The Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has responsibility for developing regulations and enforcing specific legal requirements to ensure the health and safety of residents in mobile home parks in California. There were 3,640 mobile home parks within HCD’s jurisdiction in calendar year 2019. State law requires that the standards and requirements established for mobile home parks guarantee that park residents have maximum protection of their investment and a decent living environment. Park residents include occupants and registered owners of mobile homes. HCD carries out these duties through its division of codes and standards (codes and standards division). Within that division, the Mobilehome and Special Occupancy Parks Program (parks program) develops, adopts, and enforces state regulations for the construction, use, maintenance, and occupancy of privately owned mobile home parks in California; it has two field offices, located in Sacramento and Riverside. Further, HCD’s Codes and Standards Automated System (CASAS) database tracks program activities and employee workload data. This database contains information concerning inspection activities, including time spent on these activities, complaint and response activities, billing, permit records, licensing, and other data.
HCD’s inspectors conduct full park inspections of mobile home parks (park inspections) to ensure that the parks meet applicable health and safety requirements. The park inspections include a review of the mobile home park’s common areas, buildings, equipment, and utility systems, as well as inspections of the exterior of each mobile home and its lot. Depending on the number of mobile homes in a park, the park inspection can take two or more days to perform. HCD’s inspectors also investigate complaints related to mobile home parks or residences within the parks (complaint inspections). HCD receives complaints related to mobile homes or mobile home living from the public and other sources, including park residents and management. HCD’s inspectors may also file complaints about potential health and safety violations they notice at parks while performing other duties, such as informal field monitoring or complaint inspections related to another matter. Complaint inspections are smaller in scope than park inspections because inspectors focus specifically on addressing the complaint’s allegations of health and safety violations, which typically entail a particular issue, building, or mobile home.
Parks Program Responsibilities
Over the years, the Legislature has amended the Mobilehome Parks Act (MPA) to adjust requirements for how frequently HCD must conduct inspections of mobile home parks. When the Legislature enacted the MPA in 1967, it required HCD to conduct park inspections at all parks annually. Then, as Figure 1 depicts, from 1973 through 1990, state law did not require park inspections at all. In 1990 the Legislature restored a requirement for park inspections, and between 1990 and 1998, it set varying standards for how often HCD must conduct park inspections of all mobile home parks—ranging from once every five years to once every eight years. Since 2006, the MPA has included only a goal for HCD to conduct park inspections of a minimum of 5 percent of mobile home parks annually.
Mobile Home Park Inspection Requirements Have Changed Over Time
Source: Various state laws.
HCD inspectors are responsible for many inspection‑related activities under different programs. As Figure 2 depicts, HCD has 47 inspectors assigned to its two field offices. They are responsible for conducting both park inspections and complaint inspections. We found that for 2017 through 2019, most inspectors completed between four and seven park inspections each year and between 11 and 60 complaint inspections each year. For the 30 park inspection files we reviewed, inspectors recorded taking between 1.5 and 47 hours to complete park inspections, including all reinspections. Inspectors recorded between 0.5 and 8.5 hours for the 24 complaint inspection files we reviewed. The field operations chief explained that the overall general condition of a park will determine the amount of time an inspector needs to complete an inspection. In addition, inspectors recorded travel time ranging from 10 minutes to 14 hours, which is dependent on the distance inspectors must travel to the park and the number of visits required to complete the park or complaint inspection.
HCD Has Two Offices and 47 Inspectors Who Conduct Park and Complaint Inspections
Source: HCD’s organization charts, HCD website, and analysis of HCD’s CASAS database.
Note: The total number of parks, 3,640, excludes 860 parks monitored by 63 local enforcement agencies for calendar year 2019. The total number of parks under HCD jurisdiction is from HCD’s CASAS database as of November 2019.
HCD Mobile Home Park Fees Expenditures
An annual average of $1.1 million for:
- Park inspections
An annual average of $3.9 million for:
- Complaint inspections
- Field monitoring
- Park alterations and construction
An annual average of $2.8 million for:
- Inspections of mobile home installations
- Inspections of accessory structures
- Inspections for California Public Utilities Commission’s utility conversion program
Source: Analysis of HCD’s accounting records for fiscal years 2016–17 through 2018–19.
HCD collects various fees from mobile home parks and from residents for the inspection activities that it performs. For fiscal years 2016–17 through 2018–19, the annual revenue for HCD’s inspection work averaged $8.2 million. The text box shows HCD’s reported average expenditures for the three fiscal years.
Inspectors also perform other MPA inspection and permit activities at mobile home parks and work on other HCD programs and activities, as shown in the text box, which outlines the use of fees collected from mobile home parks and residents. For example, inspectors conduct mobile home installation inspections and inspections of accessory structures, such as a porch under construction, in mobile home parks. HCD assigns most inspectors responsibility for geographic regions across the State. These regions can range in size from multiple cities to an entire county. Inspectors generally live in the region where HCD assigns them to work, and they work out of their homes and use state vehicles for travel to conduct inspections and other program activities.
HCD requires certain minimum qualifications of its inspectors. An applicant for an inspector position must complete HCD’s apprenticeship or an approved equivalent program, possess three years of experience in performing building code enforcement or supervising building construction, or possess a combination of education and experience in these areas. HCD does not require inspectors to possess a professional certification or license.
