This Commons Library briefing paper provides an overview of the the rights of residents who live year-round on mobile home parks. The main focus of the paper is on mobile home owners in England but sections on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are included.Jump to full report >>
People living year-round in mobile (park) homes normally own their home and rent the land on which it is stationed from the site owner (paying a pitch fee). The Government estimates that around 85,000 households live in mobile homes on 2000 sites in England. The majority of mobile home sites are privately owned with a small number owned by local authorities. Mobile homes can offer an attractive housing option for retired people, consequently residents tend to be older. In 2002 68% of mobile home occupants were aged 60 or over. The age profile of mobile home owners can make it challenging for them to assert their rights when dealing with unscrupulous site operators.
The legal framework within which site and mobile home owners operate has developed in a piecemeal fashion. The Mobile Homes Act 1983 extended the rights of mobile home residents, particularly in respect of security of tenure, but various short-comings in its provisions were identified, leading to calls for its review and amendment. In 1988 Shelter's now disbanded Mobile Homes Unit produced a report on the operation of the 1983 Act which called for changes to be made, including having pitch fee levels fixed by rent officers; the development of an effective system of arbitration; and stronger duties on local authorities to inspect unfit housing on mobile homes sites.
Following a review carried out by a Park Homes Working Group in 1998, some of the short-comings identified were addressed by the Housing Act 2004. Concerns around malpractice in the park homes sector persisted. These focused on complaints about unfair fees and charges; poor standards of maintenance; and site owners obstructing the ability of home owners to sell. The Labour Government conducted a further consultation exercise in 2009, following which detailed proposals to strengthen the site licensing system were set out in Park homes site licensing reform: The way forward and next steps. These measures were not implemented prior to the 2010 General Election.
The Coalition Government published A better deal for mobile home owners on 16 April 2012. The Communities and Local Government Select Committee conducted an inquiry into the park homes industry and published its report, Park Homes, in June 2012. The Committee found “widespread malpractice” in the sector and concluded that the existing legislative framework was "inadequate".
After drawing fifth place in the 2012 Private Members’ Bill ballot, Peter Aldous used this opportunity to introduce the Mobile Homes Bill 2012-13. The Bill secured Government support and amended the existing legislation to strengthen the protection offered to mobile home owners. The Mobile Homes Act received Royal Assent on 26 March 2013. The 2013 Act implemented many of the proposals contained in A better deal for mobile home owners and recommendations made by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee in Park Homes. The Coalition Government issued detailed guidance on the rights and obligations of site and mobile home owners. In addition, the remit of the Leasehold Advisory Service was extended to provide free information and advice to "owners of mobile homes, site owners, local authority officers or anyone else with a question about the law on park homes".
Despite legislative activity in this area, mobile home owners are not content that all of their issues have been resolved. For example, there is particular dissatisfaction about the continuation of the requirement to pay a commission fee of 10% on the sale price of a mobile home to the site owner. A separate Library Briefing Paper, 7003, Mobile (park homes): 10% commission on sales provides detailed information on this charge.
In 2015, the Government set up a Park Homes Working Group “to identify evidence of poor practice where it exists, and investigate how best to raise standards and further tackle abuse”. The Group, which included national resident groups and industry trade bodies, concluded its work and put forward its recommendations to Government.
The Government conducted a two-part review of mobile (park) homes legislation in 2017. The review also sought views on some of the Park Homes Working Group’s recommendations.
The review concluded that overall the measures introduced by the Mobile Homes Act 2013 had been effective in improving the sector. However, the review also identified areas where further action was needed, including: some administrative processes and procedures could be streamlined; some park home residents still lacked awareness of their rights and responsibilities; some local authorities faced barriers in carrying out their enforcement activities; and some site owners continued to take unfair advantage of residents, most of whom are elderly and on low incomes.
The Government’s response to the two-part review, published in October 2018, sets out proposals to strengthen the existing legislation by:
Housing policy is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each of the devolved Nations has introduced specific legislation to regulate activities on residential mobile home sites.
Following a consultation on commission fees on the sale of park homes in Wales, the Welsh Government announced, on 24 May 2018, that it intends to: begin a phased reduction of the commission rate over a period of time (reducing it over a 5-year period to a maximum of 5% of the purchase price); take forward a range of proposals designed to support good management in the sector; and ensure that those buying and selling park homes have access to clear, consistent information to support their decision making. The Welsh Government is currently consulting on how best to implement the commission rate reduction.
Commons Briefing papers SN01080
Authors: Wendy Wilson; Hannah Cromarty