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Inheriting a Park Home – Do not be confused by a Will that gifts you a park home without the right to occupy it

By Anna Tomasik & Richard Hand

In this article, we will look at the rules surrounding the inheritance of a park home as highlighted by the recent case of Barrs Residential & Leisure Ltd v Pleass Thomson & Co (Executors of the estate of the late Colin Hearne) [2020] UKUT 114 (LC).

Introduction

For a park-home owner, their relatives, and indeed friends, it is essential to understand that the rules of inheritance differ from those applying to a brick and mortar home.

When a park-home owner has passed away, the provisions of the deceased’s will or the rules of intestacy apply to the actual park home.

However, the right to live in the home and benefit from the pitch agreement (or “written statement”) depends on who was living in the home at the time of the owners death and their family connection.

Those inheriting the home and pitch agreement will be bound by the agreement (for example obligations to repair or pay the pitch fee) but may not always have the right to occupy.

Thus it is possible to inherit a park home but not always have the right to live in it!

Inheritance Rules

Where the park homeowner dies at a time when occupying the mobile home as their only or main residence, the agreement will be binding on the husband or wife or civil partner provided that they were living with the park homeowner at the time of death.

In the event that there is no husband, wife, or civil partner living with the person, the agreement would be binding upon any family member* living with the person at the time of death.

If there is no member of family residing with the park homeowner at the time of death, the agreement would be binding upon any family member entitled to the mobile home by virtue of the will or under the laws of intestacy.

In the event of a person inheriting the property under the terms of the will or intestacy rules, the consent of the site owner is required to take up residence, otherwise the home would have to be sold.

Who qualifies as a family member?

A family member is defined under section 5(3) MHA 1983 as amended by Civil Partnership Act 2004, schedule 27, paragraphs 87 & 88):

A person is a member of another’s family within the meaning of this Act if he is his spouse, civil partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece; treating

  1. any relationship by marriage or civil partnership as a relationship by blood, any relationship of the half-blood as a relationship of the whole blood and the stepchild of any person as his child; and
  2. an illegitimate person as the legitimate child of his mother and reputed father; or if they live together as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners.

Does the benefit of the pitch agreement always pass to the person inheriting the park home?

This issue was considered in the case of Barrs Residential & Leisure Ltd v Pleass Thomson & Co (Executors of the estate of the late Colin Hearne) [2020] UKUT 114 (LC)

The Facts

Mr Colin Hearne passed away on 26 January 2018. Under his Will, the value of his estate was to be shared between 15 beneficiaries, including Mr Hearne’s son, Stephen who was not residing with Mr Hearne at the time of his death. The executors of the estate transferred the ownership of Mr Hearne’s park home by a Deed of Assignment to his son in return for a payment of £30,000. The parties were in dispute over whether Mr Hearne’s son had the right to occupy the home.

Submissions

Following a dispute between the parties as to occupation rights, the site owner had sought disclosure of the terms of the deceased’s will and a declaration from the FTT as to who had rightfully inherited the park home and the benefit of the pitch agreement given the Deed of Assignment purporting to transfer ownership to Stephen Hearne. The site owner wished to remove the home from the site. The executors disagreed and wanted Stephen to occupy the home.

First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) Decision

The FTT held that the mobile home owned by Mr Hearne and the benefit of the pitch agreement dated 25 November 2005 had not been passed to his son, and both remained part of Mr Hearne’s estate pending distribution under the terms of the will and  the assignment was ineffective.

The Appeal

The site owner appealed the FTT’s determination. The site owner argued that although the park home was transferred to Mr Hearne’s son under a Deed of Assignment, but that he was not entitled to the benefit of the agreement as this had not been assigned. Consequently the site owner argued Stephen could not occupy the mobile home on its current pitch, nor rely on the protection given to owners under the Act.

Upper Tribunal Decision 

The appeal was allowed.

The Upper Tribunal held that there is a difference between a mobile home (personal chattel) and a pitch agreement (a contract). A person may be the owner of a mobile home but not have the benefits, rights, and obligations under the agreement. The mobile home and the pitch agreement must be treated separately.

The FTT was wrong to state that the park home and pitch agreement could not be transferred to Mr Hearne’s son. The Upper Tribunal held that the mobile home had been transferred to Mr Hearne’s son but not the benefit of the pitch agreement that would allow him to occupy the home.

Three takeaways

  • The Upper Tribunal’s determination confirms that both the park home and pitch agreement have to be treated separately. The agreement and the home do not transfer automatically together when one is assigned outside the provisions of section 3 of the Mobile Homes Act 1983.
  • If the home is assigned outside of the Act, without the pitch agreement also being assigned, the new owner cannot sell the home with the benefit of the agreement to a third party.
  • A person who is assigned ownership of the mobile home other than a partner or family member living with the deceased, can be bound by the pitch agreement but does not acquire an automatic right to occupy – this would need to be granted by the site owner.

LEASE is governed by a board, appointed as individuals by the Secretary of State for the Ministry for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.

WARNING ADVICE TO RESIDENTS

You DO NOT NEED to sign a new pitch agreement if your site owner changes. Your existing terms and conditions will stay the same if the site is sold.

If you are asked to sign a new agreement get advice from LEASE or a solicitor before doing so.