Key Statutory Time Frames for Park and Complaint Inspections
Initiation of an Inspection
Park inspections and complaint inspections share most key statutory time frames, as shown in Figure 3, but the nature of each inspection type creates a few notable differences. Certain time frames also depend on the type of violation. State law organizes violations into two categories: violations that constitute an imminent hazard representing an immediate threat to life, health, and safety requiring immediate correction, and violations that constitute an unreasonable risk to life, health, or safety requiring correction within 60 days. For park inspections, state law requires HCD to conduct a preinspection orientation with park operators (park owners) and residents at least 30 days before the inspection, to educate park owners and residents about the park inspection program and their rights and obligations under the program. HCD must also provide written notice to park owners and residents at least 30 days before conducting the park inspection. For complaint inspections, state law only requires HCD to notify the complainant that it will be conducting the inspection; it does not require HCD to notify park owners or residents of the inspections. However, it does require HCD to initiate complaint inspections within 30 days of receiving a complaint and within 5 days when it receives a complaint that represents an immediate threat to life, health, or safety.
Timing Requirements for Park and Complaint Inspections
Source: State law, HCD’s policies and procedures for park and complaint inspections, and interviews with HCD staff.
* This figure describes the inspection process for alleged violations other than those constituting an immediate threat to life, health, and safety. HCD determines time frames for correction of complaints alleging immediate threats based on the nature of the violation, the type of immediate threat, and the park owner or resident’s capability to repair or correct the violation.
† For part of our audit period, HCD provided a notice called a Final Compliance Order after a second reinspection and then conducted a third reinspection before issuing a Notice of Intent to Suspend the Permit to Operate. The Final Compliance Order and additional reinspection were applicable to some of the inspection records we reviewed. In February 2019, HCD eliminated the Final Compliance Order and the additional reinspection from its park inspection process, and it eliminated them from its complaint inspection process in early 2020.
After HCD conducts a park inspection or a complaint inspection, state law requires it to provide written notice to parties cited for violations that identifies the violations, the legal citations associated with the violations, and a time frame for correcting them. HCD must provide these notices within 10 days of completing an inspection or reinspection. However, when an inspector identifies a violation that is an immediate threat to life, health, and safety, HCD must provide notification to the park owner and the affected resident immediately. Additionally, HCD stated that if an inspector identifies an immediate threat violation during a park inspection, the inspector initiates a complaint to address the immediate threat violation separate from the park inspection.
HCD identifies each of the required notices we describe above with different names. The first notice HCD uses for violations identified during an initial inspection is a Notice of Violation. If HCD identifies cited violations that have not been addressed during its first reinspection, it issues a Final Notice of Violation to the park owner or resident responsible for the violation. If the violation persists after a second reinspection, HCD will send a Notice of Intent to Suspend the Permit to Operate. After the Notice of Intent to Suspend the Permit to Operate, HCD may suspend the park’s permit to operate. The timing requirements for the Notice of Violation and subsequent notices are shown in Figure 3.
HCD performs reinspections of mobile home parks to ensure that park owners or residents have addressed any cited health and safety violations from the park inspections and complaint inspections. For both types of inspections, state law requires HCD to provide park owners and residents 60 days from the date of postmark or of personal delivery of the notice to address cited unreasonable risk violations, those violations that are not an immediate threat to life, health, and safety. If the violation is not corrected after the initial 60 days, HCD can extend the time for corrective action for an additional 30 days or more, at its discretion. Depending on the type of inspection, up to three reinspections can occur before HCD takes action to suspend the park’s permit to operate.
When park owners or residents have not corrected violations after HCD conducts the reinspections described above, HCD may generally pursue enforcement by suspending the park’s permit to operate. Because mobile home park owners are legally prohibited from charging residents rent when park permits are suspended, park owners have a financial incentive to address any outstanding violations. HCD communicates with residents when it suspends a park’s permit to operate by posting the notice of suspension in a conspicuous place within the park. If HCD suspends a park’s permit to operate because of outstanding resident violations, the park owner can take legal action, such as eviction, against the noncompliant resident. When the park demonstrates that it has remedied all outstanding violations, HCD either reinstates the permit to operate or issues a new one. However, if the park fails to address outstanding health and safety violations, HCD may move to revoke the park’s permit to operate. Residents may not reside at a park whose permit to operate has been revoked.
In addition, after HCD has exhausted its administrative steps to resolve outstanding violations, it can refer noncompliant park owners or residents to the county district attorney’s office for further enforcement action. Specifically, under state law, any person who willfully violates the MPA is guilty of a misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine not to exceed $400 or by imprisonment not to exceed 30 days, or both. In addition, willful violators are liable for a civil penalty of $500 for each violation or for each day of a continuing violation.
Local Enforcement Agencies
With HCD’s approval, a city or county can act as a local enforcement agency (LEA) and may request the responsibility for enforcing the MPA in mobile home parks within its jurisdiction. State law requires that HCD make its determination on whether to grant this responsibility based on the LEA’s knowledge and ability to enforce the MPA. An LEA that wants to assume this responsibility needs to adopt an ordinance with specific information, including local objectives, a program plan, and a timetable designed to achieve enforcement compliance. LEAs may relinquish the responsibility for parks within their jurisdiction by providing HCD with written notice, and HCD must reassume responsibility for those parks within 90 days of receipt of the LEA’s notice. For calendar year 2019, HCD reported that 63 LEAs in the State were responsible for 860 mobile home parks.
LEAs that have assumed responsibility under the MPA have the same enforcement authority as HCD for the mobile home parks under their jurisdiction. Further, LEAs also must conduct park inspections annually for at least 5 percent of the mobile home parks in their jurisdiction. HCD refers complaints it receives related to mobile homes under LEA jurisdiction to those LEAs for complaint inspections and enforcement. State law requires LEAs to submit a written report to HCD or its designee, detailing the results of complaint inspections, within 35 days of receiving a complaint from HCD. Although state law requires HCD to evaluate LEAs’ enforcement of the MPA, the law does not specify the required frequency of such evaluation.