4 Common Mobile Home Title Issues (& How to Best Fix Them!)

by | BiggerPockets.com

In almost every state, mobile homes and manufactured homes are transferred from buyer to seller via a slip of state-issued paper called a title. If the mobile home is a single-wide, then there will be only one title; however, if the home is a double-wide or triple-wide, then two or more titles should be accounted for.

A mobile home title will be issued from the state in which the mobile home resides. The title outlines pertinent information, such as the home’s vehicle identification number, serial numbers, make, model, year built, owner’s name, lien holder’s info and much more. A mobile home title is nearly equivalent to the title of your personal vehicle. A mobile home title should be kept private and stored in a safe place.

If a mobile home seller has a clear title with no liens, there will be little resistance in transferring the mobile home ownership from the current seller to the new buyer.

Depending on your state, a mobile home title is typically transferred at your local Department of Motor Vehicles, Town Clerk, or motor vehicle administration. Texas and California residents may prefer to mail in their documents, as these states only have one or two mobile home titling department branches statewide.

Oftentimes while mobile home investing, you will be faced with challenges concerning a mobile home’s title(s) and correctly transferring them into your possession. Common title problems arise due to a title being lost, the actual owner on title not being present, the title being missing or the current seller not yet putting the title into their name from when they bought the home, along with multiple other situations due to common mistakes.

Related: 6 Things Investors MUST Consider Before Moving A Mobile Home

In the bullets below, I will outline the most common title issues and some wise ways to proceed forward.

4 Common Mobile Home Title Issues (& How to Best Fix Them!)

1. The title is lost or missing.

If the current seller is the legal owner of record, then there is a simple and easy process to obtain a duplicate title. Call your local mobile home titling agency to inquire about specific steps moving forward. Typically the owner of record needs only to provide proof that he or she is the owner and pay a small fee.

2. The title is missing and the seller is not the actual owner.

Sometimes when a new buyer closes on a mobile home, they do not immediately run down to transfer the title into their ownership. This happens for many reasons; however, legally the buyer is not the true owner until the title is registered into his/her name, or an entity he or she controls. In these cases it is not good if the title(s) are then lost or go missing.

a. Is the owner available?

  • If yes: If the owner is available, you must contact them immediately. Many times they will agree to obtain a duplicate copy of the mobile home title(s) if you pay for this small cost. The legal owners (prior sellers) will do this in order to transfer the home out of their name so they are not liable for taxes or accidents on a property that they didn’t think they still owned.
  • If no: If the owner is not available, then they must be tracked down in order to proceed ahead. A private eye or skip tracer may be helpful in tracking down the current owner.

Pro Tip: You will see occasions when buyers and sellers have “transferred ownership” via a separate piece of paper known as a Bill of Sale. A Bill of Sale acts as a meeting of the minds and as a receipt typically given when selling personal property. While this process may be sufficient for the buyer, seller and even park manager, it is not sufficient enough to transfer legal ownership from one person to another. The original owner is still the legal owner and can come back any time to take possession of his or her home.

b. The owner passed away.

Do you have the owner’s power of attorney for handling this property or a death certificate and immediate family? If yes, then you will likely be able to obtain a duplicate title by filing the correct forms with your state. If you do not, then you may want to ask your state the best course of action moving forward to obtain legal ownership of this mobile home. Obtaining clear title may or may not be possible.

Pro Tip: Always verify with your state that yearly taxes have been paid and are current. If a seller has not transferred a title into his or her name, then he or she may not be up to date paying taxes.

3. The title is present, but the seller is not the actual owner.

This scenario is the most common hurdle you will see as a used mobile home investor. In situations like this, your seller will be in physical possession of the current original mobile home title; however, it may or may not be signed and dated by the buyer(s) and seller(s).

  • If the true owner on title has already signed on the seller’s line, then simply have your seller sign as buyer and quickly transfer the title into the current seller’s name. Once the seller is the actual owner, they can now transfer their clear title to you without worry. Call your state to verify that this double transfer can be completed in one day.
  • If the true owner has not signed on the seller’s line, then this must be completed before the title can be legally transferred into the purchaser’s name. Track down the legal owner to have his or her signature placed on the seller’s line.

