5 Agreements between home owners and
site owners |
61. During our inquiry it became clear to us that
disagreements over contractual obligations between park home site
owners and residents are a common problem. It is alleged that
some site owners are not meeting their obligations to maintain
sites and that some park home owners are unaware of their rights
or have a poor understanding of the agreements they enter into.
In this section we examine the legal framework that governs agreements
between site owners and home owners. We then set out a number
of recommendations for improving this framework and the understanding
of the parties in the sector.
62. The framework that governs the relationship between
residents and site owners is complicated. It is primarily shaped
by the Mobile Homes Act 1983. This requires the site owner to
provide advance notice of the terms that will apply to the person
proposing to occupy a new park home on their site (these terms
are known as 'the written statement'). The 1983 Act was substantially
amended, by secondary legislation, in 2006 by the insertion of
certain new terms to be implied in all written statements. The
Act, as amended, gives residents certain key rights and protections,
- security of tenureagreements
cannot be terminated except by a court and then only on specified
grounds, such as breach of the terms of their pitch agreement;
- the right to sell or gift their home, and to
assign (pass on) the pitch agreement to the new owner;
- the right to succeed to the agreement and stay
in the home to persons living with the home owner on their death;
- the right to be consulted on changes to the site
(and associated costs), including through a recognised Residents'
- limits to pitch fee increases. Generally, pitch
fees should be changed by a percentage equivalent to any change
in Retail Price Index (RPI). Though in reviewing the pitch fees
money spent on improving the site can be considered.
The 1983 Act, as amended, also gives certain rights
to, and imposes certain obligations on, site owners which include:
- to keep the site maintained;
- not to interfere with the resident's quiet enjoyment
of the home.
Park Home Owners' Problems
63. We heard from a number of residents in Bournemouth,
who described situations where site owners were not undertaking
the obligations that home owners considered they had under written
statement agreements. One told us that:
In the main, the park that I live on is maintained
to a fairly low standard. Any problems that we have on the park
are difficult to bring to any conclusion because [...] we do not
have a published address or telephone number where we can contact
the park owner.
Another described a situation where assigning a pitch
agreement to new site owners had failed:
the park [site] owner who I bought my home from has
since changed. We now have a new park owner. When the park owner
changes, the regulations on the site change as well, in most instances.
And told us of serious incidents breaching the park
home owner's right to quiet enjoyment of the site:
water pipes ruptured and pushed up through the floor
to flood the home so it could not be sold, large bonfires lit
to choke residents with breathing difficulties, and one home burned
to the ground.
Written submissions from site owners and local authorities
across the country detailed similar problems.
Residents commonly complained that they did not see site owners
re-investing money made from sales and pitch fees back into maintenance
of the site. One residents' association sets out a typical case
in its submission:
our site owner spends hardly any money on maintenance,
repairs or the replacement of infrastructure items and communal
grounds by qualified workmen. Off-pitch emergency repairs like
blocked drains or water leaks are poorly fixed by itinerant bodgers
and billed to residents affected by these problemswho are
then bullied or harassed by the park manager until the bill is
paid. Pitch fees/Ground rents produce nearly £250,000:00
a year for our site owner, yet less than 10% p.a. is spent on
park maintenance or repairs.
64. The 2012 Consumer Focus survey of park home residents
found that 19% of residents surveyed reported having problems
with written statements or pitch fees. Of these 16% reported not
having a written statement with their site owner. In addition,
it found evidence that many residents only received their written
statement after they bought their park home (56% of those with
a statement received it after the transaction). Another reported
problem was that the written statement had been changed without
the resident's consent.
Defining Site Owners' Obligations
65. Failure to produce agreements was not the only
problem. Cornwall Council explained that "ambiguities and
uncertainties" in the interpretation of Mobile Home Act meant
that it could be difficult for residents to take civil action
against site owners and for local authorities to use trading standards
legislation to take enforcement action when site owners were not
undertaking their obligations to maintain sites. They called for
a "major rewrite" to give residents "proper protection
of their statutory and contractual rights, and to assist trading
standards action" under the Enterprise Act and Consumer Protection
from Unfair Trading Regulations.
