What is the Act and when did it come into effect?
The Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013 (MHWA 2013) applies to all residential mobile sites in Wales. It was introduced to increase protection for owners of mobile homes (also known as park homes) and to improve the condition of such sites. Mobile homeowners own their home, but the site owner (the person who owns the land the home is on) owns the site. Mobile homeowners must pay the site owner for using the land their home sits on.
The majority of MHWA 2013 came into force on 1 October 2014. It reformed and consolidated the law relating to residential mobile homes in Wales.
Regulated and protected sites
Part 1 of MHWA 2013 provides an overview and sets out which mobile home sites are subject to MHWA 2013 (see section 2 and Schedule 1). This incorporates both 'regulated' and 'protected' sites. Regulated sites are sites which have at least one mobile home, for the purpose of human habitation stationed on it, but which are not holiday sites and not sites falling within Schedule 1 of the Act. Protected sites include regulated sites, and those sites which would be regulated sites if they were not owned by the local authority. Schedule 1 of the Act lists the type of sites which are not regulated.
Part 2 of MHWA 2013 provides for licensing of regulated sites (which does not include local authority owned sites). A site owner must hold a site licence to use the land as a regulated site.
Section 6 of the Act states that an application for a licence may be made to the local authority. The application must include details of the land and the identity of the applicant. If the applicant is not the proposed manager of the site, the manager must also be identified. The local authority may require a fee on application.
The licence may be subject to conditions. If a local authority considers that the site owner of the land is failing, or has failed, to comply with a condition of the site licence, a compliance notice or a fixed penalty notice can be issued.
“Fit and proper person test”
A site owner is not permitted to use land or allow any part of the land to be used, as a residential site unless the local authority is satisfied that either the site owner, or the manager, is a “fit and proper person” to manage the site. This test continues to apply for the licence period. If the site owner, or manager, contravenes this requirement during the licence period, the local authority can apply to the Residential Property Tribunal for an order revoking the site licence. The site owner will also be guilty of an offence for which an unlimited fine can be imposed by a court.
To decide whether a site owner, or a manager, satisfies this test, the local authority must consider all matters appropriate including whether there is evidence that the person:
- Committed any offence involving fraud or other dishonesty, violence, firearms or drugs or any offence listed in Schedule 3 to the Sexual Offences Act 2003;
- Practised unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation contrary to the Equality Act 2010 in or in connection with the carrying on of any business;
- Contravention of any law relating to housing (including mobile homes) or landlord and tenant.
If the application is refused, the local authority must notify the person of the reasons for the decision and the right of appeal. The proposed licence holder has 28 days from notification to appeal to the Residential Property Tribunal .
Part 3 of MHWA 2013 makes provision for protection from eviction from protected sites. It applies in relation to any licence or contract under which a person is entitled to station a mobile home and occupy it as the persons residence or if the mobile home is stationed on the protected site by another, to occupy it.
It provides for various protections of occupiers against eviction, harassment, and false information. Those guilty of an offence are liable:
- On summary conviction, to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both, or
- On conviction on indictment, to a fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or to both.
It also makes provision for suspension of eviction orders. If in proceedings by the owner of a protected site the court makes an order for enforcing in relation to the site, then the court may suspend enforcement of the order for such period (not exceeding 12 months from the date of the order) as the court thinks reasonable.
Part 4 of MHWA 2013 covers the terms of agreements for stationing mobile homes on protected sites. This Part and Schedule 2 include provisions about the procedures relating to agreements and the content of the agreements.
Part 5 of MHWA 2013 makes provision under which local authorities may provide sites for mobile homes and may prohibit the stationing of mobile homes on commons.
In exercising its powers under this section, a local authority must have regards to any standards specified by the Welsh Ministers under s10 of the MHWA 2013.
Part 6 makes supplementary and general provisions.
If a site owner wishes to change the site rules, they must complete a prescribed proposal form and provide homeowners with an opportunity to respond. A site owner must notify the homeowners of the outcome and decision within 21 days of the consultation process ending. The local authority should be notified, and the new rules displayed in a prominent position on site.
Site owners can charge a fee, known as a “pitch fee” for land that mobile homes sit on. Changes can be made to the fee, but not more than once a year. A site must provide 28 clear days’ notice of a pitch fee increase by serving a pitch fee review form with a notice in writing. The consumer price index (CPI) is used to increase or decrease pitch fees in Wales.
In the event of a dispute, the site owner or the homeowner can apply to the Residential Property Tribunal.
Buying, selling or gifting a mobile home
The MHWA 2013 contains rules relating to the purchase, sale or gifting of a mobile home. For further guidance on the processes and the required forms, see GOV.WALES page on Park (mobile) home owners and land owners.
It is a criminal offence for a site owner to knowingly, or recklessly, provide information or makes a false or misleading statement that affects a sale. If evidenced, the local authority has the power to prosecute and a fine and/or imprisonment can be imposed by a court.