Sector trends

Updating the Mobile Homes Act

What changes did this piece of legislation usher in – and has it been a help or a hindrance to the park homes sector?

What is it?

The Mobile Homes Act 2013 provides more protection to residential occupiers of mobile park homes and updates the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, which didn’t provide local authorities with the tools to ensure minimum standards were met.

The act introduced changes to the fees and penalties relating to site-licensing conditions and rules governing the sale and gifting of individual park homes.

Why was it introduced?

The act is designed to tackle the minority of park site owners who don’t run their sites well and allow conditions to deteriorate, as well as to prevent park home sale abuses, where site owners boost their own interests at the expense of individual homeowners.

Brian Doick MBE, president of the National Association of Park Home Residents (NAPHR), says: “Residents don’t own the land, and that’s a big problem. The landowner controlled what happened to people on the site. The legislation is designed to combat this.”

Most changes haven’t affected the majority of site owners who run their sites well and maintain them in line with the conditions set out in the act. Residents have benefited from more control and less potential interference in the process of selling or gifting mobile homes.

“The main aim was to tackle the issue of sale blocking,” says John Clements, partner at park and mobile home law specialists Turbervilles Solicitors. “A minority of park owners would make efforts to prevent people selling their homes on the site. The act removes park owners from most parts of the process.”

What changes have been made to licensing conditions?

Local authorities can withhold a site licence if they believe the applicant is not a suitable person and they have concerns they won’t be able to run the site properly.

If owners breach site licence conditions, local authorities can issue a compliance notice to the owner, identifying the breaches, informing the park owner of what needs to be done to correct them, how long they have to implement the changes, and how to appeal.

What’s the ‘fit and proper’ test?

The act allowed Parliament the option to introduce a ‘fit and proper person’ test for park owners and managers. However, this won’t apply immediately and will only be introduced as a definition in the act if it’s considered appropriate.

“If it’s defined rather than used as a guide, it’s easier to enact because it becomes a statute, an instrument of law,” says Doicke.

But there are potential problems with implementing any definition of a ‘fit and proper’ person. “It’s quite difficult to stop owners deciding how they use their land,” says Clements. “If they are banned, they could transfer the land to a different named person but continue running the site themselves.”

I think it’s tackling its main aim to stop sale blocking well. The park owner’s role in the sale process is now limited and there are fewer complaints

John Clements
Partner, Turbervilles Solicitors

What are the fees and penalties?

Local authorities now charge site owners an application fee for a site licence and an annual fee on top of that. How much needs to be paid depends on several factors and is decided by the local authority. If a fee is required, site owners must pay or they could face having their licence revoked.

Local authorities can also impose fines of £5,000 for non-compliance by site owners. If prosecuted three or more times, the owner’s licence can be revoked. Councils can also undertake remedial work if the owners refuse to do it themselves and charge them for it, plus any legal costs.

“The new act has strengthened the licensing regulations and fining system and allows local authorities to prosecute or issue an enforcement notice,” says Doicke.

But the legislation also aims to put in safeguards for site owners to ensure local authorities’ demands are ‘reasonable and proportionate’. If an owner is issued with a compliance notice, they can appeal.

How has the selling and gifting of mobile homes changed?

Sellers no longer need the permission of site owners to approve buyers of mobile homes on the site; they only need to inform park owners of the sale as swiftly as possible. There are strict rules for both sellers and buyers about the information with which they must provide each other and the park owner.

The act tackles the issue of ‘sale blocking’, whereby previously the park owner could try to persuade a potential buyer to purchase a new home outright from them, rather than a mobile home from an individual seller at the park.

“The act has improved the issue of sale blocking,” says Doicke. “Some park owners were interfering with this process by trying to sell the buyer a different home, perhaps more expensive, and one from which they don’t just receive commission but make a profit on the sale.”

Previous legislation allowed homes to be gifted, and the new act replicates this, allowing gifts to be made to members of the current owner’s family only. However, commission is now paid by the new buyer to the park owner rather than to the seller.

What has been the impact of the act?

“I think it’s tackling its main aim to stop sale blocking well. The park owner’s role in the sale process is now limited and they are more aware of what their responsibilities are,” says Clements. “There are fewer complaints, and anecdotal evidence suggests only a handful of cases have gone to the tribunal since 2013.”

But have there been other consequences?

“More of the burden of selling a home now falls on buyers and sellers,” explains Clements. “Previously, owners who got on well with site owners – most of whom are fair and competent – could ask these site owners to help with the administration. Now site owners are more reluctant to, pushing more of that burden on to individual buyers and sellers.”

However, from the residents’ point of view, there have been other benefits, too.

“It’s more difficult for site owners to simply evict tenants. They now have to go through the courts, usually a tribunal. This gives tenants more protection,” says Doicke.

Should there be a review of the act?

A review after four years has always been planned. The first part commenced in April 2017, but its conclusion was delayed by the general election in June. The second part is expected to start before the end of this year.

Doicke says: “The act has [done] a lot of good, but it could be improved. If local authorities impose the new rules, we’ll have a level playing field. I’d like to see everything go to one central body, with all the information in one place to make more informed decisions.”

The British Holiday & Home Parks Association (BH&HPA), the voluntary body for site owners, declined to comment on specific issues because it’s seeking feedback from site owners.

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