by Stephen Modafferi –
Mobilehome parks are generally subject to the same state and federal fair housing laws that apply to residential rental properties.
- California fair housing laws include the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
- Federal laws include the Fair Housing Act and Fair Housing Amendments Act.
Mobilehome park residents are protected by an additional body of law, the California Mobilehome Residency Law (“MRL”), Civil Code §798 -799.11. Portions of the MRL address fair-housing issues.
- Mobilehome parks may generally prohibit mobilehome owners from renting out their mobilehomes or subleasing their rented spaces. However, the MRL contains an exception: park management may not prohibit an owner from renting out a mobilehome if necessary due to the owner’s medical emergency or medical treatment. (Civil Code §798.23.5). This provision is a required “reasonable accommodation” under fair housing laws (i.e., a change in a park rule, policy, or procedure in connection with a medical condition or disability).
- Park management may demand written verification of need for a “sublease accommodation” from an “attending physician.”
- Park management may limit rental or space sublease agreements to a minimum of six months and a maximum of one year.
- Park management may screen and approve sublease applicants in the same manner that they screen potential homeowner tenants.
- Disabled mobilehome residents have the right to make physical modifications to meet their disability–related needs. (Examples: handrails and ramps). Park management may require compliance with applicable building code and permitting requirements. In some situations, management may also require removal of the modification upon removal or sale of the mobilehome. (Civil Code §798.29.6)
- Disabled mobilehome residents may request permission for assistive or companion animals. State and Federal fair housing laws require consideration of these requests, and the request must be granted if certain conditions are met. The park owner may conduct an “accommodation verification,” as part of the interactive negotiation process.
In some cases, the MRL allows disabled residents to “bypass” this animal accommodation verification process. The MRL provides that management must allow at least one “pet” per household, and no fee may be charged for that pet unless the park provides special facilities or services for pets. (If special pet facilities are maintained by the park, the park may charge a fee reasonably related to the cost of the facilities’ maintenance or the services and the number of pets in the park). Therefore, the disabled resident will be able to keep the assistive or companion animal without going through the accommodation verification process if:
- the animal is the only animal in the household;
- reasonable rules and regulations of the park are followed; and,
- if the park does not charge for special animal facilities or services.
If a disabled resident requests permission for more than one animal, or if a disabled resident is requesting permission for a type or breed of animal generally prohibited by management, or if the park charges for special animal facilities or services, then management may need to engage in the accommodation verification and interactive negotiation process. (Civil Code §798.33)
- Disabled residents may request permission for a live-in aide. State and Federal fair housing laws require consideration of these requests, and the request must be granted if certain conditions are met. The park owner may engage in an “accommodation verification” process.
In some cases, the MRL allows disabled residents to bypass this accommodation verification process. The MRL allows homeowners who live alone to have one other person live with them as a guest, and the park may not assess a fee for the guest. Therefore, a disabled resident may have another person live with them (whether a guest or a live-in aide), without engaging in the accommodation verification process, if there will be only two people in the mobilehome (the resident and the guest or live-in aide), unless there is an age rule issue. (Civil Code §798.34(b))
If there are more than two people living in the mobilehome, or if the age of an occupant creates a potential age rule violation, then the accommodation verification process may be necessary. The MRL provides that a homeowner may share his or her mobilehome with a person over 18 years of age, if that person is providing live-in health care, supportive care, or supervision to the homeowner. No fee may be charged for the additional person acting as live-in aide. This code section applies to non-age-restricted parks and parks providing housing for older persons. (Civil Code §798.34(c) and (d))
- If a mobilehome park requires mobilehome owners to be members in a private club or organization, membership usually cannot be denied because a person is a member of a California protected class. Protected classes in California are race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, familial status, source of income, disability, medical condition, and genetic information. Discrimination on the basis of perception and association is also prohibited, as is arbitrary discrimination and discrimination with has a disparate impact on protected classes of persons. This rule generally prohibits management from restricting membership according to protected classes. However, the MRL has an exception: management may deny such membership based on applicable age rules in designated housing for older persons. (Civil Code §798.20)
- The MRL prohibits management from charging a fee for additional members of their “immediate family”. “Immediate family” is the homeowner, the homeowner’s spouse, their children, and their grandchildren under the age of 18. (Civil Code §798.35). However, the MRL allows for residential age restrictions in mobilehome parks providing designated housing for older persons. (Civil Code §798.76, which incorporates the federal Fair Housing Act by reference)
This article is an overview of specific provisions of the Mobilehome Residency Law related to fair housing issues. State and federal fair housing laws may supersede or modify the MRL. Mobilehome park owners and managers faced with potential fair housing law issues should seek input from legal counsel familiar with state and federal fair housing law and the California Mobilehome Residency L