Senate Bill No. 321
Introduced By _______________________________________________________________________________
A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act providing for a manufactured housing mediator; providing for the duties and responsibilities of the mediator; attaching the mediator to the commission for human rights for administrative purposes only; requiring manufactured housing communities to establish dispute resolution procedures and to cooperate with the mediator; providing fee-based funding for the mediator;
and providing an effective date."
Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:
NEW SECTION. Section 1. Short title. [Sections 1 through 4 and 6 through 9] may be cited as the "Manufactured Housing Mediation Act".
NEW SECTION. Section 2. Policy statement -- purpose. (1) An increasing number of Montanans live in manufactured homes, and a significant percentage of Montanans reside in manufactured housing communities. Because of the growing number of problems and complaints dealing with various aspects of living in manufactured housing communities and because of the unique characteristics of manufactured housing, the legislature observes that mediation and other forms of dispute resolution may help citizens resolve issues without having to bear the burdens of going to court.
(2) In recognition of the observations in subsection (1), it is the policy of this state to:
(a) encourage manufactured housing community residents and the owners and managers of manufactured housing communities to settle disputes among themselves without recourse, if possible, to either the court system or to intervention by a state agency; and
(b) assist manufactured housing community residents and the owners and managers of manufactured housing communities to develop alternative dispute resolution techniques, including but not limited to mediated settlements.
(3) The legislature finds that it is prudent to designate a manufactured housing mediator to help resolve the problems and complaints involving the owners of manufactured housing in manufactured housing communities. In addition, the establishment of a mediator will assist in an equitable implementation of the provisions of Title 70, chapters 24 and 25, concerning mobile homes.
NEW SECTION. Section 3. Definitions. As used in [sections 1 through 4 and 6 through 9], unless the context requires otherwise, the following definitions apply:
(1) "Manufactured housing" means any manufactured dwelling unit used primarily as a residence for the occupant.
(2) "Manufactured housing community" means a trailer court, as defined in 50-52-101, or a parcel of land upon which two or more spaces are available to the public and are designated for occupancy by manufactured housing.
(3) "Mediator" means the manufactured housing mediator provided for in [section 5].
(4) "Mobile home owner" means the owner of a manufactured mobile home dwelling unit as defined in 70-24-103.
(5) "Unreasonable" means:
(a) not fair, proper, just, moderate, or suitable under the circumstances; or
(b) not fit or appropriate to an objective.
NEW SECTION. Section 4. Manufactured housing community to establish informal dispute resolution procedure -- cooperation with mediator. (1) Each manufactured housing community shall establish an informal dispute resolution procedure that ensures that each issue that is not unreasonable is given a fair hearing by the mediator or by another person selected by the members of the manufactured housing community, including the owner and manager, to assist in the resolution of problems and complaints.
(2) The owner and manager and each resident of a manufactured housing community shall cooperate with the mediator and make good faith efforts to resolve problems and complaints prior to seeking a settlement in court.
NEW SECTION. Section 5. Manufactured housing mediator -- administrative liaison. (1) There is a manufactured housing mediator for the purpose of assisting in the resolution of disputes between mobile home owners and manufactured housing owners and the owners and managers of manufactured housing communities. The mediator is appointed by the governor. The mediator must be licensed to practice law in Montana. The governor shall fix the compensation of the mediator pursuant to Title 2, chapter 18, part 3.
(2) The mediator is attached to the commission for human rights, provided for in 2-15-1706, for administrative purposes only as provided in 2-15-121. The mediator shall work with the commission for human rights and other state and local government agencies as needed to implement the provisions of [sections 1 through 4 and 6 through 9]. The mediator may employ personnel to carry out the functions of the mediator's office.
NEW SECTION. Section 6. Duties and responsibilities. (1) The mediator shall:
(a) initiate, participate in, or cooperate with persons and agencies in conferences, inquiries, meetings, or studies that might lead to improvements in the relationship between mobile home owners and manufactured housing owners and the owners and managers of manufactured housing communities; and
(b) maintain a current list of manufactured housing communities in the state, indicating the owners and managers, the total number of spaces in each community, and other information that the mediator determines to be pertinent to the mediator's purposes.
(2) The mediator shall investigate and address, in accordance with the procedure provided for in [section 4], complaints related to manufactured housing concerning:
(a) resident disputes with owners and managers of manufactured housing communities concerning the approval of a prospective purchaser of an existing manufactured home owned by a resident;
(b) the reasonableness of rules and regulations promulgated by manufactured housing community owners;
(c) environmental concerns, including the provision of safe drinking water and proper sewage disposal;
(d) the interpretation of lease agreements; and
(e) the reasonableness of pending eviction procedures.
(3) The mediator may not be affiliated in any way, currently or previously, with a manufactured housing community.
(4) The mediator shall educate the public concerning the purchase of manufactured housing, the lease or rental of space in a manufactured housing community, and the duties and functions of the mediator. The educational material must include a brief summary of the key facts that a person contemplating the purchase of manufactured housing should be aware of in order to make an informed decision. The educational material must be provided to:
(a) a prospective purchaser of manufactured housing by a new or used manufactured housing dealer at any time prior to the signing of a sale agreement between these two persons; and
(b) a prospective lessee by a manufactured housing community owner at any time prior to the signing of a lease for space in the manufactured housing community.
(5) The mediator shall forward a copy of the educational material described in subsection (4) and a copy of [sections 1 through 4 and 6 through 9] to each manufactured housing dealer in the state and to all owners and managers of manufactured housing communities.
NEW SECTION. Section 7. Public access. The mediator shall establish a toll-free telephone number for public inquiries on the services available from the mediator.
NEW SECTION. Section 8. Resident notification. By January 1, 1998, each owner of a manufactured housing community shall provide each resident of the manufactured housing community with a copy of [sections 1 through 4 and 6 through 9] and shall maintain a copy at a convenient location in the manufactured housing community for review by residents. All lessees in the manufactured housing community must be provided with a copy of [sections 1 through 4 and 6 through 9] prior to a lessee signing a lease.
NEW SECTION. Section 9. Fee -- collection. (1) There is a fee of $1 on each manufactured housing space in a manufactured housing community. The fee must be collected by the county treasurer in the same manner as property taxes are collected. The fee is assessed against the owner of a manufactured housing community and must be included on the owner's tax statement. The owner may collect the fee from the renter of the manufactured housing space. The county treasurer shall forward the fees to the state treasurer.
(2) The state treasurer shall deposit the fees received under subsection (1) in an account in the state special revenue fund for the use of the mediator.
NEW SECTION. Section 10. Codification instruction. (1) [Sections 1 through 4 and 6 through 9] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 70, and the provisions of Title 70 apply to [sections 1 through 4 and 6 through 9].
(2) [Section 5] is intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 2, chapter 15, part 2, and the provisions of Title 2, chapter 15, part 2, apply to [section 5].
NEW SECTION. Section 11. Effective date. [This act] is effective July 1, 1997.