The Trading Standards Institute agreed, explaining that the 1983
Act did not explicitly cover many of the problems faced by residents.
They also advised that the legislation needed to be completely
redrafted, giving consumers clear consumer protection.
66. One particular area of concern, as noted above,
was the site owner's obligation to maintain a site. Under the
Mobile Homes Act 1983 site owners have a duty to maintain sites.
They are not able to charge residents an additional amount for
any maintenance work as this is already covered in the pitch fee.
Site owners are allowed to charge residents for agreed 'improvement'
works to a site. The difference between improvement and maintenance
works and the definition of these types of work can be a matter
for contention between site owners and home owners. We heard examples
of site owners attempting to charge for work they should have
undertaken as part of site maintenance.
Rushcliffe District Council told us that there is a lot of confusion
as to what constitutes redevelopment on a site and difficulties
in trying to get site owners to undertake maintenance work.
67. The Government's consultation document provides
a number of proposals that aim to clarify a site owner's obligations
and the rights of home owners under the 1983 Act. This includes
a number of issues we have not taken evidence on, including moving
a park home, home owner's alterations, succession rights to agreements
and consultations on improvement works.
The consultation also aims to clarify the distinction between
improvements to a site, which can be charged to residents through
pitch fees, and repairs to a site, which cannot, by providing
an updated definition of a site owner's maintenance obligations.
It sets out that a site owner would be obliged to maintain and
keep in repair:
- the base on which the home
- utility infrastructure;
- parts of the site that are under the control
of the site operator, including access ways, street furniture
and, buildings in common use, and to keep these tidy;
- any trees, hedges or shrubs on the site.
welcome the Government's proposals to clarify the obligations
on site owners for maintaining their sites. This includes in particular
the proposals in the consultation that define the maintenance
works which must be undertaken by site owners as a statutory duty
and cannot be included in pitch fee increases. We also welcome
the Government's proposals to ensure that improvement works undertaken,
to comply with licence conditions or enforcement action from the
local authority, cannot be charged through pitch fee increases.
69. The most recent change to agreements between
site owners and home owners was made through secondary legislation.
Because the problems associated with agreements between site owners
and home owners are so widespread, and as primary legislation
may be years off, we recommend that the Government enact changes,
to clarify the obligations on site owners to maintain sites, through
secondary legislation this session.
70. As well as the written agreement, many sites
have rules that residents must adhere to. These 'site rules' or
'park rules' can also form part of the agreement between site
owner and home owner. They can be used to help ensure the enjoyment
of a site (for example, they may set a minimum age for occupants
or impose restrictions on pets) or can set out general management
duties (for example, on waste collection). The benefits of such
rules have been discussed earlier (paragraph 23).
71. It appeared to us that some site owners were
willing to break these rules. On our visit to Bournemouth, we
saw evidence of increasing numbers of park homes being rented
by site owners. In some cases these were being rented to people
under 50 years old which contravened park rules. One resident
wrote to us about the situation on his park where there was confusion
about the definitive rules:
Park owners have introduced new sets of rules to
suit themselves which are then provided to new residents [...].
When this happensas it has done on this parkto whom
do you go to object? There are currently three sets of rules operating
on this park, and none of the changes have been lawfully approved.
We also heard that site rules have been used by site
owners to block sales. Sonia McColl told us that some site owners
make up new rules, for example about the age restrictions on a
site, to put prospective buyers off.
72. The Government's consultation document recommends
that site rules are deposited with licensing authorities. It also
proposes that site rules cannot be changed without prior consultation
with home owners and that certain rules that are unreasonable,
such as those used to block a sale (for example, interview requirements
for buyers), should be excluded. We
welcome the Government's proposal that site owners should be required
to deposit site rules with a licensing authority as this would
ensure that residents on a park have access to an authoritative
version of the rules governing their site, which both they and
the site owner had to follow. We recommend that only those rules
in the deposited set with the local authority will be capable
of enforcement against a home owner. We also recommend that abiding
by the site rules deposited with the authority become a requirement
for every site owner under the site licence conditions. This would
provide the local authority with an enforcement power to intervene
when a site owner breaks site rules (for example, if they rented
out properties to tenants under the age stipulated in the rules),
and that this would provide stronger sanctions to deter such actions.
