Ellis v. Board of Assessors of Acushnet

Decision Date30 December 1970
Citation358 Mass. 473,265 N.E.2d 491
PartiesRichard H. ELLIS et al. v. BOARD OF ASSESSORS OF ACUSHNET.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court

Gerald Franklin, New Bedford, Harold Hurwitz, New Bedford, with him for appellants.

Ferdinand B. Sowa, New Bedford, for appellee.

Before TAURO, C.J., and SPALDING, KIRK, REARDON and QUIRICO, JJ.

TAURO, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from a decision of the Appellate Tax Board classifying the appellants' dwelling as real estate under G.L. c. 59, § 3.

The appellants (Ellis) own a parcel of land in the town of Acushnet which is licensed and operated as a mobile home park pursuant to G.L. c. 140, § 32B, as amended. On March 13, 1967, the appellants purchased from the manufacturer, Gibraltar Industries, Inc. of Baltimore, Maryland, the factory built prefabricated home that the appellants occupy as a permanent dwelling at the mobile home park. The completely fabricated structure was shipped over the road from Baltimore to the appellants' parcel of land on the vendor's axle and wheels with the 'I' beams serving as a chassis. The appellants were charged $860.45 'over the road fees which included freight tolls, flag fees and setup charges.'

The issue is whether this dwelling on the appellants' land is a 'mobile home' within the meaning of G.L. c. 140, § 32L, subject to a license fee under G.L. c. 140, § 32G, and free from peoperty tax as provided in G.L. c. 59, § 5, Thirty-sixth, or whether the dwelling constitutes 'real estate' within the meaning of G.L. c. 59, § 3, and subject to property taxation under G.L. c. 59, § 38.

We summarize the facts as found by the Appellate Tax Board from the evidence which includes building specifications and photographs of the dwelling. The dwelling is described as 'a structure approximately 60 feet long by 24 feet wide containing 3 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dining room, utility room, stairwell to cellar and one and a half baths. There are four doorways, about 14 windows, a vent flue pipe and a chimney on the roof. The exterior is of bonded aluminum siding with aluminum storm windows, doors and window shutters. The exterior pitched roof has asphalt windseal shingles with full gutters and rainspouts. The interior roof is a 3/8 plywood sub-ceiling with a 1/2 acoustical tile ceiling underlined with 2 fiberglass insulation. The walls are supported by 2 by 4 studs with hardwood interior paneling and fiberglass insulation. All of the plumbing, sanitary and electrical facilities are factory installed. This home is resting on, and its frame is solidly attached to, a 10 poured concrete foundation with a full cellar. The base frame is manufactured with supporting metal 'I' beams running across as well as the length of the home. The cellar contains an oil fired hot water heating furnace and separate 275 gallon oil storage tank. There are no wheels, axle, or hitching post attached to this home nor were these items ever purchased by the appellants. The appellants use and occupy the premises as their year round dwelling.'

The Appellate Tax Board found that 'in almost every practical respect concerning the design, architecture, size, accommodations, durability, permanence, character, and use, the structure looks like and serves the purpose of a conventional home * * *.' For purposes of tax classification, the board finds, 'in so far as it is a question of fact, that this home is identical to any other conventional home which is classified as real estate under G.L. c. 59, § 3, and taxed pursuant to G.L. c. 59, § 38.'

The Appellate Tax Board stated, 'Although G.L. c. 140, §§ 32F and 32L, defines the meaning of a mobile park and a mobile home, a literal reading of these statutes does not foreclose the issue of taxation in every instance.' We agree.

The law is well settled that land and buildings erected thereon or affixed thereto are properly taxed as a unit and this rule is not affected by private agreements or by the degree of physical attachment to the land. Franklin v. Metcalfe, 307 Mass. 386, 389, 30 N.E.2d 262, and cases cited.

The initial exemption of certain classes of movable dwellings from the real estate tax came about through St.1952, c. 583, §§ 1 and 2. Section 1, amending G.L. c. 140, § 32G, subjected a 'trailer coach' to a license fee but exempted it from a property tax. Section 2 added clause thirty-sixth to c. 59, § 5, exempting trailer coaches subject to the license fee from the local property tax. The constitutionality of these statutes was upheld in Wright v. Peabody, 331 Mass. 161, 165, 118 N.E.2d 68, 71. In that case this court said, 'It clearly was the purpose of the Legislature to stop what it regarded as unfairness and abuses arising out of the arbitrary classification of all trailer coaches in trailer coach parks as real estate.' In this connection the Appellate Tax Board stated that 'Based on specific facts concerning the type of 'trailer coaches' as described and applicable to the Wright case and the legislative intent regarding taxation at the time of this decision, it is clear to this board that the facts and the ruling of the court in the Wright case do not apply to the facts and law applicable to the instant case. The reason for the distinction is the essential change in the concept and structure of a 'trailer coach' and a 'mobile home'...

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    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts Supreme Court
    • September 8, 2021
    ...constitutionality of a statute should be sustained in absence of evidence clearly to the contrary." See Ellis v. Assessors of Acushnet, 358 Mass. 473, 477–478, 265 N.E.2d 491 (1970). This rule reflects appropriate judicial respect for actions taken by the elected representatives of the peop......
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    ...may be viewed as comparable to the distinction between the travel trailer and the modern mobile home. See Ellis v. Board of Assessors, 358 Mass. 473, 475, 265 N.E.2d 491, 493 (1970): "(T)he travel trailer and mobile home have become two different products." It is interesting to note that in......
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