Park homes have become remarkably popular in the last few years. In fact, you may be surprised to find that here that over 250,000 people in the UK choose to live in a park home.
This is because park homes make perfect sense for many people – not least amongst those who are looking to downsize after their families have flown the nest, and with an ageing population, it’s seems likely that more people will be looking at taking up mobile park home living as an option.
NB this web page refers to regulation of park homes in England under the new Mobile Homes Act, 2013. Parks in Wales are still regulated by the 1983 Mobile Homes Act and the 2004 Housing Act.
Buying and selling park homes – getting the right legal advice
If you have decided to take the plunge and move into a park home, expert legal advice is essential. Our conveyancing team includes specialists in mobile park home conveyancing – who will provide personal, quality, pragmatic advice, and make sure that any potential issues are picked up and quickly sorted.
We are experienced and practical, and we look forward to celebrating your new property purchase. We provide legal advice to clients locally in Sandy Balls, across Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Dorset and throughout England and Wales – from our offices in Salisbury, Fordingbridge, Andover and Amesbury.
To speak to one of our park home conveyancing specialists, please call 0800 1404544 or one of our local office numbers [see below] for FREE initial phone advice and an instant no obligation quote.
What is a park home?
Conventional bricks and mortar homes are built from the foundations up. Park homes are constructed off-site and transported to mobile home parks when finished. Bungalow-style park homes are small and easy to maintain – perfect for retirees and others looking to simplify their life.
Park homes are constructed in line with British Standard BS3632. Because they are well-insulated, strongly built, and energy efficient, they can be permanently lived in. Custom-made bathrooms and kitchens can be created, allowing you to future-proof your home in case you or your spouse suffer a disability in the future.
Some parks are small family run sites, though others are often much bigger and owned by specialist park home operators who may operate multiple parks.
Being located in a safe community is also seen as an advantage by many. Most mobile park home sites have a strong sense of community spirit. Many also offer a range of activities, clubs and events for residents.
How do I buy a park home?
Researching where you want to live is the first step in buying a park home. You may be surprised to hear that there are actually around 70,000 sites in the UK.
When buying a park home, the main thing to remember is you are buying the building but not the land – which is usually referred to as the pitch or plot.
The park owner retains control of the land and can, therefore, set certain rules. Therefore, meeting the owner and talking to existing park residents is vital.
You need to be sure that the site and the people who live there will contribute to a positive retirement.
Although the majority of parks are well-run, tales of rogue park site owners have increased over recent years. Elderly park homeowners have complained of excessive pitch fees, bullying, intimidation, refusing to allow renovations to the outside of the park home, and non-repair of sewers and other facilities. The Park Home Residents’ Action Alliance website contains many tales of woe that will make your hair stand on end. That’s why it’s so important to visit the site and speak to other residents – to make sure your future home is on one of the well-run sites.
Funding for your purchase
Most high-street lenders will not offer a mortgage on a mobile park home. As most residents are downsizing, park home purchases are mostly funded by the sale of an existing property. However, specialist lenders can provide finance if required. Our conveyancers will advise you on the sale of your property as well as the purchase of the park home. In addition, we can check over any loan or mortgage documents to ensure the terms are fair and in your best interests.
Do I need a solicitor to buy a park home?
There is no requirement to instruct a Solicitor when buying a park home, but not doing so means taking a huge risk. You will see below how quickly a park home purchase can go wrong, especially if the site owner is not above dodgy tactics to secure revenue.
Your park home – how to buy it
There are three ways to purchase a park home:
1. Buy a property already located on site
2. Purchase a bespoke house, designed how you want it and transported to the site
3. Buy a property from an existing resident who is leaving the site
Buying a park home located on a site
Many people buy a mobile park home for cash, having sold their family home. Before you sign an order form and pay a deposit, make sure:
a) you are happy with the Written Statement provided by the site owner, as per their requirements under the Mobile Homes Act 2013
b) you have a list of everything the park home includes, such as fencing, a garage, appliances etc
c) the sale of your family home is complete
Do not allow a site manager or their representative to pressure you into handing over a large deposit if you have not completed all of the above tasks.
Designing a bespoke park home and having it delivered to the site
A non-refundable deposit will normally be required to secure your place on the site you choose. When it comes to conveyancing, house sales do fall through, so don’t assume offloading your family home will be plain sailing. Only put down a non-refundable deposit of an amount you can afford to lose.
You will also need to ensure the design of your bespoke park home is permitted on the site you choose. The site owner will require an estimate of the cost to build your home and the specs you have chosen (such as a garage), to work out a price for the site.
