Washington state officials want to find ways to protect consumers from abusive sales and lending practices in the mobile-home industry.
The effort was sparked by a recent investigation by The Seattle Times, BuzzFeed News and the Center for Public Integrity that found that the nation’s leading mobile home company extracts billions from poor customers by using deceptive tactics and charging high interest rates.
Some 450,000 people across Washington state live in mobile homes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
A bill backed by Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Department of Commerce calls for a study of how the industry sells, finances and repossesses the homes. Supporters say state laws that protect conventional homebuyers typically do not safeguard people buying mobile homes.
Commerce director Brian Bonlender said the key difference is that mobile homes are typically financed with personal property loans.
“The consumer protections around those are much less significant,” Bonlender said in an interview. Unlike mobile-home purchasers, buyers of conventional homes in Washington enjoy extended timelines to resolve financing problems and foreclosure mediation, he said.
Inslee said in a statement he wants to “find ways to stop unfair practices that could leave some Washington homeowners out in the cold.”
Nationwide, nearly 18 million people live in mobile homes.