Construction and Installation of Manufactured Homes in Washington State

The Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) has no authority to develop, amend, or adopt standards pertaining to the construction and installation of manufactured homes in Washington State.

A manufactured home is a single-family dwelling built in a factory in accordance with construction and safety standards adopted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 (the Standards Act). A manufactured home includes plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and electrical systems, and it is built on a permanent chassis. It can be transported to and installed on a permanent foundation.

According to the Washington State Legislature, the Standards Act “is a national preemptive building code.” It includes an express preemption clause at 42 U.S.C. § 5403(d), providing that “whenever a federal manufactured home construction and safety standard established under the Standards Act is in effect, no State or political subdivision of a state shall have any authority either to establish, or to continue in effect, with respect to any manufactured home covered, any standard regarding the construction or safety applicable to the same aspect of performance of such manufactured home which is not identical to the Federal manufactured home construction and safety standard.” The Standards Act permits states, however, to establish their own standards for the stabilizing and support systems and of manufactured homes sited within the state, and for the foundations on which the homes are installed.

 As directed by the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, HUD has established manufactured home construction and safety standards, which are set forth in Title 24, Part 3280 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Those regulations govern “all equipment and installations in the design, construction, transportation, fire safety, plumbing, heat-producing and electrical systems of manufactured homes.” Each one of these standards preempts state standards regulating the same aspect of a manufactured home.

 In Washington State, the state agency authorized to establish state standards for the alteration and installation of manufactured homes is the Department of Labor and Industries (LNI). According to LNI’s rules in WAC 296-150M-0020, “alteration” is the replacement, addition, modification, or removal of any equipment or installation that affects the construction, planning considerations, fire safety, or the plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems of a manufactured home. “Installation” is the activity needed to prepare a building site and set a manufactured home within that site. The authority to enforce the regulations is split between LNI and local building inspectors: LNI establishes standards for manufactured home installation and alterations and performs alteration inspections, and local jurisdictions establish standards for manufactured homes governing the building site and perform installation inspections. .

 Under the preemptive framework established by the Standards Act and state law, only HUD and LNI have the authority to adopt standards governing the construction and safety of manufactured homes. Most importantly, HUD’s national standards and LNI’s alteration standards do not adopt ICC model building code standards or the SBCC’s statewide amendments to those standards. (There is one exception to this: Under WAC 296-150M-0306(8), LNI requires that carbon monoxide alarms must be installed in manufactured homes in accordance with RCW 19.27.530 adopted by the SBCC.)

This opinion is only related to the State Building Code Council’s authority to develop, amend, and adopt building code standards pertaining to the construction and installation of manufactured homes in Washington State. The council offers no opinion regarding local jurisdictions’ power to regulate manufactured homes under RCW 35.21.684, RCW 35A.21.312, and RCW 36.01.225.