The following questions were submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," runs in the Champaign News Gazette.
I bought a mobile home years ago. I paid in full, but never got a title from the seller. I’d now like to sell the mobile home, but nobody will buy it without a title. How can I get a title? The person who sold it to me can’t be found.
Follow the Secretary of State’s “bond for title” procedures. You complete some paperwork, give them a bond, and they give you a title. After 3 years, if nobody shows up claiming the mobile home was theirs, you get the bond back.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work, in theory. Even in theory, the process isn’t quick, easy, or cheap. But it’s the only way to get title if a transfer from the original seller is missing.
Mobile homes are classified as motor vehicles under Illinois law. Therefore, just like cars, mobile homes have certificates of title. When a mobile home is sold, its title is supposed to be transferred, just like in a car sale.
By providing legal proof of ownership, certificates of title make it hard for thieves to sell certain kinds of valuable and mobile personal property. In Illinois, cars, boats, and planes have official paper titles. Most personal property doesn’t. Usually, to prove you own something, you just need physical possession, along with some evidence about how you acquired it.
When an item’s paper title is missing, it can be replaced through the “bond for title” process. The bond money protects the original owner if they re-appear and prove that title to their property has been transferred to somebody else.
The process has 5 basic steps. It applies to any motor vehicle—both cars and mobile homes.
First, the Secretary of State wants some proof of purchase. If you don’t have a bill of sale, receipt, or cancelled check, they’ll accept a notarized statement “explaining how you came into possession of the vehicle.”
Second, you need a written appraisal of the mobile home’s value. That’s needed for step three—a bond for 150% of the appraised value. If you can’t find a bond in the form of insurance, they’ll take cash in the full amount.
Step four is an application for title, and the $95 fee.
The fifth and final step is proof that the mobile home “use tax” has been paid. You get that from the county collector.
The Secretary of State can then issue you a title to the mobile home. They hold the bond for 3 years, to see if anyone shows up claiming the mobile home is theirs. If someone does, and proves it, they’re paid the value of the mobile home out of the bond. They don’t get the mobile home, though. The title you get through this process makes you the legal owner.
If nobody shows up in 3 years, you then get your bond back.
A fact sheet, “Titles Obtained by Bond,” explains the process in more detail. It’s on the Secretary of State’s web site. You can also call them at (217) 785-9796.