Cooper's Mobile Homes, Inc. v. Simmons

Decision Date25 September 1980
Docket NumberNo. 46337,46337
Citation617 P.2d 415,94 Wn.2d 321
PartiesCOOPER'S MOBILE HOMES, INC., a Washington Corporation, Respondent, v. Dorothy Marie SIMMONS, and John Doe Simmons, husband and wife, Appellants.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Davis, Arneil, Dorsey, Kight & Parlette, Jay A. Johnson, Wenatchee, for appellants.

Jeffers, Danielson & Foreman, P. S., James M. Danielson, Wenatchee, for respondent.

Slade Gorton, Atty. Gen., Thomas L. Boeder, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Victoria Vreeland, Seattle, amicus curiae.

BRACHTENBACH, Justice.

A mobile home dealer brought suit against a husband and wife for damages due to breach of a contract to buy a mobile home. The defendants counterclaimed for a violation of the Consumer Protection Act and breach of contract. Judgment was entered for the plaintiff dealer on a jury verdict. This appeal, which was certified by the Court of Appeals, Division Three, raises two issues:

(1) Must both spouses join to transfer ownership interest in the couple's community property mobile home?

(2) Should the question of whether or not Cooper's violated the Consumer Protection Act have been submitted to the jury?

We hold that participation of both spouses is not necessary to transfer ownership interest in a community property mobile home where the title certificate is only in one spouse's name and that under the facts of this case the trial court correctly ruled that no claim for relief under the Consumer Protection Act should have been submitted to the jury.

Mr. and Mrs. Simmons had lived since 1970 in a small 1969 Concord mobile home purchased with community property funds. They lived in the home in a mobile home park, where they rented a lot on a month-to-month tenancy. Title to the mobile home had originally been in Mr. Simmons' name. However, several years before the activities in issue here, title had been transferred to Mrs. Simmons. Mr. Simmons testified at trial that this action had been taken on the advice of the family physician, who advised him that the transfer would help Mrs. Simmons feel more secure and alleviate emotional problems. Mr. Simmons testified that he did not intend the title change to effect a gift of the home to Mrs. Simmons as her separate property and that he agreed to the transfer because he knew that the home would remain community property regardless of which spouse's name it was in.

In January 1977, Mr. Simmons contacted Cooper's and requested information regarding a trade-in of their home for a larger new mobile home. Both Mr. and Mrs. Simmons visited Cooper's individually on several occasions. On January 29, 1977, Mrs. Simmons went to Cooper's, without her spouse's knowledge or consent, signed several documents regarding purchase of a new mobile home, including a title certificate in her name to the Concord which she signed over as down payment on a new mobile home. A salesman of Cooper's in response to Mrs. Simmons' question, told her that her signature alone was sufficient to transfer title to the mobile home.

Later in the day, upon being told by his wife of the transaction, Mr. Simmons violently objected to the agreement and transfer of their mobile home and informed his wife that he would not go along with the deal and that it therefore had to be rescinded. Mrs. Simmons then informed Cooper's of her husband's objections and began a long series of efforts to cancel the agreement. The transaction was never performed and Cooper's later sold to another buyer the new mobile home originally contracted for by Mrs. Simmons. The Simmons have subsequently divorced and Mrs. Simmons alone brings this appeal.

As a defense to Cooper's action, Mrs. Simmons argues that her spouse's joinder was necessary to transfer ownership in their community property mobile home, used by them as a dwelling in a mobile home park, because the home must be characterized as either real property or household goods. RCW 26.16.030. In addition, Mrs. Simmons asserts a counterclaim under the Consumer Protection Act.

I. JOINDER IN TRANSFER OF COMMUNITY MOBILE HOME

As a general rule, spouses have equal management power over community property and can individually dispose of it just as they can transfer their own separate property. RCW 26.16.030. However, exceptions to that general rule require the joinder of both spouses in the transfer and, in some cases, acquisition of certain types of property. RCW 26.16.030. The wife asserts that her husband's failure to join in the transfer of their mobile home voids this transaction.

RCW 46.12.290 states that the provisions for vehicle certificates of ownership, RCW 46.12, shall apply to the transfer of mobile homes, which must therefore be issued certificates of title much like those issued for motor vehicles. Under RCW 46.12.101, transfer of ownership in a motor vehicle is "perfected" by execution of an assignment to the transferee by the owner. "(T)he name and address of the registered owner and legal owner" must appear on the face of the certificate. RCW 46.12.050. Cooper's therefore asserts a right to rely on Mrs. Simmons' ownership as set out on the certificate in her name signed over by her.