73. We recognise that over time site rules will need
to be updated and amended. We
recommend that the legislation allow site owners to change the
authoritative version of the site rules providing:
owners give park home owners on the site notice in writing at
least 28 days before the changes are due to take effect;
b) if at
least a third of the park home owners request a meeting, the site
owner arrange a meeting which all occupiers are invited to attend
to consider the proposals; and
c) at the
meeting a majority of park home owners have to endorse the proposed
We further recommend that purported
changes to site rules that fail to follow the process required
by statute have no force and that any attempt by a site owner
to enforce such a rule be treated as a breach of the site licence.
74. In calling for the site owner's right to approve
buyers to be abolished, in paragraph 25,
we recognised that buyers would be dependent on sellers to provide
information about site rules. To provide protection for buyers
purchasing a home a on a site where their residence might be in
contravention of the site rules, we consider that home owners
should be obliged to provide information on site rules to prospective
recommend that the 'implied terms' are amended so that home owners
are required to provide prospective buyers with a copy of the
Pitch Fee increases
75. The pitch fee is the amount required to be paid
by the park home owner in return for being allowed to keep a park
home on the pitch and use common areas of the site. The 'written
statement' will impose an obligation on the park home owner to
pay a pitch fee to the site owner. Pitch fees can be reviewed
once a year and usually can only be increased to take into account
inflationcalculated in accordance with the rate of the
retail price index (RPI) plus improvement (rather than maintenance)
works on a site.
76. A number of groups are campaigning to have pitch
fee increase rates limited to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and
also to have them capped at a standard rate across each site.
In the memorandum from the Park Homes Justice Campaign, Sonia
McColl proposed that the:
increase should be regulated to an increase by CPI
if this should be lower than RPI in any twelve month period. My
reasoning for this suggestion is that most park home owners are
of retirement age and pensions are now linked to CPI. In addition,
I think that Site Fees should be capped and a standard Site Fee
laid down for all single and double units. Not only would this
prevent discord between Residents who are forced to pay differing
rates for the same homesbut under the present system, a
Site Owner is encouraged to prevent the sale of an existing home
because it already has a Site Fee that is part of the contract
which is sold with the home. By setting a standard Site Fee for
all single and double units, new or currently existing on the
parkyou effectively remove from the Site Owner, the particular
benefit of making added income from a new more expensive contract
which at present they can attach to new homes that are sold or
older homes that they are able to purchase at a vastly reduced
rate if they prevent the sale of a home.
The Minister, Mr Shapps, told us that he preferred
to cap pitch fee increases to RPI because income linked to this
rule would provide a more sustainable business model and it would
fit better with other housing regulation.
77. We consider that restricting pitch fee increases
to CPI would be fairer. Many residents' income comes from pensions
that are now linked to CPI.
We also see merit in fees being standardised within sites for
park homes of a similar size. However, we consider that the administrative
task of achieving this would be an unnecessary burden on site
owners, there are likely to be cases where some pitches might
legitimately attract higher fees than others and it would also
be difficult to envisage that all home owners on a site would
be willing to agree to this as by equalising fees some would have
to increase. We
recommend that the maximum annual increase in pitch fee increases
be calculated in accordance with the rate of increase in the Consumer
Price Index, to create a fairer link between home owner incomes
and pitch fees.
Publicity and awareness of obligations
78. As we have noted, the legal framework setting
out the statutory duties and rights of park home site owners and
home owners is complicated, as can be the written agreements between
these two parties. Despite this complexity Paul Tarr, from Berkley
Parks, thought that less than 1% of buyers of park homes took
legal advice when acquiring a park home and entering the contractual
terms between themselves and site owners.
