By Richard Hand, Senior Adviser at LEASE
The Leasehold Advisory Service’s Richard Hand tackles the issue of repairs on park sites and attempts to clarify the legal position for residents and site owners.
At LEASE-Park Homes we get a lot of enquires about repair and maintenance issues on fully residential park home sites in England and Wales. Sometimes it is not always clear who is responsible. This article aims to clarify the legal position and help residents and site owners to resolve any disputes.
Disputes can arise over things like: who is responsible for a blocked drain/sewer; Who is responsible for maintaining the trees on the pitch or site; What about fences between pitches?
Sometimes a site owner will by custom and practice carry out maintenance such as tree pruning on a pitch. But what happens when the site changes hands? Will the new owner be bound by the previous arrangement?
The starting point for all repair and maintenance matters on a park home site is to check the written statement or ‘pitch agreement’ and see what it says on the matter.
The pitch agreement is a legally binding contract and so both parties will be obliged to comply with the obligations contained within it. If one party is refusing to comply with the terms of the agreement, the aggrieved party can take action in the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) (“FTT”) (in England) or Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (in Wales) to enforce the agreement.
If the agreement is silent or unclear on responsibility we can turn to the Implied Terms to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended by the Mobile Homes Act 2013) for guidance*. It is advisable to also consider the Model Standards 2008 which require site owners to meet certain standards for amenities on the pitch as part of their licence conditions.
The Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended by the Mobile Homes Act 2013)
The Consolidated Implied Terms to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 contain the following paragraphs which are relevant:
The occupier shall—
(c) keep the mobile home in a sound state of repair;
(i) the outside of the mobile home, and
(ii) the pitch, including all fences and outbuildings belonging to, or enjoyed with, it and the mobile home,
in a clean and tidy condition; and
(e) if requested by the owner, provide him with documentary evidence of any costs or expenses in respect of which the occupier seeks reimbursement.
The owner shall—
(c) be responsible for repairing the base on which the mobile home is stationed and for maintaining any gas, electricity, water, sewerage or other services supplied by the owner to the pitch or to the mobile home;
(d) maintain in a clean and tidy condition those parts of the protected site, including access ways, site boundary fences and trees, which are not the responsibility of any occupier of a mobile home stationed on the protected site;
- The owner shall not do or cause to be done anything which may adversely affect the ability of the occupier to perform his obligations under paragraph 21(c) and (d) above.
*In Wales, para 21-22 Sch 2 Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013
What are the Model Standards?
The Model Standards for Caravan Sites in England and Wales 2008 represent those standards normally expected as a matter of good practice on caravan sites (sites containing permanent residential homes).
The Model Standards specify the layout and provision of facilities, services and equipment for mobile home sites. The local authority will consider these standards in applying the conditions that may be attached to a site licence. An example of a standard is that the name of the site must be displayed on a sign in a prominent position at the entrance to the site, together with a copy of the licence and contact details of licence holder or site manager.
The Model Standards require the site owner to:
- Provide and maintain in good condition, suitable roads and for these to have adequate surface water/storm drainage.
- connect every caravan to a hard surface footpath and to maintain it in good condition.
- provide adequate lighting or roads and footpaths to allow safe movement between dawn and dusk.
- Provide suitably surfaced parking spaces shall be provided to meet the requirements of residents and their visitors.
- maintain common areas to which the public have access and keep in a clean and tidy condition. Grass and vegetation shall be cut and removed at regular intervals. Trees shall be maintained.
- ensure the supply of electricity, water, drainage and sewerage.
- Maintain the electricity supply and installations to an adequate standard and ensure any works are done by suitably qualified personnel in accordance with statutory requirements.
- provide pitches with an adequate water supply to meet the reasonable demands of the caravans on site. New installations must meet current British and European standards and be maintained by suitably qualified contractors.
- provide surface water drainage where appropriate to avoid standing pools of water.
- ensure there be satisfactory provision for foul and waste water drainage either:
-by connection to a public sewer or sewage treatment works, or by discharge to a properly constructed septic tank or cesspool approved by the local authority.
-All facilities for drainage and sewerage must meet current British and European standards and be maintained by suitably qualified contractors.
Drains and Sewers
A drain is a pipe that drains water and waste from a building. A lateral drain is a length of pipe which carries waste-water away from your property. It is located outside your property boundary, often under a public pavement or road.
A sewer collects water and waste from the drains of a number of buildings. Most sewers are publicly owned and are maintained by your water company. However, there are still some privately owned sewers. Some people aren’t connected to a sewer but to a cesspool, septic tank or treatment plant.
You may have a private sewer or lateral drain if you live on a site that has a number of properties, a mobile home park or caravan site.
If you have a private or unadopted sewer or lateral drain, the owner of the land (i.e. site owner) will normally be responsible for the cost of maintaining and repairing it.
Your local authority environmental health department can order a site owner to repair or unblock a private sewer or lateral drain if it’s not properly maintained. If they don’t do the work in the time period specified by the local authority, they may carry out the work themselves and charge the site owner for the costs.
Some common areas of dispute:
Boundary fences will usually be the site owner’s obligation to repair. Pitch fences may be the occupiers, either singly or jointly with a neighbour. In the latter case, action can be taken in the county court where a neighbour is refusing to contribute or maintain as the case may be.
If they are on the pitch they will usually be the occupier’s responsibility. However, the site owner may have agreed to carry out pruning at his own expense or arrange this and charge it back to the home owner.
Dangerous trees that need removal may be the obligation of the site owner even if they are within a pitch. This follows the ruling in Turner v Cooper (dangerous-trees-on-residential-park-home-sites). In this case the tribunal decided that the site owner should bear responsibility if there is any ambiguity in the agreement or implied terms.
Informal agreements with site owner
If occupiers on a site have informal arrangements with the site owner for maintenance such as pruning of trees or maintaining fences on the pitch, problems may arise if the site changes hands. The occupiers would need evidence that the agreement had by custom and practice become incorporated into the pitch agreement. An application to the FTT may be required if the matter cannot be resolved informally.
Drains and Sewers:
The site owner is responsible for maintaining the pipes serving the pitch as well as the common sewers. The pipes serving the home itself will usually be the occupier’s responsibility. Hence it is worth getting a survey before purchase of a mobile home.
Where there are blockages it will be necessary to identify the cause before liability can be established.
The Local Authority should be alerted to any environmental health hazards as they have enforcement powers to deal with such issues.