2010-05-06 / Local & State

Building Code Official Warns Against FEMA Trailers

Discovers FEMA surplus manufactured housing units not acceptable for installation in PA
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Local building code official R. Clem Malot warns public and buyer beware when considering purchase of a surplus FEMA manufactured housing unit. Citing two recent cases of these manufactured housing units being installed in south-central Pennsylvania, Malot warns that most all of the units that FEMA is selling locally do not meet the minimum standards for manufactured housing when brought into the state. According to records these units are mostly all Hurricane Katrina excess housing that is no longer needed by FEMA. It appears that most, if not all, of the units presently offered for sale were built for Climate Zone 2. Since Pennsylvania is entirely in Climate Zone 3 the units are not (by design) acceptable by state minimum standards. Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia are also in Climate Zone 3, says Malot. Hundreds of these units have been discovered sitting in Cumberland, Md., awaiting sale into the local market or nearby states. It is Malot’s understanding that FEMA is surplusing these units as “scrap” or “repairable.” A play on words, he says, to relieve the government of any end-use responsibility for the units once sold.

“It escapes me as to why the federal government even brings these units into the Northeast to store and surplus them when they are not acceptable by their own standards for such use. It is another case of our government cutting deals and bullying ahead without regard for the general welfare of those it is supposed to be protecting,” he goes on to say. “It is unconscionable to say the least. One of the homes we discovered is owned by an elderly lady who put up a significant amount of her savings and bought one of these units from a reseller in Pennsylvania. The profiteer sold her a unit with no indication on the title that it was a surplus FEMA trailer not for installation in Pennsylvania. This goes beyond a shame and looks a lot like backroom politics and irresponsible government management to me”, says Malot.

The building code official also notes that it is well documented that most, if not all, of the units are sold by the government as “scrap” or “repairable” but not for habitation. Be cautious, however, he warns, as the Pennsylvania titles do not necessarily reflect this issue. A multitude of complaints that many of the units have formaldehyde contamination and quite possibly mold or other health-related issues have been discovered, Malot says. He said his attempts to speak with someone in the sales process who cares fell on deaf ears. His office has begun enforcement actions for the units that were discovered to be improperly located in Pennsylvania.

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