This article was produced by Jessica Hayward from Capital Law.
For many, the thought of spending retirement in a swanky mobile home or buying the perfect family holiday home by a sandy beach in Wales is what we can only dream of. But there are some issues which owners of mobile homes need to be aware of, so that their dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare.
Although opting for a mobile home in a picturesque setting instead of a brick building on a housing estate may to some, be the ideal option (and perhaps, lighter on the wallet), not many mobile homeowners realise that it’s not just the mobile home they need to pay for. Site owners can, and most likely will, charge “pitch fees” for the land the mobile home sits on and this additional cost can come as a surprise to some.
The fact that mobile homeowners do not own the land their home sits on poses some risk. Technically, they have no rights to this land, so if the land is sold on, they could lose their “pitch” and have to move. This can cause some mobile homeowners great difficulty and stress.
Some site owners have also been known to take advantage of the fact that mobile homeowners do not own the land their home is on. Again, causing some owners to pack up and go.
Thankfully, it’s not all negative! The Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013 (the “Act”) came into force on 1 October 2014 and has reformed the law relating to residential mobile homes in Wales. The Act provides a lot more protection for owners of mobile homes including improving the conditions of the sites.
Part 1 of the Act provides a useful overview and sets out which mobile home sites are subject to the Act. It 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. The type of sites which are not regulated can be found in Schedule 1 of the Act.
Part 2 of the Act deals with licensing of regulated sites (which does not include local authority owned sites) as a site owner must hold a site licence to use the land as a regulated site. An application for a licence can be made to the local authority and must contain details of the land and the applicants’ identity in accordance with Schedule 6 of the Act. The manager must also be identified where the applicant is not the manager. Sometimes, a fee is required by the local authority alongside the application. This protects mobile homeowners by governing who can run these sites.
Finally, 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.
If during the licence period, the site owner, or manager, breaches this requirement, the local authority can apply to the Residential Property Tribunal for an order revoking the site licence. The site owner could also be guilty of an offence for which an unlimited fine can be imposed by a court.
In deciding whether a site owner, or a manager, satisfies this test, the local authority must assess 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 and contravention of any law relating to housing (including mobile homes) or landlord and tenant.
The local authority must notify the person of the reasons for the decision and the right of appeal where the application has been refused. The period to appeal to the Residential Property Tribunal is 28 days from notification. This helps to deter site owners to take advantage of mobile homeowners.
Now, what will it be – mobile home by the sea or plan b?