Pro Tip: Avoid forging documents. If you can’t find the legal owner listed on the title, it may be tempting for you or your seller to forge the legal owner’s signature on the title. Some people can rationalize that this is a victimless crime. With that being said, it is still a crime and illegal.

  • If your seller has a title that is signed by the owner but the buyer’s signature lines are blank, it can be tempting to skip over your current seller and transfer the title from the legal owner straight to you. While this can technically be done, most states consider it illegal, as you are skipping the chain-of-title and not placing the home into your current seller’s name first. You may not get caught; however, do this at your own risk.

Pro Tip: Be aware that most states charge a late fee for delaying the transfer of a mobile home title from a buyer to a seller if not completed within X number of days. This late fee will be paid when the title is eventually transferred into the new buyer’s name.

Related: 4 False Stereotypes About Mobile Home Investors, Debunked

4. The title is present, but there are liens still showing.

If there are active liens still on the title, then the owner will not likely be in physical possession of the home’s title(s). It is most common for the lien holders to physically hold the title(s) until they are paid off in full. At this point, a new title is issued showing zero active liens, or the lien holder simply signs a “Release of Lien” located on the title or provided on a separate form given to the owner. Both of these methods show the home is free and clear from debt.

If you run into a situation where a mobile home seller is in possession of their title with active liens, it is important to understand if this is an error or if there is still money owed on the mobile home. Being present with the seller as they call up the bank or loan servicer to confirm a principal balance pay off will answer this question. Once you know the amount of the lien you can decide to move forward accordingly.

Pro Tip: Always call your state to verify the mobile home’s VIN or serial numbers and confirm if there any active liens showing on the title. Some states will have this information at their fingertips, and other states will not be as technologically advanced.

When you are able to go the extra mile to solve a seller’s problem and close another mobile home investment property, you will find yourself competing with less and less investors and buyers. For most questions in real estate, the answer is typically, “it depends.” If you are a determined investor and are working with motivated sellers, you can typically come to legal win-win solutions that accomplish the goals of all parties. Continue helping others and going the extra mile to solve problems when possible.

Have any questions about mobile home title issues?

Let me know with a comment!

About Author

John Fedro

John Fedro has been investing in manufactured housing since 2002. John now spends his time continuing to build his cash-flow business in multiple states while helping others enjoy the same freedom he has achieved. Find John here.

20 Comments

  1. Judy Haseker on

    John,
    My name is Judy and I have been searching for an answer online. I made a horrible mistake. I took a big part of my retirement savings and bought and fixed up a double wide. I had never done this before. At the time I bought it, I didn’t even realize it was a double wide. Yes, I was that blinded by thinking I was going to make a quick buck. Anyway, the owners and I went to the courthouse & an abstract company where we completed the papers for a “Quick claim deed”. I paid them, and away they went. I went though hell with 3 different “contractors” getting the place basically gutted and ready to sell. I hired Coldwell Banker (Paula Hill) to sell it. Signed the contract Oct. 2015. Paula calls me a few days later and asks me where the title is. I never got one. Didn’t know there was supposed to be one. I, not Paula, have made several phone calls trying to figure out what to do. The VIN isn’t on the mobile home. The siding has been taken off so we could look. I’m at a loss here. I don’t know what to do or where to turn. I’m handicap and in my 60’s. The contract with Coldwell expires this month thank God. They have done absolutely nothing! I refuse to give them another penny. There’s no fool like an old fool. Can you steer me in the right direction ?

