The Review of Park Home Legislation: The Government’s response
By Ibraheem Dulmeer, LEASE Legal Adviser
Park home residents are to receive greater protection from rogue or unscrupulous site owners seeking to make a profit at their expense, thanks to Government plans announced this week.
In 2017 the Government undertook a review of the Mobile Homes Act 2013 in England. On 22nd October 2018, the government issued its response.
The 2017 reviews:
The review took place in 2 parts. Part 1 was a call for evidence on the fairness of charges, the transparency of park site ownership and on experience of harassment.
Part 2 was a call for evidence on how effective local authority licensing has been; how well the procedures for selling mobile homes, making site rules and pitch fee reviews were working; and whether the ‘fit and proper’ test need to be applied in the sector.
What the government propose to do:
The Government’s proposals set out to strengthen the existing legislation to: (a) improve residents’ rights and (b) give local authorities more enforcement powers against rogue/unscrupulous site owners. It will do so by:
- Bringing forward legislation when parliamentary time allows to:
- amend and clarify the definition of a pitch fee and prevent the use of variable service charges in written agreements. Some site owners pass on their repair, maintenance and other costs to residents through a service charge (if the agreement allows)
- simplify the complex and opaque company structures used by some rogue site owners to limit a resident’s security of tenure and avoid liability for any enforcement action. These company structures make it difficult for local authorities to identify who is the responsible person to take enforcement action against.
- introduce a fit and proper test for site owners; and,
- change the pitch fee review inflationary index from the Retail Price Index (RPI) to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
- Set up a working group of representatives from across the sector to explore how messages about rights and responsibilities can be disseminated more widely. The group will examine how the administrative processes for selling mobile homes, reviewing pitch fees and making site rules could be improved and streamlined further.
- Engage with local authorities through the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the Site Licensing Officers’ forum to support them in raising awareness among local authorities about their existing powers, developing and sharing best practice on enforcement and for dealing with harassment cases.
- Support good site owners by engaging with trade bodies to set up a Primary Authority to work with the industry and provide expert advice to other local authorities on licensing issues. A Primary Authority is a statutory scheme that allows an eligible business to form a legally recognised partnership with a single local authority in relation to compliance. The local authority would be then known as the Primary Authority.
In addition, the Government will commission research to gather relevant data to enable it to identify the likely impact of a change to the 10% commission rate on sales for both park home residents and site owners.