Malpractice is widespread across the park home sector and complaints from residents about unfair fees, poor maintenance and site owners making it difficult for residents to sell their homes are common. Though we recognise that there are some good site operators, it is clear that action is needed now to improve the sector and drive the worst offenders out.
The current legislation is inadequate. It neither deters the unscrupulous park home site owner from exploiting residents nor provides local authorities with effective powers to monitor or improve site conditions.
The most common problem is 'sale blocking', which is when a site owner effectively prevents a resident from selling his or her home on the open market by withholding approval of the prospective buyer. A site owner can then force the seller to sell to them at a reduced price and then sell the existing home, or a brand new home placed on the pitch, at a profit. To eliminate this practice we recommend legislation to remove a site owner's existing right to approve buyers. Pending the legislation, we also recommend that the Residential Property Tribunal be provided with clear powers to award damages and compensation to park home owners affected by sale blocking. We recognise that the proposed change places extra emphasis on sellers to make buyers aware of their obligations as park home owners. Therefore, we recommend that sellers advise potential buyers in writing of the obligations that will be placed on them.
Park home sites are licensed by local authorities but the powers and arrangements are those suitable to the 1960s. The park home licensing regime has to be modernised to provide authorities with powers similar to those used to regulate other forms of housing. For example, instead of maximum fines of £2,500, there should be no upper limit, in order to deter site owners from breaching licence conditions. Local authorities must also be able to charge for issuing site licenses so that they are better able to resource their activities and are able to recover costs for all enforcement action taken against those found to be in breach of licence conditions. These costs have to fall on those who break the rules.
The contractual obligations between park home owners and site owners are an area of confusion with some site owners failing to meet their obligations. The new legislation we call for has to make clear the obligations on site owners for maintaining their sites. In addition, site rules, which can define obligations, have to be deposited with local authorities who should be given powers to enforce them.
We welcome the Government's consultation 'A Better Deal for Mobile Home Owners'. The proposals it sets out should go a long way to improve the sector. However, the Government needs to go further and commit to undertake a survey of the sector to ensure that any changes are effective. If the expected improvements do not happen, the new legislation must provide a power for the Government to allow local authorities to withdraw and withhold licences from site owners found not to be 'fit and proper'.