COLUMBIA -- Mobile-home buyers should have more time to recover their homes if they default on their loan, says a Bamberg County representative. But a bill to grant them a measure of protection drew protests from the banking community and prompted House lawmakers to postpone any action until next month.
"The intent of this legislation is for people who have worked hard to actually own a home, be it a brick home or manufactured home, to allow them to have some protection," said Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, the sponsor of H. 3846.
"This is not about abandoned homes. This is not about blight in the community. This is about home owners," said the Democrat, noting that it was "insulting" to equate repossession of a manufactured home to that of a vehicle.
"I can tell by the quality of the suits we have some good quality bankers back there. I hope we don't lose sight of what we're talking about today," he added.
Sellers' bill would require lenders to send various correspondence to the debtor and the occupant and force the lender to obtain a court order in order to repossess the home.
But Neil Rashley, senior vice president of the S.C. Bankers Association, warned the additional measures would end up costing manufactured-home seekers more and drag out the process.
"Lenders must price their risk on the front end of the loan," he said.
Allen Hutto, general counsel for the Manufactured Housing Institute of South Carolina, and Ken Drachman, representing Charleston-based First Federal bank, also objected to the bill. Drachman said First Federal sends a letter and makes a phone call to the debtor before the manufactured home is repossessed.
Sellers' bill calls for also notifying the occupant of the home, regardless of whether that person is the owner who had fallen behind on payments.
Rashley and Drachman both questioned the need for the changes that Sellers was pushing.
"What is the actual empirical data? We know South Carolina has a high unemployment rate," he said. "Has there been a dramatic increase of repossession? If so, what is driving it?"
Sarita Chourey can be reached at (803) 727-4257 or firstname.lastname@example.org.