AUSTIN-Consumers Union has made several recommendations that it says would improve the manufactured home industry in Texas. The recommendations include a charge to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) that it become more aggressive in its role as the state’s regulator of the industry.

The report says the manufactured housing industry has greatly improved in the past 30 years, but that its image remains tarnished in the eyes of consumers. “Manufacturers will need to assume greater responsibility for the final product and regulators need to be much more responsive to consumers,” said Kevin Jewell, a Consumers Union policy associate and author of the report.

The report says that the TDHCA should provide more relevant information to consumers, investigate all complaints and develop a clear sense of purpose as a consumer protection agency. The agency responds that it has made several changes, including making it easier to file complaints, since the report’s information was compiled.

Consumers Union’s other recommendations address the industry itself. The group says all manufactured homes should be inspected. Currently, random inspections check 25% of the homes. The final payment for a home should be held in escrow until installation and warranty repairs are complete and verified by a third party. An extended split warranty system should be implemented that would provide general protection for the first year and a structural warranty for five years that would cover troubles not found in the first year.

The Consumers Union report comes as the Texas manufactured home industry suffers through another year of dwindling sales. New home sales were off 33% through the first 10 months of 2002 compared to the same period in 2001, according to the Texas Manufactured Housing Association. Sales dropped from 41,521 in 1998 to 23,335 in 2001.

The industry blames the declining sales on the slow economy and changes to the state’s Manufactured Housing Standards Act that limited the use of personal property loans in buying manufactured houses.

Consumers Union, in a survey of homebuyers, found that 33% were more dissatisfied than satisfied with their home, including 17% who were completely dissatisfied. About 79% said they had had problems. The top six problems were with: doors and windows (40%), plumbing (32%), walls (27%), roof (18%), floor coverings (14%) and floor structures (8%).

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