The transfer of the mobile home was executed in compliance with the statute. If Cooper's is a bona fide purchaser for value, of course, it takes title to the mobile home free of any interest that was not represented on the title certificate. Merchants Rating & Adjusting Co. v. Skaug, 4 Wash.2d 46, 102 P.2d 227 (1940). But we need not decide whether Cooper's was a bona fide purchaser because, under the community property statutes, the wife had full power to transfer the community interest in the mobile home.

Mrs. Simmons asserts that the general provision of RCW 26.16.030, which gives each spouse equal management authority over community property, does not apply because the mobile home is either real property or a household good, requiring the joinder of both spouses to transfer ownership under RCW 26.16.030(3), (5).

Although there are situations where a mobile home which is attached to land is treated as a part of the real estate, RCW 84.04.090, State v. Work, 75 Wash.2d 204, 449 P.2d 806 (1969); Pedrini v. Mid-City Trailer Depot, Inc., 1 Wash.App 56, 60, 459 P.2d 76 (1969), this treatment only pertains where the law is primarily directed to the land underneath the mobile home. In this case, the Simmons did not own the land, and the mobile home was to be moved off the land when sold. The mobile home therefore cannot be characterized as real property for the purpose of joinder under RCW 26.16.030(3). If a mobile home is to be sold along with the real estate to which it is attached, the requirement of joinder in the sale of community real property will adequately protect an unwilling spouse.

As to household goods, RCW 26.16.030(5) provides:

Neither spouse shall create a security interest . . . or sell, community household goods, furnishings, or appliances unless the other spouse joins in executing the security agreement or bill of sale, if any.

We have not yet had the opportunity to consider the types of goods included in this description; nor do any reported decisions in this state define the term or the joinder necessary to divest community interest. No comparable provision in another community property state provides an appropriate analogy.

Mrs. Simmons urges this court to adopt an interpretation of RCW 26.16.030(5) that would include a mobile home used as the principal residence, the "household itself," within the goods joinder requirement. This would seem to be consistent with the spirit of the provision. The legislature apparently intended to ensure that items necessary to the family home would only be disposable with mutual consent. It seems quite inconsistent that Mrs. Simmons alone should be able to transfer the home itself when she did not have the power to sell the bed and refrigerator inside.

The only manner in which RCW 26.16.030(5) can require joinder of the spouse in this case is if a mobile home is included within the statutory phrase "household goods."

No case has been cited nor have we found any which would define "household goods" broadly enough to include a mobile home. The general definition of the phrase is that which is of a permanent nature, i. e., not consumed in use, which is used by a person for his house. Smith v. Findley, 34 Kan. 316, 8 P. 871 (1885); Marquam v. Sengfelder, 24 Or. 2, 32 P. 676 (1893). Alternatively, household goods are those articles with which a residence is equipped, other than fixtures. Kramer v. Beebe, 186 Ind. 349, 115 N.E. 83 (1917). "The term 'household goods' . . . includes everything about the house that is usually held and enjoyed therewith . . ." Lawwill v. Lawwill, 21 Ariz.App. 75, 515 P.2d 900, 903 (1973) (Italics ours).

There simply is not authority or room for rational, reasonable interpretation to hold that mobile homes are household goods.

In addition, the legislature has established a title certificate system for the protection of owners of mobile homes. The interests of spouses can be adequately protected by adding the second spouse's name to the title certificate. To hold that a mobile home can be a household good under RCW 26.16.030(5) would seriously interfere with the protection afforded to transferees under the title certificate system. At the least, the statutes should be coordinated. The legislature cannot have intended such a disruptive anomaly within that system.

Although we feel that Mr. Simmons deserves the same protections under the community property statutes as that received by spouses who live in conventional houses, this change in the law must come from the legislature. We cannot view the suggested interpretation as conforming to the intent of the legislature under the existing statutes because this would be inconsistent with other important statutory objectives.

It is true that we should not so interpret a statute as to reach an...

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  • State v. Rice
    • United States
    • Washington Supreme Court
    • 9 Junio 1988
    ...on his theory of the case only if there is substantial evidence in the record to support that theory. Cooper's Mobile Homes, Inc. v. Simmons, 94 Wash.2d 321, 327, 617 P.2d 415 (1980); State v. Quinn, 43 Wash.App. 696, 704, 719 P.2d 936, review denied, 105 Wash.2d 1020 (1986). Because this s......
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