How to Work with Illegal County Ordinances

April 15, 2021 by Maxwell Baker

 

Hello, and welcome to the “Mobile Home Park Broker’s Tips and Tricks.” This is the podcast where we talk about mobile-home-park investing, because that’s what we’ve been involved in for the last decade. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Here’s your host, Maxwell Baker.

 

Maxwell: Hey, y’all. Welcome to the Mobile Home Park Broker’s Tips and Tricks podcast. As always, this episode is brought to you by the Community Price Maximizer. This is a proprietary system that we have engineered for park owners like yourself to guarantee them a higher price every time y’all sell your mobile home park.

In today’s episode, we’re going to be going over how to work with counties that have weird or illegal ordinances in a mobile home park that you own or are thinking about owning, and we’re going to talk about the three different tips that I have uncovered over a decade of experience working with counties and park owners. So, let’s jump right into it. [01:07.8]

Tip number one, first thing you want to do when you’re working with the county, for an example, we’ll use Bartow County for this episode because I live in Atlanta and Bartow County is one of the known counties here in Atlanta that is a little prejudice towards mobile home communities. Yep, I’m calling you guys out. It is what it is. They have included a roof pitch ordinance. I believe it’s a five-foot roof pitch and no mobile home is five-foot roof pitch. I don’t think they actually have those. I think Clayton is the only one that does it. Also, they have included a beautiful ordinance that if your lot is vacant for more than 12 months, that is now disqualified and you can no longer put a mobile home on there.

That’s the type of weird ordinance that I was talking to you about earlier that I feel is illegal and prejudiced towards mobile home community owners. The first thing you want to do when you put a park under contract or when you have a park that’s having this issue is to meet with the county commissioner. [02:07.2]

When you meet him face to face, always face to face, and I know we’re going through COVID right now, but whenever you can, I would do that for you to feel comfortable. Obviously, you wear your mask and all that jazz, but you want to meet face to face. Wear business casual. If you want to dress it up a little more, maybe wear a suit, but in general, you just want to come in there acting like, looking like really, like you know what you’re doing.

Your job while you’re there is to just gather information. Gather information, meaning, asking questions, how they feel about mobile home communities.  You want to see his body language and how he answers, his facial expressions. Anytime you can, whenever you’re able to talk to somebody or really this is a negotiation when you’re sitting down with them to kind of see how they feel about mobile home parks or RV communities, really. [03:02.0]

The next thing you would want to do is to bring in your plan to fix up the park. Now, a lot of times I have been personally successful Spalding County down in Atlanta. It’s called Griffin, Ga. It had the same issue and I successfully wrote a letter, me personally, that the County was making the sale of this mobile home community extremely difficult because the ordinances that Spalding did.

What they actually did for me and for ideal is they basically outlined a circle around the mobile home park and said, I like what you guys brought to us. You seem like a reputable bunch. If you own another mobile home park in the area, it’s even better, and they can see, But you can point to your success as a park owner and rehabbing deals and say, Look, I’ve done this before. This is what I’ve done. This is what I’m going to do. They might actually give you an exception in writing saying that, Okay, we’ll give you 24 months to upgrade the septics or move in new mobile homes, newer mobile homes. Then you’d be able to do that. [04:13.5]

So, that’s your tip number one. It’s to come in face to face, business casual with a rehab plan. Don’t go in there empty-handed. Go in there with a rehab plan or examples of what you’ve done and try and see if they’ll make an exception for you and your mobile home community. 

Tip number two, this one is a little more aggressive. If they are absolutely knowing, they’re crossing their hands saying, Nope, Nope, not doing it, not doing it. We ain’t doing nothing for ya. We don’t like mobile home parks here in Atlanta or Bartow County or wherever else, and we don’t like you, so we don’t support low income housing in mobile home communities.

If they end up being like that, which a lot of times they are in other States, I know Tennessee has got some age restriction laws. That’s typically the most common thing you see is that they put an age restriction on there of 10 years or newer. [05:11.3]

Then you go to the papers and what I mean by going to the papers is getting in, sitting in, sitting down with all the newspapers in the area that the park is in, as well as the surrounding areas, and if they won’t write a story, I would go ahead and pay for a full-page ad about call people out. I mean, be aggressive. A lot of people do that and it has proven to be successful.

Also, what you can even do is go on their social media account, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all that jazz and call them out. Social media is extremely powerful. I personally leveraged that in myself for some things that I have done and it’s always worked in my favor. So, use the social media. Get in front of the newspapers. Pay for an ad. [06:03.7]

The other thing you could do is to rally the local park owners. As your broker, we have a lot of contacts. We know a lot of park owners. They get our mailers every month and some people are a little tired of me sending them mailers, but, hey, we’ve got a lot of business sending out. I think we just hit 12,000 this last month of parks and in 12 different States. But, anyways, beside the point, we can help you get in touch with the other park owners in the area. In Raleigh, maybe I can create a little slush fund or something to sue the county and the way you sue that county is if you find a municipal attorney.

A municipal attorney—you should Google that—is an attorney that specializes in bringing lawsuits to governments. That’s what they do for a living and a lot of times counties will hire these municipal attorneys to represent them, but you can potentially just hire another county’s municipal attorney to go sue a different county and they all know each other. [07:06.3]

They can be expensive. That’s why I said it’s good to try and rally the other park owners, which obviously we can help you with, and then bring or send them a letter. Send them a little love letter, if you want to look at it that way, and see if they’ll change their mind because a lot of times…

I’ll give you a story real quick. We had a mobile home park down in Lake City. It’s not really a lake area, but it’s called Lake City here in Atlanta. A park owner was trying to buy a foreclosed mobile home park and the county went in there. When he sat down with the commissioner, they’re like, Nope, Nope, we’re not doing nothing. You can’t rehab the units in there. You can’t move in any units. We’re just, nah, we’re good. Keep moving on.

