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Park Life: Key Issues Examined

By Anna Tomasik

Buying a residential park home may be a great choice for people who are retiring or looking to downsize or simply like the idea of living in one. Living on a park home site does differ from living in a bricks-and-mortar property in a number of ways and it is important that you consider this before deciding to move. This article explains what is actually like to live on a residential site, so before you purchase a park home, you can make an informed decision about whether the lifestyle is right for you.

A PROTECTED SITE

If you are buying a park home that you would like to use as a permanent residence, you need to find a site that is classed as a protected site – the site must have planning permission and a site licence from the local authority. This site licence will state whether the site is a holiday site or, crucially, fully residential.

In some instances, the licence may allow both permanent and holiday homes. The licence should be displayed in some prominent place on the site.

The Mobile Homes Act 1983 gives a number of rights and protections to park homeowners who occupy the home as their own or main residence if it is situated on a protected site.

Check the status of the park with the site owner and get it in writing before making a purchase.

FINANCING YOUR PURCHASE

Unlike a brick-and-mortar home, you cannot get a mortgage on a park home. This is because the land they stand on is owned by the site owner, not the residents. With a traditional residential home, mortgages are secured against the property owner’s title on the HM Land Registry.

All park homes are sold outright, but the land they stand on is leased, meaning the owner pays rent to the site owner for the plot of land (or ‘pitch’) on which their home is situated.

According to Quick Move Properties, the following are common financing options:

  1. If you have some equity built up in your current property, then you may be able to buy a park home outright, as they tend to be cheaper than traditional bricks-and mortar houses.
  2. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to sell your current home, then a part-exchange scheme can be a good way to avoid delays and sell up faster.
  3. You could also take out a specialist loan agreement: while not the same as a mortgage, there are specialist lenders who offer loans designed especially for park homes, which can help you access the money you need.

Always seek independent advice from a solicitor before proceeding with a park home transaction.

PITCH FEES

Pitch fees are charges payable to the site owner for use of the site. Pitch fees can range from around £60 to more than £200 per month depending on location, size of home and amenities on the site.

The terms of the pitch agreement will set out the amount of the pitch fee and when is it to be paid to the site owner. Sometimes the pitch fee will include utilities and, if that is the case the agreement should clearly set this out.

The pitch fee can be reviewed annually, but in order to do so, the site owner must serve a pitch fee review notice and the pitch fee review from 28 days before the review, explaining the proposed changes in detail. If you disagree with the proposed increase in the pitch fee, you can make (and the site owner) an application to the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) (Tribunal) for determination.

BUYING AND SELLING PROCEDURE

If you are selling a mobile home on a residential park there are actually two transactions that happen at the same time – the sale of the park home itself, and the transfer (‘assignment’) of the seller’s occupation agreement to the buyer.

On 26 May 2013, the Government introduced a new procedure that must be followed whenever a used residential park home is bought or sold on a site in England. One effect of this is that both buyers and sellers of park homes now have much more responsibility to ensure that the transaction is completed properly. If any mistakes are made this could lead to the assignment of the agreement being unlawful and to costly disputes between the parties.

THE AGREEMENT

Before you occupy your park home you must sign a written agreement setting out the contractual terms between the site owner and the homeowner. The terms comprise of express terms and implied terms. Express terms are terms that have been specifically agreed upon between the site owner and the homeowner. Implied terms are terms implied by the Chapter 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (the 1983 Act), as amended by the Mobile Homes Act 2013. They cannot be varied or changed contractually, as they are defined by statutory law, and constitute the minimum rights and obligations that all residents of park homes in England have.

SITE RULES

When you live on a residential site, part of the obligation you take on involves agreeing to comply with the site owner’s site rules. Every park site has its own site rules. The vast majority of sites will have rules on age, vehicles and pet etc. The site rules form part of the Express Terms of the agreement.

Before choosing a park site, the rules of each site should be reviewed carefully to ensure that you choose a site where you will be easily able to abide by the rules.

Under the Mobile Homes (Site Rules) (England) Regulations 2014, site owners are not obliged to introduce a set of rules but, should they choose to do so, or should they choose to amend those already in place, certain procedures must be followed. Please see the LEASE website for details.

QUALIFYING RESIDENTS’ ASSOCIATIONS

A Qualifying Residents’ Association (QRA) is s a group of residents who work together to represent the interests of residents on a park. A QRA can operate in a number of ways including consulting with the park owner about issues affecting residents on the park and arranging social activities. Before you decide to purchase a mobile home, it may be worth finding out whether there is one, or if there is an interest in setting one up on your chosen site.

ENDING THE AGREEMENT

If you live on a protected site, you have the right to keep your home indefinitely on the site or for as long as the site owner’s planning permission or right to the land lasts. If there is a time limit, the site owner must put this in the Written Statement.

Under the Implied Terms, a resident can bring the agreement to an end at any point by giving four weeks’ notice.

The site owner can only bring the agreement to an end by applying to the court on any of the following grounds:

  1. Failure to occupy a home as own or main residence;
  2. Breach of agreement; or
  3. The home is having a detrimental effect on the amenity of the site.

Most cases about the termination of a Written Agreement would be dealt with by a county court. This would only be different if the Written Agreement contains an arbitration clause for the matter to be dealt with by the Tribunal, in line with general park home disputes. The Tribunal can determine most applications in relation to park home matters. All of the application forms can be found on LEASE’s website.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

In order to find out whether park life is for you, you should do plenty of research by not only considering the information in this article but also by talking to site owners and residents living on sites you visit.

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.