Recent changes to the Mobile Homes Act 2013, which came into force on 26th May 2013, aim to improve both standards in the industry and give greater protection to mobile/park home residents.
Approximately 160,000 people in the UK live in mobile homes across the UK and more than 68% of residents are over 60, according to data held by the Communities and Local Government Committee.
Stephanie Whitchurch, a solicitor at Tallents in Newark, looks at how the changes may affect residents and site owners.
In June 2012, the Select Committee published a report on the Park Homes sector which highlighted an urgent need to protect residents and their assets.
Approximately 84,000 mobile/park homes are situated on 2,000 sites across England and many of those sites are privately owned. Although many residents are not tenants and own the mobile home they reside in, they still pay a pitch fee to the site owner, who not only owns the land but also sets the pitch rules, charges and regulations for the site too.
According to the report by the Select Committee, the previous legislation did not go far enough to protect the residents’ rights. Issues identified included site owners blocking the sale or gift of a home by withholding approval of the buyer or recipient and issues with maintenance, security and safety standards.
As a result of the report, the Government decided to make key changes to the Mobile Homes Act 2013, including:
Improving site rules – all existing site rules are an express term of the pitch agreement between the site owner and the mobile home occupier. This applies to existing agreements and those coming into force after 26th May 2013. However, if there are no pitch agreements currently in place, then the legislation does not require site owners to have site rules.
Removal of site owner consent to a sale or gift of a mobile home
- – For new pitch agreements made or assigned after 26 May 2013, site owners can no longer ‘block’ a sale or gift. Buyers must serve notice of assignment of the pitch agreement on the site owner once the sale has taken place.
- – Under existing pitch agreements, sellers must complete a buyer’s information form to give to the buyer and both buyer and seller must give notice of the proposed sale to the site owner. Site owners can still object to the proposed sale or gift by serving a refusal notice and applying to the Residential Property Tribunal for a ruling.
- – Where a sale takes place, site owners are entitled to receive a commission from the transaction, but not if the property is gifted to a proven family member.
Changes to pitch fees
- – for increased pitch fees to be valid, site owners must now provide an explanatory document setting out how the new fees have been calculated. Otherwise the pitch fee review notice will be invalid and the resident could apply to the Residential Tribunal for a refund of overpaid monies.
Penalties for harassment by site owners
- – these will apply if the site owner withdraws or withholds any services or facilities that are required for the resident to reasonably live in the mobile home (i.e. such as cutting off electricity or water).
This legislation goes much further in protecting the rights of mobile/park home residents and setting out clearer regulations for site owners. It also provides for the completion of prescribed documents at different stages of the relationship between residents and owners, in particular upon sale.
This may mean that more buyers and sellers of mobile homes require assistance with the process. Our experienced solicitors are here to help and advise should anyone wish to sell/gift or buy a mobile home, or if site owners require any help with understanding the changes in the legislation.