Mobile Homes Act 2013

What Is The Mobile Homes Act 2013?


Posted by Justin Allitt in Comment, August 20, 2018

If you own a residential park home, there are specific laws that protect you and the site you stay at.  Laws set up by the British government came into effect in 1983. However, they have since seen a major update.  British M.P.s agreed that there needs to be more power given to residential park homeowners and residents.  With this in mind, the Mobile Homes Act of 2013 was introduced.

The law affects those buying, selling, or living in a residential park home. Many new rights for residents and obligations for park owners were introduced. The aim was to protect the homeowner’s rights and to increase transparency.

In this guide, we will take you through everything you need to know about the Mobile Homes Act of 2013.  How does it affect you as a park homeowner?  Read on to learn all about the changes in the law, and do make sure to read our full guide on the rights you have when selling a residential park home.

When did the Mobile Homes Act take effect?

Most of the laws took effect in England as of May 2013.  However, some changes to site licenses came through in April 2014.  It is worth noting that different laws and guidelines apply across Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Where Can I Read About the Laws Online?

The best place to read about the Mobile Homes Act 2013 online is via the Government’s official website.  There is information for park home residents in England on their rights and obligations under the Mobile Homes Act 1983 England. The website offers you various guides and documents that you can download for free.

What Did the Mobile Homes Act Change?

Essentially, the new laws brought in by the Mobile Homes Act 2013 updated a lot of older and outdated legislation that came into force on 26th May 2013.  The new legislation aims to give park homeowners more protection and greater flexibility when it comes to selling and living on a residential park. In essence, stopping the practice of ‘sale blocking’ by unscrupulous park owners.  

There have also been changes for park owners and how they act. There have been new regulations put in place.  This mainly concerns the way that parks can obtain licences, and the rules they set for homeowners.

What Were the Changes to Selling and Gifting Park Homes?

When a park home is sold privately, the park owner is entitled to receive 10% of the selling price which is known as a ‘commission’.

As a seller of a park home you will need to:

  • give the buyer certain information – for example about the commission and pitch fees
  • tell the park owner about the sale
  • assign (transfer) the pitch agreement to the new owner
  • tell the buyer to fill in a ‘Notice of Assignment form’ so they can pay the commission to the park owner

Gifting a park home

When gifting your mobile home, there are still important rules that you have to abide by. The legal standpoint for gifting a park home is ‘By law if you own and live in your home, you can give it away and assign the agreement (known as “gifting”) to a member of your family’. You cannot gift your home to a person who is not a member of your family as outlined in section 5(3) of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended by the Civil Partnership Act 2004).

Historically, site owners have had more control when it comes to homeowners selling their homes privately.  The Mobile Homes Act 2013 states that park site owners no longer have to give consent to sales going ahead. 

The rules differ a little if you bought your home before or after the 26th May 2013, however, the idea remains the same.

The laws also state that site owners can no longer knowingly attempt to restrict sales or prevent specific sales from going ahead.  However, when it comes to the sale of homes bought before the 26th May 2013, site owners still have the right to object within 21 days before plans go ahead.  Gifting, too, changed similarly.

People who disagree with the new laws may argue that contracts between sites and homeowners were already honest and above board.  However, if nothing else, property owners now have more say over what is legally theirs.  

What Happened to Site Contracts and Rules?

As a result of the new laws, park site owners needed to completely rewrite their existing rules and regulations.  The laws state that beyond the 3rd February 2015, all rules before that point became null and void.  That’s why, if you own a home and have seen changes in park rules in the last few years, you may have received more documentation.

What is Site Licensing?

The Mobile Homes Act 2013 also brought in changes that affected site licenses.  A site license is a legal document which a park owner needs to show what they are using land for. Land that a park owner uses for mobile homes is then called a ‘regulated’ site.

Regulated sites are those which offer park homes for residential living.  It is worth remembering that these terms don’t apply to holiday homes!  The differences between residential and holiday properties should be fairly obvious, but the main difference is that you can’t stay in a holiday home throughout the year. For more information on the differences between a residential and a holiday home, read our post here

It is worth knowing some of the points that a residential park homeowner will have to abide by. Here are some of the most important changes with site licences issued to park owners by local authorities.

  • Local authorities may charge a fee for applying for a site licence – whether a fee is payable, and if so how much is decided by the authority in question.
  • As well as an application fee, local authorities are also allowed to charge park owners an annual fee for the site licence. If this isn’t paid, the license can be withdrawn by the local authority.
  • The Act gave Parliament the ability to introduce a “fit and proper person” test for park owners and managers. Wales currently has this test in place, however, the results of the consultation are yet to be decided for the UK.

What Changes Did the Mobile Home Act 2013 Make to Site Licensing?

As of April 2014, English site owners found that they might have to pay fees to obtain licenses.  How much they pay is down to the local authority.  This means that many park owners found they needed to start paying extra costs which they may not have budgeted for.

The new laws also state that local authorities can charge extra fees and rates to parks each year.  Previously, site owners didn’t have to pay annual costs.  However, again, these new changes are under the control of local authorities, meaning that charges can and probably will vary.  However, there is a scale which helps to determine yearly costs.

This all means that site owners now need to pay set fees that didn’t exist before and as we mentioned, failure to pay these fees could see their licenses revoked.

Before that happens, authorities should serve park owners with a ‘compliance notice’, which means that if they feel owners are in breach of conditions, they can offer a warning.  If owners don’t make the changes that a notice demands, they could face court prosecution and fines up to £5,000.  Park owners will have the right to a tribunal depending on circumstances.

Have Pitch Fees Changed?

