile home or a mobile home site. There are building inspector phone numbers on our Repairs page.
  • The Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) wrote up a fact sheet on their Mobile Home laws. It lists some of the history of the laws, and case precedent, which could be useful if you end up in court: http://datcp.wi.gov/uploads/Consumer/pdf/landlord_practices_details.pdf 
  • One of the reasons why this is so complicated is because it is expensive to move a mobile home. In a quote from Capital Mobile Home Movers, to move a single-wide trailer less than 50 miles within Wisconsin is $2500-$3500, generally. To move a double-wide trailer less than 50 miles within Wisconsin is more like $7000. This is expensive stuff. More info at HowMuchIsIt.Org.

----

* This second phase, where you are the owner, but you also owe money to the previous owner, is similar to the legal process of a land contract.

----

Hi! Did you know that we aren't attorneys here at the TRC? And this isn't legal advice, either. If what we've written doesn't sound right to you, consult with someone you trust. A list of housing attorneys is available here. It's always a great idea to read the laws that are linked, to make sure that you agree with what we think they mean.

Do you like this post?
Help keep our services free for everyone! Can you donate a few dollars a month?

Tenant Resource Center