By Aimee Hutchinson, Solicitor at Blacks Solicitors LLP and Richard Hand, Senior Adviser at LEASE
It is common for site owners, park home owners and those who may be entrusted with the administration of an estate after a park home owner has passed away, to be unaware of the rules that apply in relation to who can rightfully inherit a Written Statement. In addition there also tends to be confusion surrounding the circumstances where a resident can gift their park home. This article looks at the differences between inheriting and gifting a park home and considers common examples.
Inheritance of a Written Statement
Inheritance depends upon who was living with the park home owner at the time of death. Section 3 of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (“the Act”) sets out the hierarchy of potential beneficiaries, but inheritance of a Written Statement is subject to the park home being occupied by the park home owner (prior to their death) as their main or only residence.
It will assist to explore a number of scenarios to demonstrate these inheritance rights.
By way of example, James and Joan are married and live in a park home. James has died and left the park home to Joan in his Will.
Who will inherit the Written Statement?
Joan will inherit the Written Statement (and as a result the right to reside in the park home) as she was married and living with James at the time of his death. That inheritance of the park home means that Joan is now responsible for the obligations in the Written Statement such as maintaining the park home and payment of the pitch fee.
In the above scenario Joan will inherit the Written Statement as a result of section 3 of the Act which states that a widow or widower, or civil partner, living with the deceased in the park home at the time of death will inherit the Written Statement.
If James was not married at the time of his death, will Joan still inherit the Written Statement?
Joan may still be entitled to inherit the Written Statement even if she was not married to James at the time of his death. This is because she could be classed as a ‘member of the deceased’s family’ (as per section 5 of the Act) if she was living with James as ‘husband and wife’ prior to his death. If they were cohabiting as opposed to merely living together as friends, this will be sufficient to enable Joan to inherit the Written Statement. A number of other relatives may also qualify as a ‘member of the deceased’s family’ (as per section 5 of the Act). They include parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece. Please note that any relation by marriage or of half-blood counts as a full relation as well as stepchildren and an ‘illegitimate person’.
By way of further example, Michael, a person living alone in a mobile home has died. He has made a Will leaving all his estate to his brother.
Who will inherit Michael’s Written Statement?
As Michael was living alone, his brother will be bound by the terms of the Written Statement as he will inherit the park home under the terms of the Will (as per section 3(b) of the Act). However, as explained below, Michael’s brother has no express right to reside in the park home.
What happens if Michael did not make a Will?
If he did not make a Will, the rules of intestacy apply. These are a fixed set of rules which set out an order of priority to determine who will inherit the estate. The relative who will be entitled to inherit will depend upon their relationship with Michael and whether closer relatives have survived. For example, if Michael had no children, his siblings may inherit the estate and they would be bound by the Written Statement.
Will Michael’s park home have to be sold?
The beneficiary inheriting the home may want to move into the park home as opposed to selling it. In which case, they will need to obtain the site owner’s consent to do so, even if they meet the requirements of the site rules. Alternatively if the beneficiary does not wish to reside in the park home or if consent to reside in the park home is refused, the beneficiary has the right to sell the park home or even to terminate the Written Statement and to physically remove the park home from the pitch.
If it was decided by the beneficiary in this example that Michael’s home was to be sold, then during the period between the death of Michael and the sale of the home, the beneficiary will be bound by the terms of the Written Statement (i.e. they will be required to pay the pitch fee). The site owner will be unable to terminate the Written Statement during this time on the basis that the park home is not occupied as a main or only residence.
The gifting of a home can take place during a person’s lifetime. This is possible if the gift is made to a ‘member of your family’ (as defined above).
If a park home owner’s Written Statement was made on or before 25th May 2013 and has not been assigned since that date, a Notice of Proposed Gift Form will need to be sent to the site owner before the gift to the family member is made (i.e. before the park home is formally assigned) (“the Notice”). Evidence of the family relationship will also need to be produced. This may include a written declaration under oath which explains the relationship, a certificate of marriage or civil partnership.
The gifting may only be made if the proposed occupier will be occupying the park home as their own or main residence. The proposed occupier will also be required to meet any site rules concerning age, pets or parking of vehicles. The Notice is required to be signed by both the occupier and the proposed occupier. The notes on the Notice advise both parties to confirm that the information provided is accurate before it is signed and sent to the site owner.
If the site owner considers that the proposed occupier will not meet the site rules or is concerned that insufficient evidence has been produced regarding the family relationship, he may apply for a Refusal Order in the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). This is an order which prevents the gifting of the home to the family member. Any such Application must be made to the Tribunal and served upon the occupier within 21 days of receipt of the Notice.
The Notice is not required for Written Statements which were made on or after 26 May 2013 or which have been assigned since that date.
The Difference Between Inheritance and Gifts
Inheritance arises upon the death of an owner of a park home with the benefit of a Written Statement. The park home may be left to a beneficiary under the terms of the Will. The beneficiary does not have to be a relative and may include a friend. If there is no Will, the intestacy rules will apply and a relative will inherit the Written Statement.
Gifting of a park home occurs during the lifetime of the occupier and may only be made to a relative if they are proposing to live in the park home.
If you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact LEASE telephone advice line on 020 7832 2525 or Aimee Hutchinson, Solicitor in the Holiday & Home Parks Team at Blacks Solicitors LLP, on 0113 2279 203 or AHutchinson@LawBlacks.com