Pitch fees are what park homeowners must pay to stay at a residential park and is normally a set of obligations and responsibilities between the site owner and park resident.  However, the Mobile Homes Act of 2013 made further changes to how pitch fees work in England. It is another new piece of legislation that site owners need to adjust to.

Changes in the law now mean site owners should warn homeowners clearly if pitch fees are going to change.  MPs felt that old laws only implied charges would increase each year.  However, sites now need to let homeowners know, in writing, what they can expect from changes to pitch fees for the year ahead.

The terms of this agreement state the amount of the pitch fee and when it is to be paid to the site owner.

On 26th July 2013, the government introduced a proposed procedure a site owner must follow to increase a pitch fee. The pitch fee has to be changed by:

  1. The site owner informing the park home resident of the change/increase; and,
  2. The notice outlined must be supplemented by a pitch fee review form or subsequent document outlining the information.

How often should a pitch fee review happen?

The pitch fee can be reviewed or changed annually on or after the review date stated in the contract. It is important to remember that a review should not happen more than once a year. As we mentioned, a pitch fee cannot be increased if the pitch fee review form is not presented.

It is also possible for a reduction in the pitch fee to take place, which for clarity, a pitch fee review form should be used.

How is the pitch fee review calculated?

The calculation of the pitch fee takes into account the current pitch fee adjusted by the Retail Prices Index (“RPI”). Also, it will include any recoverable costs and any applicable deductions.

What else can be included in the pitch fee review?

From 1st April 2014, local authorities can charge for a site license annually. The annual license fee may be recovered through the pitch fee, divided pro-rata between homes. This is a one-time, permanent addition to the pitch fee. Please note that any ensuing licence fees paid by the site owner cannot be passed onto residents.

Park homeowners and site operators previously assumed charges would increase due to the Retail Prices Index, which can inflate from year to year.  However, the laws now mean site owners need to give property dwellers full guidance on what they can expect.  This is one change to UK legislation which, again, will appeal to homeowners – but which might make things more difficult for site operators.

How Does This All Affect Me?

If you are a park owner, you must now obey all laws set under the Mobile Homes Act 2013.  If you applied for a site licence after the laws came into effect, you will have no adjusting to do.  As for homeowners, the changes mean that you will get more information on fee changes and that you don’t have to get site owners involved in sales or gifting of homes.

These changes, as mentioned, weren’t all met with praise.  Some of the laws, such as the licensing changes, may make things more difficult for site owners.  While the law changes are welcome in the sense that they aim to make things fairer, some worry that too much power lies with local authorities.

However, authorities will still need to work to set guidelines!  The government’s ‘tests’ will help them to judge whether or not site owners are fit for a licence.  Some prospective owners may now find it more difficult to apply for residential park status, but on the other hand, this may also help to protect the interests, and safety, of those moving in.

Amendment to Section 8 of the Mobile Homes Act 2013

The following section gives park home owners a good insight into the stringent regulations needed to own or manage a park home site.

Between the 22nd of July 2019 to the 17th of September 2019, the government sought consultation on people’s views regarding the proposals to introduce a fit and proper test for park home site owners and managers in England.

This year, on the 15th of June, the requirement for a manager of a site to be a fit and proper person was brought in under the Mobile Homes Act 2013 (Commencement No.2) (England Order 2020).  It must be noted, that this Order is not the detailed regulation required to put in place the fit and proper person test, which is set out in Section 8 of the Mobile Homes Act 2013. The Order simply brings Section 8 into force, which in turn will set out the detailed regulations.

Before their implementation, the required regulations are set to be debated in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and this will take place in due course when time permits.  

How will this affect park home site owners and managers in England:

Five new sections will be introduced to amend Section 8 of the Mobile Homes Act 2013. These new sections will in effect give the local councils more effective control. They will set out that a site owner in England will not be allowed to use the land or any part of the land, as a residential mobile home park, unless:

  • The site owners’ local authority is in agreeance that the site owner is a fit and proper person. They or the person they appoint must be able to manage the site and be a ‘fit and proper’ person to do so or;
  • The site owner has agreed that the local authority has appointed a suitable person to manage the site.

This is very important for park homeowners in terms of reassurance from the local authority that their park is well managed and they are supported.

Within the amendment, the government has also set out certain laws which outline consequences for site owners that do not adhere to the requirements set out above.

Criminal sanctions:

Park home owners should be aware that should the site owner or manager fail to comply to the requirements, they would receive a fine. If this action is repeated and they are convicted of the same offence on two or more occasions, the local authority has the option to apply to the court for a revocation of the site owner’s license.

Civil sanctions:

Under a civil sanction, should the site owner have not adhered to the above requirements, the local authority could apply to a First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). If they are successful, this would have the effect of revocation of the site owners license.

Furthermore, there are additional enforceable requirements under this amendment to the law.

Provisions may be made:

  • This may require the local authorities to keep a regularly updated and published register of people in the local area deemed to be fit and proper for these purposes.
  • For payment of fees to the local authority for making applications for inclusion in the up-to-date and published register of suitable people.
  • For local authorities assessing an application for inclusion in the register. Local authorities will be able to grant an unconditional application, subject to condition application, or reject an application.
  • For removal of individuals from the local authority register.

Conclusion

The original intention of the introduction of the Mobile Homes Act 2013 aimed to raise standards of service in the mobile home industry. Park owners are now also delivering a more professional service to their residents.

Even though this amendment to the legislation is governed by law, there will be operators and park owners who do not wish to comply with the new requirement of ‘fit and proper’. However, without changing their approach, these site owners may find themselves facing legal challenges and unable to remain operating.