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Official Opinion 2000-8

Official Opinion 2000-8

November 21, 2000
To: 

Commissioner

Department of Revenue

Re: 

Mobile homes, synonymously referred to as manufactured homes, are subject to the Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act and owners of manufactured homes are required to obtain a motor vehicle certificate of title.  Further, in order for liens or security interests in manufactured homes to be valid against subsequent creditors of the owner, subsequent transferees and subsequent holders of security interests and liens, the lien or security interest must be perfected in accordance with the Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act.

You have asked for my oinion regarding the requirement for owners of mobile homes, used synonymously in today’s vernacular with manufactured homes,[1] to obtain a motor vehicle certificate of title (“title certificate”).  Apparently some dealers of manufactured homes have taken the position that title certificates are not required for manufactured homes.[2]  The Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division, takes the position that title certificates are required and necessary for the recording of liens and security interest on manufactured homes. 

The Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act, O.C.G.A. §§ 40-3-1 to -95, (“Act”) requires the owner of a vehicle that is required to be registered in the State of Georgia to obtain a title certificate.  O.C.G.A. § 40-3-20.  Every owner of a motor vehicle and trailer in the State of Georgia is required to register the vehicle and obtain a license plate.  O.C.G.A. § 40-2-20.  “Motor vehicle” is defined as every vehicle that is self-propelled.  O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1 (31). [3]  "Trailer" is defined as a “vehicle with or without motive power, other than a pole trailer, designed for carrying persons or property and for being drawn by a motor vehicle and so constructed that no part of its weight rests upon the towing vehicle.”  O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1 (68).  It could be argued that a manufactured home fits into the definition of “trailer.”  The Act does not define either the term “mobile home” or “manufactured home.” [4]

However, the Act provides unambiguous evidence that the Georgia General Assembly intended for manufactured homes to obtain title certificates.  O.C.G.A. § 40-3-32.1 provides that:

In addition to any other requirements imposed by this chapter for the transfer of a certificate of title, the purchaser of a manufactured home shall submit an application for a transfer of title to the local tag agent in the county in which the manufactured home is to be installed, which application shall indicate the full serial number for such manufactured home and shall be accompanied by a certificate of the tax commissioner or tax collector of the county in which the manufactured home was previously installed, if different, stating that all ad valorem taxes assessed against such manufactured home have been paid.  No new certificate of title shall be issued for a manufactured home unless all ad valorem taxes on such home have been paid.

In that the Act is a recording statute with a primary purpose of perfecting and giving notice of security interests, it follows that the liens and security interests on manufactured homes must be perfected according to the requirements of the Act.  See Hallman v. State, 141 Ga. App. 527 (1977).  In fact, the Act explicitly states that “security interest in vehicles of the type for which a certificate of title is required” must be perfected in accordance with the Act to be valid against subsequent creditors of the owner, subsequent transferees, and the holders of subsequent security interests and liens.  O.C.G.A. § 40-3-50; Wooden v. Michigan Nat’l Bank, 117 Ga. App. 852, 853 (1968).

Further evidence that manufactured homes are required to obtain title certificates and that liens and security interests are to be perfected in accordance with the Act is provided by O.C.G.A. § 40-3-31.1 which states:

The commissioner or the commissioner's duly authorized county tag agent shall issue a new certificate of title to replace any certificate of title for a mobile home which was retired pursuant to the former provisions of Code Section 40-3-4, authorizing the retirement of the certificate of title for a mobile home which was declared real property by the tax commissioner or tax collector of the county in which such mobile home is located.  Any lienholder or security interest holder with an interest in such mobile home may make application to the commissioner or authorized county tag agent to have such interest recorded on the new certificate of title, and such lien or security interest shall relate back to the original date of creation without any lapse due to the retirement of such certificate of title.

Additionally, the requirement for manufactured homes to have a title certificate is not obliterated once the manufactured home is placed upon land.  See generally Griswell v. Columbus Finance Co., 220 Ga. App. 803 (1996); O.C.G.A. § 48-5-492; cf. Washington v. Washington, 837 F.2d 455, 456 (11th Cir. 1988) (“[A] mobile home may lose its character as a vehicle and become part of the land on which it is placed.  If such a transformation occurs, then a security interest in the [mobile] home may be perfected under Georgia real estate law.”)

Thus, it is my official opinion that mobile homes, synonymously referred to as manufactured homes, are subject to the Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act and owners of manufactured homes are required to obtain a motor vehicle certificate of title.  Further, in order for liens or security interests in manufactured homes to be valid against subsequent creditors of the owner, subsequent transferees and subsequent security interests and liens, the lien or security interest must be perfected in accordance with the Motor Vehicle Certificate of Title Act.

Prepared by:

Denise E. Whiting-Pack

Assistant Attorney General

 




[1]  Georgia case law appears to use the terms “mobile home” and “manufactured home” interchangeably.  See Cannon v. Coweta County, 260 Ga. 56 (1990); Greene County v. North Shore Resort, 238 Ga. App. 236 (1999); Boggs v. Madison County, No. A99A1940, 1999 Ga. App. Lexis 1405 (Oct. 28, 1999).

 

[2]   “[A] dealer who buys a vehicle and holds it for resale need not apply to the commissioner for a new certificate of title but may retain the certificate delivered to him.  . . .   [However] a dealer who is not a franchise dealer who acquires a vehicle for which the original certificate of title has not been issued and who holds such vehicle for resale shall . . . obtain a certificate of title in such dealer's name. . . .”  O.C.G.A. § 40-3-33.

 

[3]  The Act defines "motor home" as “every motor vehicle designed, used, or maintained primarily as a mobile dwelling, office, or commercial space.”  O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(31).  The Act defines “house trailer” as a trailer “designed, constructed, and equipped as a dwelling place or living abode (either permanently or temporarily) [that] is equipped for use as a conveyance on streets and highways . . . .”  O.C.G.A. § 40‑1‑1(20).  Neither of these definitions appears to be applicable to manufactured homes.

 

[4]  42 U.S.C. § 5402(6) defines a ''manufactured home'' as a structure, transportable in one or more sections, which, in the traveling mode, is eight body feet or more in width or forty body feet or more in length, or, when erected on site, is three hundred twenty or more square feet, and which is built on a permanent chassis and designed to be used as a dwelling with or without a permanent foundation when connected to the required utilities, and includes the plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical systems contained therein; . . . except that such term shall not include any self-propelled recreational vehicle.