Regulations sought for modular home installations

No one oversees the actual installation of manufactured homes in New Hampshire, and both the industry and the state fire marshal want to do something about that.

“There is a gap in New Hampshire, no doubt about it, and it needs to filled,” said Michael Younus, president of the Modular Manufacturers Association of the Northeast.

Young said the concept of proposed legislation that would certify or would license installers “sounds great,” but he still would have to see the details to make sure they are “reasonable.”

The state fire marshal licenses modular home manufacturers, and if a defect is found or a part is poorly constructed it can fine the company or pull its license. It can even pull the license of those who inspect the home at the manufacturer on behalf of the state, if the inspector isn’t doing his or her job.

But no one inspects how all these pieces are put together, and Fire Marshal Bill Degnan says he gets several complaints a month about that. Some complaints are merely about cosmetic matters, but others are life-threatening, like the roof installed without the proper reinforcements in Wilmot that could collapse under a heavy snow load and the home in Tamworth where the joints were not sealed, allowing air to come in. And the house was so off-line that the structural integrity of the entire building was in question, Degnan said.

But, he added: “There is nothing I can really do.”

Rep. Thomas Buco, D-Conway, thought that something had to be done after seeing the aforementioned home in Tamworth. (The owners of that home declined comment because they are suing the builder). Buco’s bill would require that homes be inspected at the site, not just at the factory, and that the contractors be bonded.

Degnan favors some sort of certification, not only of the installer, but also of the distributor of the home. Younus, who said several other bills are being considered, wants to model any legislation on Maine’s law, which has a board consisting of representatives from all parties to regulate the entire industry.

Younus recognized that additional regulation will add to the cost of modular homes, and the homes’ low cost is one of the reason they are becoming competitive. “But if that cost results in a higher level of consumer satisfaction and efficiency, it would be worth it, as long as it is measured and reasonable,” he said. He said he was not overly concerned that it wouldn’t be.

The important thing, he said, is that those imposing any new regulations listen to industry input so that “there is a clear understanding on how the industry operates and what are the requirements of a smooth operation.”