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Manufactured home community landlords: How to respond to County Assessors’ unlawful reporting requirements

Jan 07,2020

If a County Assessor refuses to follow the law and rejects a demand to comply, a landlord can file a court action to compel the Assessor to comply with the law.

John Buric

Manufactured home communities are required to provide monthly reports to the local County Assessor pertaining to mobile and manufactured homes present in their community. In fact, failing to submit the required reporting can be a criminal offense.

Unfortunately, at least one County Assessor was using the threat of criminal prosecution to coerce landlords into providing more reporting than is required by law, including monthly reporting on short-term recreational vehicles (RVs). The added task of reporting on RVs, particularly if they are numerous, can be extremely time consuming and burdensome for some landlords.

In my opinion:

  • the law does not require mobile and manufactured home communities to report on short-term RVs;
  • counties are not lawfully empowered to require such reporting; and
  • counties cannot compel landlords to incur the time and expense to report monthly on transient RVs.

Recently, I fought this battle with one County Assessor, who subsequently agreed to remove the monthly reporting requirement for my client’s short-term RVs. However, I surmise that Assessors may still be continuing to demand such reporting from other communities. If you are being victimized in this manner, you can object to the improper burden and monthly reporting.

A.R.S. § 42-19152(A), deals with the taxation of mobile homes and provides:

Each mobile home is subject to ad valorem property tax to be assessed and collected in the same manner and at the same time as other personal property that is taxable under this chapter. [Emphasis Added]

A.R.S. § 42-19154 then imposes a monthly reporting requirement on mobile home community landlords, as follows:

A. If a person [or entity] permits a mobile home to be placed on land that the person owns, possesses or controls in a manner that permits the mobile home to be occupied as a dwelling or sleeping place for one or more persons for a period of thirty days or more, the person shall keep a register containing information that is required by the department. [Emphasis Added]

B. The department shall prescribe, and the County Assessor shall furnish, forms for maintaining the register. A copy of the information in the register for each month shall be sent to the County Assessor within ten days after the month covered by the report.

C. A person who knowingly fails to maintain the register or make the report required by this section is guilty of a class 2 misdemeanor.

Some County Assessors are misapplying the foregoing law, requiring monthly reporting on short-term RVs and asserting that non-compliance is a criminal offense.

A.R.S. § 42-19153 specifically states, in part, that the foregoing reporting requirements do not apply to:

1. A mobile home with respect to which an affidavit of affixture has been recorded pursuant to section 42-15203 and that has been placed on the real property tax roll.

2. Any trailer that is eight feet or less in width and less than thirty-two feet in length and that is not used as a place of residence or for a commercial purpose. A license tax in lieu of ad valorem property taxes is assessed on those trailers in the same manner as on other vehicles. [emphasis added]

It remains surprising to me that some government officials cannot understand the difference between a mobile/manufactured home and an RV. The Arizona legislature has established well-defined distinctions between a “mobile home” and a “recreational vehicle.” For example, a comprehensive definition of a “mobile home” can be found in A.R.S. § 33-1409(14), which states that a mobile home does not include a recreational vehicle such as a motor home, camping trailer, van, fifth wheel trailer or other type of recreational vehicle.

The Arizona legislature also expressly adopted a definition for RVs, which is clearly different from a mobile home. A.R.S. § 33-2102(18) provides that a “recreational vehicle” means a vehicular type unit that is any of the following:

(a) A portable camping trailer mounted on wheels and constructed with collapsible partial sidewalls that fold for towing by another vehicle and unfold for camping.

(b) A motor home designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreational, camping or travel use and built on or permanently attached to a self-propelled motor vehicle chassis or on a chassis cab or van that is an integral part of the completed vehicle.

(c) A park trailer or park model built on a single chassis, mounted on wheels or originally mounted on wheels and from which the wheels have been removed and designed to be connected to utilities necessary for operation of installed fixtures and appliances and has a gross trailer area of not less than three hundred twenty square feet and not more than four hundred square feet when it is set up, except that it does not include fifth wheel trailers.

(d) A travel trailer mounted on wheels, designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreational, camping or travel use and of a size or weight that may or may not require special highway movement permits when towed by a motorized vehicle and that has a trailer area of less than three hundred twenty square feet. This subdivision includes fifth wheel trailers. If a unit requires a size or weight permit, it shall be manufactured to the standards for park trailers in section A 119.5 of the American national standards institute code.

(e) A portable truck camper constructed to provide temporary living quarters for recreational, camping or travel use and consisting of a roof, floor and sides designed to be loaded onto and unloaded from the bed of a pickup truck. [Emphasis added]

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the County Assessor with whom I dealt asserted that the mobile home laws implicitly apply to RVs. I disagree. The legislature’s definition of an RV is plainly different than that of a mobile home, and counties are not lawfully permitted to interchange the two. Consequently, there is no legitimate basis for a county to assert that the statutes that apply solely to mobile homes also implicitly apply to RVs.

In addition, the Arizona Department of Revenue Personal Property Manual (2019) addresses the taxation of personal property. The Manual recognizes that transient travel trailers and fifth wheel RVs are licensed and taxed in the same manner as motor vehicles unless they are unlicensed or have expired licenses or their use changes. Further, the language contained in Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR) forms states that the reporting pertains solely to mobile homes. Yet, at least one County Assessor required landlords to provide information, on the ADOR forms, that is not even required by the ADOR!

Counties in Arizona have a duty to apply the tax and reporting statutes in a lawful manner. So far, I have had success demanding that County Assessors comply with the law and cease imposing unlawful reporting requirements on mobile home landlords. However, if a County Assessor refuses to follow the law and rejects a demand to comply, a landlord can file a court action to compel the Assessor to comply with the law. If the landlord prevails, the landlord may be permitted to recover its reasonable attorneys’ fees, expenses of expert witnesses, and the reasonable cost of any study, analysis, report, test or project found by the court to be necessary for preparation of the landlord’s case.

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