    • John Fedro

      Hi Judy,

      Thank you for reaching out and connecting. I apologize about the gross delay in this comment reply. I assume by now the situation has resolved itself. If not I will still ask some questions and give some thoughts below. First things first, I very much regret to hear that the homes “status” was not mentioned to you. I will agree that many newer double wide manufactured homes look like single-family residences from the inside. Some of them even look like traditional houses from the outside as well. You mentioned the term “quitclaim deed” in your comment which makes me think of Florida. If this is where you are located that I know of a decent attorney that may be able to help you. With that said you would still need some identifying markers or numbers pertaining to the mobile home so it could be traced back and another title could be reissued. When the manufactured home was legally joined and married to the land the title may have been relinquished and given to the state. The state should have a record of the homes information either on the legal description, or held somewhere by the property appraiser or tax collector’s office. I assume that you exhausted these routes already however if not I would pursue them for sure. Please feel free to contact me with regards to the attorneys information and I’ll be happy to point you in that direction as well. Never hesitate to reach out with any additional follow-up questions or concerns any time. All the best.

      Talk soon,
      John

  2. I took possession and moved a single-wide. Seller reported they did not have title after the fact. I contacted titled owner after a state title search. Titled owner is cooperative. Problem: There is an old, old mortgage lien. Bank is defunct and merged many times. I have a loan number but the property passed out of owner’s hands almost 20 years ago.It was a park closure sale. How do I charge-off the lien with no lien-holder to be found and satisfy the state manufactured housing division?

    • John Fedro

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for reaching out and connecting. I apologize about the severe delay in this comment reply. For some reason I was not being alerted that anyone was commenting on this article. With that said, I regret to hear about your situation. I get regular emails of similar situations all around the country. The answer and path forward changes from state to state a bit. Please email me personally if possible or comment back here with with state you are located in and I would be happy to give you what information I can. Happy to help.

      Talk soon,
      John

  3. There is no feasible way to “forge” a signiture on a title, since all signitures, both sellers and buyers, must be notarized. A notary will require a picture ID of all signors before they will notiarize the signiture. Why isn’t this information stated here?

    It is standard for a buyer of a used mobile home (or vehicle) to simply go to your courthouse with the owner and do the transfer there. They can check for any liens that aren’t listed on the title (the owner may have an old title that isn’t updated), and any problems with legal ownership of that owner. Better safe than to have problems later.

    • I bought a mobile home from a tenant in my park. He drew up a contract, signed the contract,
      signed the title, and told me to get it notarized by someone because he signed it. He cashed my checks for the purchase of the home, (Undisputed), now he is claiming the title work is bad and
      he wants his home back, but does not want to pay me back either. He is not paying lot rent or
      rent and is seeking a jury trial. He’s definitely in the wrong, but has a lawyer and is full of lies and deceit.

    • John Fedro

      Hi Teri,

      Thank you for reaching out and connecting. In many states a notary is not required when signing a vehicle or mobile home title. I agree with you that it probably should be standard. Moving forward if you ever have any follow-up questions or concerns never hesitate to reach out any time. All the best.

      Talk soon,
      John

  4. Please help me before i have no where to live.
    The manager of the park i live in after 17 years now wants a title when they know we never got one when we got the home. We were given a title for a diff mobile home. And now When i give the DMV the VIN/Serial number theres no title for this home. I dont know what to do the property taxes are under some random mobile home our Title we were given is for a diff mobile home. It’s like this one never existed. The guy we were originally going through got introuble for fraud and either went on the run or jail and we never were able to locate him. The realtor he went through was given the property because he lost it. He matched all the titles to the other mobile home he had this mobile home and a title for a diff one so he just gave it to us any ways. I’m told i have to go back to when it was made and sold first.

    • John Fedro

      Hi Sheri,

      Thank you for reaching out and connecting. I apologize about the delay in this comment reply. I hope you have found answers to your questions already however if not please see my thoughts below. New management coming into the park or new policies can sometimes require all the residents show proof they have title and clear ownership of the homes. I regret to hear that they are being so firm and hostile towards you without trying to work with you after all these years. The answer to your questions about moving forward vary from state to state. If you could email me personally or comment back what state you are located in that would be very helpful. Let me know what state you’re in and I’ll be happy to help from there. Additionally, where did you find the homes current serial number? Is this a number you were provided by someone or did you find this number somewhere inside the manufactured home?

