Guide to the Mobile Homes Act 2013
On 26 March 2013 the Government introduced the Mobile Homes Act 2013 which was designed to give greater protection to owner-occupiers of residential mobile (park) homes.
All owners of residential parks in England need to be aware of the legislation so they can make sure they know their rights and responsibilities.
Some of the most important changes deal with the site licences issued to park owners by local authorities.
- Local authorities may charge you a fee for applying for a site licence – whether a fee is payable, and if so how much, is decided by the authority in question;
- As well as an application fee, local authorities are also allowed to charge park owners an annual fee for the site licence – the level of this fee will depend on various factors. Failure to pay the annual fee may eventually lead to the site licence being revoked;
- Local authorities in England are entitled to refuse to grant a site licence if they consider that the applicant is unsuitable to hold a licence;
- The Act gave Parliament the ability to introduce a “fit and proper person” test for park owners and managers – in summer 2019 the Government consulted about whether or not to introduce such a test, and the results of this consultation are expected shortly. A fit and proper person test has already been introduced for residential parks in Wales.
Breach of Site Licence Conditions by Park Owner
Local authorities have wide-ranging powers to enforce site licence conditions against park owners. If you are in breach of any of your site licence conditions, the local authority may serve you with a “Compliance Notice”. This Notice will:
- Set out the breaches which have been identified;
- Tell you what you must do to correct the breaches;
- Tell you when you must correct the breaches; and
- Explain how you may appeal against the Notice.
Failure to comply with a Compliance Notice is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 in the Magistrates’ Court (level 5). A third or subsequent prosecution could lead to revocation of the site licence.
If you still fail to comply with the Compliance Notice after being prosecuted, the local authority may go on to the park and carry out the work needed to comply with the Notice. It may then charge you for the cost of this work. The local authority may charge for the cost of preparing the Compliance Notice, including any expert or legal advice taken by the local authority. Any charges which are not paid within the required period will be attached to the land, similar to a mortgage.
You may appeal to the First Tier Property Tribunal (“FTT”) within 21 days against a Compliance Notice or any demand for payment by the local authority.
Changes to Sales/Gifting of Park Homes
One of the main reasons for Parliament passing the 2013 Act was to address the issue of “sale blocking”, where the actions of some park owners were effectively preventing residents from selling their homes. The Act introduced a new procedure that must be followed whenever a park home is now sold or gifted by an occupier on a park, which is as follows:
Assignment of “Existing” Occupation Agreements
Where the occupation agreement being transferred (“assigned”) commenced before 26 May 2013 and has not been assigned since 26 May 2013, it will be known as an “Existing Agreement”.
Once the resident has accepted an offer from a buyer, they must serve notice on you in the prescribed form (“Notice of Proposed Sale”) that he/she proposes to sell or gift the mobile home, and to assign the occupation agreement, to the person(s) named in the notice.
If you wish to object to the proposed sale/gift and assignment you must (i) serve a notice (a “Refusal Notice”) on the occupier, and (ii) apply to the FFT for an Order preventing the occupier from selling the home and assigning the agreement to the prospective buyer (a “Refusal Order”). Both these steps must be taken within 21 days from the date when you receivesnotice from the occupier, otherwise the sale/gift and assignment will be deemed to be approved.
There are only very limited grounds for seeking a Refusal Order, which are if the proposed new occupier fails to meet the requirements of any site rules relating to (i) minimum age, (ii) number of types of vehicles they wish to park, or (iii) the keeping of pets on the park.
The Refusal Notice must be served in the prescribed form and must contain the information required under the Act – if it does not, it will be invalid.
Within 7 days after the sale/assignment has completed, the new occupier must send you two more prescribed forms (the “Assignment Form” and “Notice of Assignment” form) to give you the required information following completion.
Assignment of “New” Occupation Agreements
Where the occupation agreement being assigned commenced after 26 May 2013, or started before that date but has since been assigned, it is a “New Agreement”. The occupier may sell or gift the mobile home, and assign the agreement, without first informing you. The new occupier must notify you of the sale and assignment within 7 days after completion of the sale/gift.
In either case, a gift of the home can still only be made to a member of the existing occupier’s family – the occupier must provide evidence of this to you.
Payment of Commission
It is important to note that for all sales which take place after 26 May 2013 the new buyer (rather than the seller) is responsible for paying the statutory commission on the sale. This should be deducted from the money they pay to the seller.
Changes to Park Rules
Under the 2013 Act, all pre-existing park rules ceased to be effective from 3 February 2015. Please see our separate guide to Site Rules here: [LINK]
Annual Pitch Fee Reviews
The final major change introduced by the 2013 Act was an amendment to the implied terms relating to the annual pitch fee review procedure.
Previously, there was a presumption that pitch fees would change each year in line with the change in the Retail Prices Index (“RPI”) since the last review date. Although this remains the same in most cases, it is important to note the following changes:
- The annual pitch fee review notice sent to all residents on the park must be accompanied by a document in a prescribed form (the “Pitch Fee Review Form”), setting out certain information;
- If this information is not given, the pitch fee review will be invalid;
- If the park owner serves an invalid notice (or no notice), the FFT may order it to repay any overpaid pitch fees to the occupiers;
- On a pitch fee review the FFT may take into account (on one occasion only) any overall deterioration of the site, or of any adjoining land owned or controlled by the park owner, since 26 May 2013. The FFT will also be able to have regard to any decrease in the services provided to the park as a whole, not just to the occupier’s pitch, which has occurred since 26 May 2013;
- The presumption that pitch fees will increase in line with RPI will still apply, unless the Tribunal considers that this would be unreasonable in all the circumstances.
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