He literally went and hired a municipal attorney, sent them a letter. They folded. Literally, within a few days, they were like, No, we ain’t doing that. They aligned as the mobile home park and said, All right, you can do what you want, but we’re going to maintain the ordinance. [08:01.2]

A lot of these smaller communities are right outside major MSAs and don’t have the budget to fight for something like that. You get into Atlanta, hmm…or maybe downtown Charlotte, hmm…they’re going to have a budget, but these smaller towns right outside the major cities are always going to typically not have a big budget and they will typically fold, unless they’ve got some sort of backing on it. That’s one thing I’ll tell you about that.

Another example that I’ll provide you is we have a park out in Alabama that we’re about to list and they made it, so if you’re within the city limits, you cannot put a home on a lot that’s been vacant for 12 months. Ironically, the mayor of the same city had two mobile home parks that he owned and they were outside the city limits. Go figure, right? These backyard politics is a real deal, y’all, I’m telling you. [09:02.5]

So, these municipal attorneys that will go out and, I mean, I feel very confident that with that deal in particular, I’m going to be able to maneuver around that, just simply based off of that information, and call their bluff out. They’ll just do a little outline on there and then they’ll let you play ball with it however you want to. So, that’s the second tip.

The third tip, and this is one that’s a little bit more common than it used to be, is to convert your mobile home park over to a tiny home community. Tiny home communities are starting to jump out of nowhere in areas that would never allow for a new mobile home park to be built, but they would allow for a tiny home community to be built, which I find a little ridiculous because it is affordable housing kind of, but they like them because, to them, it brings a better tenant profile, better landscaping, more tax revenue because of the value of the mobile home park—if you want to look at it, really, it’s what it is—is going to be higher because a lot of rents are typically, I would say, 30 to 40 percent higher than what market is for a regular mobile home park. [10:13.0]

Four, the tiny homes just look prettier, y’all. I mean, let’s just be real, the tiny homes look sharp. They’re like park models, but they’re a little bit more millennial, trendy style and they look nice. I mean, I would live in one. They’re pretty. They’re a type of a mobile home or a tiny home that have got all the modern fixtures that a regular house would have. It’s just you can buy them for $50,000 to $100,000, maybe $125,000 and put them on a lot.

I know here in Atlanta, I work out with the DeKalb commissioner, Mayor, Ted, and hopefully he’ll be on a podcast soon to talk about this, but he was successfully able to add a tiny home community in Clarkston. He was helped to lobby for it. There’s also another one in East point and then there’s another one up near Summerville, which is North Georgia outside of the city of Atlanta, and they’re starting to do these mountain tiny home retreats that are surrounding these little rivers. [11:10.4]

The tiny home movement, albeit a lot of people say it’s a trend, is quickly becoming a millennial minimalistic way of life that a lot of people that are millennials and Generation Z, or whatever the next generation is after the millennials, are interested in doing it because everybody pursuing lifestyle and not just a bunch of things that’s going to sit in an attic or garage or wherever. It’s a different world out there with these young bucks.

We’ll recap these tips real quick.

  • First tip, meet with the commissioner, business casual. Show previous work, and if they will allow you to meet with them face to face, make sure you do that.
  • Talk with the municipal attorney. That’s tip number two. Go to the local papers. Talk about the social media stuff, about what you can do. [12:04.3]
  • The third tip is to convert over to a tiny home community.

You want to make sure that you go through these three options, consider all of them and choose which one’s best for you. Obviously, I’m here to help you with the decision, if needed, or rally the park owners, or if you need some help finding a municipal attorney or whatever, I can actually share with you a document that I sent to Spalding County, I believe it was eight years ago—man, it’s been a long time—that you can use to help push your agenda when owning a mobile home park in these weird counties that have these illegal ordinances.

Next time on our podcast—I’m very excited because I am a broker—we’re going to talk about how to choose a mobile home park broker. There are a ton of guys out there that are wheeler and dealer, talk fast. If you ever meet a person that says they know all the answers, you might want to question them. [13:00.4]

The second thing is we talk about data and why not all data is good data, and really just talk about what it takes to be a good mobile home park broker for a park owner like yourself. I’m happy to talk about that on the next podcast.

As always, like I said in the beginning of this podcast, this episode is brought to you by the community price maximizing system. This system is a proprietary guaranteed way to get you the highest price when you sell your mobile home parker or RV park. It’s a four-step program. We will come in, show you what you’ve done, show you what you can do, show you how to convert it, change it, mold it, and then we take it out to market and that’s when the magic happens, y’all.

Give me a call, (678) 932-0200, or shoot me an email at Info@TheMHPBroker.com.

Appreciate y’all’s time. Thanks for listening. [14:04.5]

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Maxwell Baker

Maxwell R. Baker founded The MHP Broker in 2009 as a commercial real estate broker specializing in helping Investors buy and sell mobile home communities throughout the Southeast. His family got started with mobile home parks in 2000 where Max gained experience in management, rehabilitation, and selling mobile home parks. Today, The MHP Broker has grown to a team of several agents with expanded services focused on owner and investor brokerage services, mobile home park audits, and in-depth market research, resulting in the sale of over $500 million worth of mobile home communities.