- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - The Nevada agency that ensures mobile homes are safe has been collecting Social Security numbers even though it’s not allowed to, and hasn’t been encrypting them or taking other precautions against hackers and thieves, according to state auditors.

An audit of Nevada’s Manufactured Housing Division found more than 2,000 Social Security numbers and names were unsecured on the agency’s network, while even more numbers were kept in hardcopy files and about 200 files of unencrypted personal information were being kept on staff computer hard drives. Auditors say one program within the division is legally authorized to collect some sensitive information, but others are not.

Collecting the information and storing it haphazardly “puts the division at risk of losing sensitive data,” the audit said. “If that were to occur, the division may have to make time-consuming and expensive notifications to affected persons.”

Officials with the agency told a legislative panel Nov. 19 that they were about 25 percent through the task of removing the information from their system, and have changed application forms to avoid over-collecting data. Applications for a state program that subsidizes mobile home park rent no longer requests a copy of Social Security cards, according to division chief Jim DeProsse.

The Manufactured Housing Division is in charge of regulating the state’s nearly 80,000 manufactured structures, which include mobile homes, trailers and portables. It inspects the structures for safety, maintains records of ownership and liens, investigates complaints between landlords and tenants at mobile home parks and administers the rent subsidy program.

The agency has 13 employees and annual revenue of $1.5 million, mostly from user fees.

Weak data protection wasn’t the only problem auditors identified with the division. They also found that the agency often doesn’t follow up after a mobile home flunks a state inspection.

The division sells permits to people who want to do major repairs or remodels on manufactured structures, and the agency is supposed to inspect the work when it’s done to make sure it meets basic health and safety standards. But auditors said the state doesn’t follow up after selling the permits and leaves it up to the permit holders to schedule an inspection - something that never happened in nearly 300 cases, or 11 percent, in 2014.

The audit found that among a sampling of cases that failed an initial inspection, 58 percent were never re-inspected. It recommended the agency shore up its monitoring processes to ensure inspections happen, and not rely solely on the permit holders to take initiative and schedule an evaluation.

“Without a monitoring process, unsafe conditions may go unnoticed and occupants harmed as a result,” auditors wrote.

DeProsse said his agency is developing and implementing policies to ensure it follows up on all permits it issues.

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