      Talk soon,
      John

    • John Fedro

      Hi Tom,

      Thank you for reaching out and connecting. I really really regret to hear that you may be going through this situation. I could certainly talk at length about moving forward to try to close this property and have the lien removed if at all possible. However this may or may not be possible. What is possible is suing the fraud who pretended to own and sell you a mobile home they could never sell you. Was a physical title even provided? Please feel free to email me personally with more details and any follow-up questions or concerns. Keep in touch.

      Talk soon,
      John

    • Hi John,

      I have the same issue. I am buying a single wide from a guy. We have a simple hand written contract stating that I put so much down and pay so much a month until next year when I get more money to pay it off. He moved to a different state. I have occupied the residence now and just found out that there is a lien on the place. What do I do to protect myself?

    • John Fedro

      Hi Helen,

      Thank you for reaching out and connecting. I apologize about the slight delay in this comment reply. I hope this comment reaches you in time. Please remember that you most likely have every right to not proceed with this deal. You can simply wait for a buyer to come along that has all-cash to pay for the property. With regards to your question, the way that you described things, I would very much encourage you to be the lien holder on the title for sure. The park can do whatever paperwork it wants however you should absolutely 100% remain as lien holder until you are paid every time that you are owed. Please let me know if you have any additional questions or concerns moving forward.

      Talk soon,
      John

  5. Debbie Sizemore on

    Hi John, I have been reading a lot of the comments and watching the videos. I would like to but a single mobile home form this lady. She said she bought the mobile home from her sister but her sister cannot find the title. She did give me a copy of the “Manufactured Home Bill Of Sale” from her sister to her. It was notarized on July 27, 2016. She said she took it to a lawyer and they said it was legal and all she needed to have to sale it to me. But I feel like I should file for a lost title. I’m just scared I guess. I hope you can help me.

    • John Fedro

      Hi Debbie,

      Thank you for reaching out and connecting. Additionally, thank you for your detailed, and is the certainly helps me answer your question better. Most states do require some type of mobile home title or physical ownership transferring from one party to another party when a mobile home sells. However in a few states, mainly the Northeast, a bill of sale is sufficient to show evidence of ownership. However if you are not in the New England area then a “bill of sale” does not legally sell interest in a mobile home. If the VIN or serial number is on the bill of sale or the mobile home specifically, I would very much encourage you to call the local DMV or local mobile home title department to asked them about the mobile home in question. Give them the serial number and asked them if there are any liens on the property and if the taxes are current. Also try to find out who owns the property and explain your situation to the clerk over the phone. Moving forward you will likely have more follow-up questions and concerns for sure. Please feel free to keep in touch. All the best.

      Talk soon,
      John

  6. John,
    I am in the process of buying a doublewide that sits on a permanent foundation and is taxed as real estate. The problem is that when the bank foreclosed on it and got the court order for new titles to the house to surrender to the tax auditor, they never did. Since then the bank has turned it over to HUD to sell and that is where I came in as the buyer and got my offer accepted. I can close on the place but would have to get a court order for the titles to the home or wait for the bank (Wells Fargo) to finish what they should have done a year ago. I have the court documentation that there are no liens or anyone else having claim to the house itself. Is there anyway HUD or Wells Fargo could come back after I close on the place and take the home from me or is it safe to finish the sale and go fix the title issue myself without a lawyer? I know that legally, I would have deed to the land, foundation, well and septic but just need the title to finally make the house part of the deed.

  7. Anita Doyle

    My father just passed away and left me hi dbl wide mobile home. He purchased in 2006 with his girlfriend who also passed 8 years ago. I found an old registration doc but no title. It did say joint tenants with right of survivorship. The problem is we dont have her death cert and dont know how to contact family. Where do i go and what do i do? Is there anything else i need to do? Im readding alot on the net and this looks like its going to be a hassle. There is no will. Thanks Anita

  8. Shannon Riehl on

    I have a mobile home in Stuart Florida that I put a friends name on my title so he could live there can I sell the mobile home with out him sighing the title .

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