Tuesday, September 18, 2007

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Attorney General Abbott Enforces Industry-Wide Law Protecting Owners of Manufactured Homes

SAN ANTONIO – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today concluded a lengthy enforcement action against central Texas manufactured home retailers who sold homes without clear titles. Owners of repossessed manufactured homes across central Texas will finally receive clear titles to homes they purchased in good faith from the unlicensed, fraudulent retailers.

A second settlement in Travis County District Court will lead to industry-wide reforms by improving financing procedures for used or repossessed manufactured homes.

Media links
Buying Tips for Consumers (Provided by TDHCA)
Attorney General's settlement with Huizars, A&E Investments and Barosso
Attorney General's settlement with Bombardier Capital

Today’s agreed judgment with unlicensed retailers Andrew and Edward Huizar of the former A&E Investments in Bexar County concludes the defendants’ legal dispute with the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Another defendant in the scheme, David Barroso of Sweet Homes, who defaulted by failing to contest the judgment, surrendered his retailer’s license in January 2006 and fled to Nevada.

“Today’s judgment concludes our lengthy crackdown on an illegal scheme to defraud manufactured home purchasers,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Despite the defendants’ cynical scheme, affected homeowners will finally have clear title to their homes. The Office of the Attorney General will continue monitoring retailers to ensure full compliance with the law.”

Under the terms of today’s judgment, the owners of 59 manufactured homes will finally obtain clear titles to homes they purchased from the Huizars and Barroso. Another 20 homes were never delivered to homeowners who had given down payments or paid in full for the properties. When the sales occurred, the purchasers assumed they purchased homes with clear titles, which are known as Statements of Ownership and Location. Unbeknownst to the purchasers, the titles were clouded with back taxes and liens that required additional payments before clear titles could be issued. All encumbrances, including tax liens and unpaid lot rentals, should have been paid by the Huizars and Barroso. The would-be homeowners later learned about the defective titles when they discovered outstanding liens and unpaid taxes.

Many of the manufactured homes were repossessed by financing companies that previously sold those same homes to the defendants, who in turn sold them to consumers. Edward and a third brother, Luis Huizar Jr., were indicted for theft and misapplying fiduciary funds because of their transactions involving two of the undelivered homes. Complaints have also been filed with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office involving four other undelivered homes. The Attorney General is reviewing complaints involving 18 of the undelivered homes to determine if these also should be referred to the district attorney’s office for further criminal prosecution against Edward and Andrew Huizar and David Barroso.

Under the terms of today’s judgment, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs’ Manufactured Housing Division will issue Statements of Ownership and Location to qualified homeowners. This includes purchasers who paid any back taxes, or others who did not receive the statements as part of the ongoing negotiations. The judgment also finds that unpaid tax liabilities were fraudulently imposed on these consumers.

A second settlement, this one recently filed in Travis County District Court, prevents finance company Bombardier Capital Inc. from selling used or repossessed manufactured homes directly to consumers unless the sale complies with the Texas Manufactured Housing Standards Act. The settlement also bars sales through unlicensed retailers.

Instead of moving repossessed homes to bonded locations managed by licensed retailers, as required by law, Bombardier offered several manufactured homes for sale directly to consumers. Many homes were still on lots that belonged to previous homeowners, where they sat idle. Because Bombardier did not sell its repossessed homes through a licensed and bonded retailer, many homes were sold illegally in an uninhabitable condition. Many were burdened by thousands of dollars in overdue taxes and unpaid lot rents.

Bombardier set aside $133,500 to compensate the families it harmed. Additionally, it must publish notices about the restitution in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso and Rio Grande Valley newspapers.

The Attorney General urged prospective manufactured home buyers to consult with the Manufactured Housing Division of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs to ensure the homes are not encumbered by pre-existing liens or tax liabilities.

The Attorney General offered these tips for prospective manufactured home purchasers:

• The manufactured home retailer is always responsible for paying back tax liens;
• Retailers and salespeople must be licensed by the Manufactured Housing Division; always ask to see the retailers’ licenses before doing business with them;
• Always obtain a proof of purchase that included their retailer’s name, as well as the home’s label or serial number; verify that the home’s numbers match the proof of purchase.

Consumers may check with the Manufactured Housing Division to make sure their dealer is a licensed, reputable dealer who will submit an application for title on their behalf. The Statement of Ownership and Location issued by the division to a particular homeowner is the only instrument that represents a valid title.

Consumers may contact the Manufactured Housing Division’s customer service line toll-free at (800) 500-7074, or learn more about requirements for owning a manufactured home at www.tdhca.state.tx.us/mh/docs/mhtips.pdf.