We heard a similar message from residents' campaign groups and
other site owners.
79. We also received a submission from residents
describing a case where site owners had discouraged buyers from
seeking legal assistance with buying homes.
One park home owner pointed out that, although legal assistance
could be difficult to find, it was essential:
It is crazy that people are spending up to £300,000.00
for a park home and the sales office informs them that they do
not need the services of a solicitor. Fortunately we did use our
solicitor who was handling the sale of our house, he admitted
that he knew nothing about park home law but found out enough
to know that we had not been given the 2006 version of the Written
Statement, and that we needed to have amended the "Implied"
and "Express" terms in the Statement to show that we
had negotiated a lower selling commission fee, as our Statement
still showed 10%.
We were told that so few potential buyers took legal
advice because they were looking to reduce as many costs as possible
when buying a park home and because few solicitors were qualified
to give advice.
80. The National Association of Park Home Residents
said in its submission that it was:
aware there are many Residents on Mobile Home Parks
who do not hold an Agreement / Written Statement and have no idea
they should have been issued with one when purchasing a Park Home,
it is possible that this has occurred because the Park Owner has
no knowledge of the Legislation.
The Trading Standards Institute added that, because
many residents were not aware of their contractual rights, trading
standards were not requested to investigate and pursue breaches
of these agreements.
81. This report sets out a number of measures to
tackle the problems at park home sites, some of which are also
proposed in the Government's consultation document. These proposals
will provide local authorities with more resources to deal with
park home issues; they increase the deterrent against offences
and they make the rights and obligations for site owners and residents
more clear. However, to be fully effective, they rely on residents,
site owners and local authorities being aware of the changes and
knowing their rights and obligations. As the evidence set out
in this chapter indicates this is far from the case at present.
We recommend that the Government promote an awareness campaign
to make residents, local authorities, site owners and other parties
aware of the regulatory regime and changes to be made to it. This
campaign must encompass the park home trade bodies, estate agents,
local authorities, the Local Government Association, police authorities
and the legal profession. Park home residents as a group appear
particularly unaware of the regulatory regime and are more than
usually susceptible to mis-selling or being taken advantage of
by unscrupulous owners.
82. In addition,
we recommend that the Government amend the 'implied terms' in
the park home owner's agreement to provide that before selling
his or her park home the seller must advise a prospective buyer
in writing to seek qualified legal assistance to help with transferring
and explaining an assignment of the park home. In addition, all
purchasers must confirm in writing to the seller and the site
owner that they have received and read the written statement and
87 The terms presently in force were made by the Mobile
Homes Act 1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1) (England) Order 2006
(SI 2006/1755). Back
Q 3 [Tony Boardman] Back
Q 18 [Ken Ayres} Back
Q 2 [Ken Ayres] Back
For example, Ev w38 [name redacted] , Ev w39 [John Potter
and members of the Park Home Justice Campaign], Ev 128 [Cornwall
Ev w57 [name redacted], para 4 Back
Ev 91 Back
Ev 129 Back
Ev 131 Back
Ev w97 [Hall Park Residents' Association], Ev w235 [Mrs Pamela
Ev w82 Back
Department for Communities and Local Government, A Better
Deal for Mobile Home Owners, April 2012, paras 2.13-2.28 Back
Department for Communities and Local Government, A Better
Deal for Mobile Home Owners, April 2012, para 2.32 Back
The terms presently in force were made by the Mobile Homes Act
1983 (Amendment of Schedule 1) (England) Order 2006 (SI 2006/1755). Back
Ev w280 [name redacted], para 7 Back
Q 134 Back
Ev 97 Back
Q 510 Back
From April 2011 pension increases have been linked to CPI. Back
Q 84 Back
Qq 146-51 [Brian Doick, Alan Savory], 194 [Malcolm Kent, Alicia
Ev w264 [name redacted] Back
Ev w61 [name redacted] Back
Qq 207 [Malcolm Kent], 154 [Alan Savory] Back
Ev w34 Back
Ev 131 Back