Buying a park home from an existing resident
Under the Mobile Homes (Selling and Gifting) (England) Regulations 2013, a purchaser does not need to be approved by the park owner in order to purchase a park home from another resident. However, you will need to show you comply with basic rules such as any age bracket stipulated for residence (for example, over 55s).
The best way to protect your money and prevent stress is to invest in experienced legal advice when buying a park home. If a site owner tries to pull a ‘fast-one’ or intimidate you into paying unnecessary fees, we will move quickly to protect your interests.
What is a written statement?
This document is at the core of buying your new home.
Site owners must provide a purchaser with a written statement at least 28 days before the sale is agreed. It must contain:
· your name and address, and the name and address of the site owner
· the agreed start date
· the pitch description and plan
· the site owner’s legal rights to the land
· the date when the site owner’s legal interest or planning permission is due to end (if applicable) and how your rights are thus affected
· express terms
· terms ‘implied’ into the agreement by law which cannot be overridden
· the pitch fee and fee for services
· the pitch fee review procedure
· any additional charges, e.g. for utilities or other services
If you buy your park home from an existing resident, the written statement they have agreed to is assigned to you.
If a site owner fails to deliver a written statement within the timescale, you can apply to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England. The Tribunal will make an order that the written statement be produced.
My Mobile Home – Are there any ongoing costs?
Yes, in addition to actually buying the home itself, you are also going to have to pay the owner what is known as a ‘pitch fee’. This fee, which may be payable weekly, monthly or annually covers the costs of the park’s upkeep.
The pitch fee covers a wide variety of expenses including maintenance of roads and communal areas, as well as the ongoing provision of any services and amenities.
Paying Your Pitch Fee
The first thing you need to be aware of is that there is a legal obligation on residents to pay the pitch fee.
However there are limitations on the ability of any park owner when it comes to increasing the pitch fee. In particular, that fee can only be increased if either
- the resident agrees to the increase (beware – such agreement can be given by simply paying the new increased fee without any objection) or
- if there is no such agreement, by the Court – which will agree to any fee increase if it is considered reasonable.
It’s also worth noting that any site owner is any permitted to raise pitch fees one a year on what is known as on the agreed “review date”. You will normally find your review date in the written statement.
Can I be evicted from my park home?
As long as the site owner’s legal interest in the land or planning permission does not end, you have a right to occupy your pitch indefinitely. If you choose to leave, you must give four weeks’ notice. A site owner must apply to the County Court to evict you and can only do so on the following grounds:
· you no longer live in the park home, or it is not your main residence
· the condition of your home is damaging or unsafe for the site
· you have broken the terms of your agreement, e.g. your pitch fees are in arrears
The Court will normally give you time to rectify the situation before allowing the site owner to evict you. If you are being asked to leave your park home, contact us immediately for advice.
Do I need to pay council tax if I live in a park home?
Yes, you will need to pay council tax on your park home. Other utilities such as electricity and water will also be payable.
But you don’t need to pay stamp duty when buying in the first place – because you’re not actually purchasing land.
Park home disputes
Any park home dispute is no longer dealt with by the County Court. Since 30th April 2011, these kind of disputes are dealt with by the First-Tier Property Tribunal. Click here to find out more about how the First-Tier Property Tribunal works.
Mobile Park Homes – plans for reform
Plans to bring in new laws to protect park homeowners were announced by the government in October 2018. With some park homeowners being forced to pay management charges which increase by 50% year on year, Housing Minister Heather Wheeler MP has stated: “Everyone has a right to feel safe and secure in their own home.
We know some people in mobile homes have been ripped off by rogue site owners who charge excessive fees and harass residents.
To stop this, councils will be given powers to ban site owners who do not meet the standards expected of them. We will make sure they have the tools needed to protect the vulnerable, while allowing honest operators to flourish.”
The proposed reforms include:
· Forcing site owners to clearly define pitch fees and outlaw any additional service charges
· Introduction of a “fit and proper person” test for site owners
· Consider reducing the 10% fee a park site owner can currently take if a resident sells their home
The reforms are due to be presented in the “The Mobile Homes and Park Homes Bill 2019-21“, which is currently prepared for publication and is expected to be considered by Parliament initially on January 15, 2021.
In the meantime, it is crucial that you conduct a thorough investigation into the reputation of the park home site owner and the residents. Our conveyancing Solicitors will quickly pick up any reports of rip-off fees and/or bully-boy tactics.
Our conveyancing solicitors advise and represent you in the park home purchase process from the beginning to completion. We will make sure to get the right legal advice, your interests are protected and you are all set up to enjoy your new home.