Five reasons to use a solicitor when buying a residential park home

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We are frequently asked by prospective buyers of residential park homes whether they should instruct a solicitor on their purchase. Our answer is always the same: although there is no obligation to do so, many buyers prefer to use a solicitor for the convenience, peace of mind and protection that it provides. In this article we share examples, inspired by true stories, of things that can go wrong and offer tips for a smooth transaction.

1. The seller said I don’t need a solicitor as I’m not buying a bricks and mortar home.

Even though a residential park home may not be a home in the traditional sense, it is a high value asset and you shouldn’t skimp on the due diligence. A solicitor with knowledge of the park and holiday homes sector will know what potential problems to look out for and can bring these to your attention before completion, while there is still time to negotiate or walk away. Also, a solicitor who acts for you has a professional duty to act in your best interest. A seller owes you no such duty. You should therefore be suspicious of a seller (or any other interested party) who pressures you not to take legal advice on your purchase.

2. I thought I bought a residential home but have just been told by the park owner that it’s for holiday use only and I am not allowed to stay there year round.

This is a distressing and potentially costly situation which is easily avoided by carrying out checks on the seller, park owner and key documentation prior to purchase. A caravan park, whether for residential, holiday or mixed use, cannot operate without a licence from the local authority. Even if the park does have a licence that permits residential occupation, it is still possible for a park owner to have an agreement with an occupier that only permits holiday occupation. A holiday occupier does not benefit from the statutory protection of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended) against eviction and unreasonable pitch fee increases which is available to residential occupiers. If you instruct a solicitor, they will review all of the key documents and can alert you to any issues of concern, such as the park not being licensed or terms relating to holiday periods in the agreement or rules.

3. I bought a mobile home from a family member of an occupier who died. I have just been contacted by another member of their family who says that she owns the mobile home and wants to sell it.

If you are buying a pre-owned home, the occupation agreement will need to be assigned to you from the previous occupier/seller according to a standard procedure. Only the person or people named on the occupation agreement (or someone legally authorised to act on their behalf such as an executor or personal representative) has the legal right to do this. If the person who assigned the agreement did not have the authority to do so, the assignment may be invalid and unenforceable. If the seller did not own the mobile home, because it was left to someone else in the Will or for some other reason, then they will not have good title and cannot sell it. In this case you could face a costly dispute over ownership and occupation rights and might end up with neither. A solicitor will check that the proposed seller has the authority to sell the home and will ensure that the documents effecting the transfer of the occupation agreement are correctly filled in.

4. I moved into a mobile home with my two dogs and have been informed by the park owner that only one dog is allowed. I’ve now been told that I am in breach of my agreement and will either have to get rid of one of my dogs, or leave.

Many parks have minimum age requirements and rules regarding the type and number of pets and/or vehicles allowed on site. These rules form part of the occupation agreement and a breach could lead to termination and potential eviction. If you instruct a solicitor, they will review the terms of the agreement and rules to make sure that these will suit you and your pets, if any. They can also liaise with the seller in relation to any specific questions you have about the home, agreement or site and will help keep the process moving forward.

5. I recently purchased a pre-owned mobile home and have just been told by the park owner that I owe him 10% of the purchase price. Isn’t the seller responsible for paying the commission?

When you buy a pre-owned residential mobile home on a park, you will pay 90% of the purchase price to the seller on completion and retain 10% of the purchase price to be paid to the park owner after completion. You should never pay all the purchase monies to the seller up front, even if they promise to pay the commission to the park owner on your behalf. If the seller reneges, you will still be on the hook for the ten percent. If you refuse to pay, you will be in breach of your agreement and the park owner can apply to the court for termination and you could be evicted. Another benefit of instructing a solicitor is that they will ensure that the correct amount of money is safely and securely transferred to the correct party at the appropriate time.

Whether or not you use a solicitor – and the choice is entirely yours – don’t be pressured into completing on a purchase if you have doubts. Getting out of a bad agreement after completion will be far more difficult and expensive than walking away from a proposed purchase that feels wrong. And don’t be afraid to walk away – with some 2000 sites in England alone, your ideal home is out there, you just need to keep looking.

Contact IBB Solicitors’ parks team for more information

IBB Solicitors are experts in the law relating to the park and holiday home sector and advise park owners and residents on a broad range of issues. We also offer a competitively priced fixed-fee service for buying and selling park and holiday homes. If you would like to know more about how we can help you, please contact Jessica Sutherland on 03456 381381 or email Jessica.Sutherland@ibblaw.co.uk.

The information provided is of a general nature and does not constitute, nor should be relied on, as legal or professional advice.