THE OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE NCC (Issue 52 Autumn 2015) By John Clement, Partner at IBB Solicitors and specialist in park h…
Park home living often provides a hassle-free and enjoyable lifestyle to the older generation – indeed an increasing number of homes are now designed to cater for those who are elderly or retired. Sadly, an inevitable result of this is that park owners are often faced with the situation where an occupier dies. Apart from dealing with distress of the relatives of the former occupier, confusion over the legal implications can often arise for the park owner.
It’s important to be aware that the agreement between the late occupier and the park owner on a residential park will not come to an end just because the occupier has died. The law states that the agreement, and the rights and responsibilities that both parties have under it, will continue.
Park owners will also need to consider whether someone was living in the park home with the late occupier at the time of their death. If the deceased occupier had a spouse, civil partner or other member of their family living with them when they died, that person will automatically take over all of the late occupier’s rights and responsibilities under the agreement.
This means that they will be allowed to continue living in the park home, or to sell or gift it, but it also means that they must pay the pitch fees and other charges due under the agreement, and must keep the home maintained in a good condition. A “family member” includes a spouse, civil partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece, and includes halfand step-relatives. Someone who was living in the home with the deceased occupier at the time of their death but who is not a family member (such as a friend or carer) will not inherit any rights under the agreement.
However, the agreement will not pass to a person living with the deceased occupier who was not a family member.
If there was no family member living with the deceased occupier when they died, then the person who is legally entitled to inherit the park home under their will, or under the intestacy rules if there was no will, will take over the late occupier’s rights and responsibilities under the agreement.
Although they can sell or gift the home, the main difference is that they have no right to live in the home. Usually the beneficiaries or the late occupier’s executors will arrange to sell the park home to raise money for the deceased person’s estate.
An added complication can arise where the late occupier leaves the park home to someone in their will, but another family member is living in the home with the occupier at the time of their death. This means that the family member will inherit the occupation rights, but the ownership of the home will pass under the will to the named beneficiary. This creates a problem, because although the family member living in the home can continue to live there under the agreement, they will be unable to sell or gift the home to anyone because they do not own it, and therefore have no right to dispose of it.
Similarly, although the beneficiary under the will becomes the legal owner of the home, they cannot sell it on site because the occupation agreement has passed to the person living in the home. It would also be difficult for the beneficiary to force that person to move out of the home. In such a situation, it is important for both sides to take a pragmatic approach in order to try to reach a sensible compromise and to avoid a potentially expensive and acrimonious dispute.