Residential 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 in 1 of almost 2000 sites in England (according to government figures).
This is because buying a park home 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 the regulation of residential 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.
To speak to one of our residential 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 fee quote.
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 buying and selling mobile park homes. We can help you with personal and quality advice, and make sure that any potential issues are picked up and quickly sorted.
Our team are experienced and practical, and we look forward to celebrating your new property purchase. We provide legal advice to clients locally in Sandy Balls, near Fordingbridge, and the Beverly Hills Park in Amesbury, across Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Dorset and throughout England and Wales – from our offices in Salisbury, Fordingbridge, Andover and Amesbury. And if you’ve got a house or flat to sell as well, our 22 strong conveyancing team can help you with that as well – wherever you are in England and Wales.
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.
And it’s worth noting, that the government sponsored Leasehold Advisory Service recommend that you use a solicitor when buying a park home. Here’s what they say:
“If you are looking to buy a park home we recommend that you use a solicitor to guide you through the purchase…………….they can highlight any potential problems at an early stage and provide peace of mind to both sides.”
What is a residential park home?
Conventional bricks and mortar homes are built from the foundations up. Park homes are different. They 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. To be classified as a park home, the house must not be more than 20 metres long, 6.8 metres wide, and 3.05 metres from floor to ceiling.
Because they are well-insulated, strongly built, and energy efficient, and although they are described as mobile housing, 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 residential 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?
Most people living in residential parks own their home – the mobile home itself – but they rent the pitch on which it stands from the site owner. Pitch fees are most commonly paid monthly, although some parks charge the fees weekly or annually. It’s not normally possible to buy that pitch outright.
Researching where you want to live is the first step in buying a park home. You may be surprised to hear that as at June 2022, research identified 1,832 separate park home sites and 100,406 “park home residential addresses” (i.e. pitches) across England alone.
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 mobile home 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.
Can I get a mortgage to buy my park home?
In short, no. Most high-street lenders will not offer a mortgage on a mobile park home. That’s because mortgages are specialised loans designed to buy leasehold or freehold property and buying a park home is different – as indicated above. As most residents are downsizing, park home purchases are mostly funded by the sale of an existing property.
How can I fund my purchase?
When it comes to funding the purchase of your park home, you have the following 3 main choices:
- Specialised loans
There are a number of lenders out there who offer specialised finance which enable you to borrow money to cover the cost of buying the park home. These often use the park home itself as security for the loan. Our team can can check over any loan documents to ensure the terms are fair and in your best interests.
- Buying with cash
Often people use savings or sell their existing home to buy a park home. Equity release is also an alternative source of cash, as is cashing in some or all of your pension.
- Part-exchange schemes
Another alternative way of funding your purchase is by using a part exchange. This means that you sell your home to a part exchange company – and use the equity released in selling your home to buy the park home. Any extra money due to you available as a lump sum cash payment.
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.
Can I buy a park home and rent it out?
Every residential park home comes with its own rules, but it’s almost certain that those conditions won’t allow you to sub-let or rent out. Residential park homes are designed to be lived in by the owner, and buy to let ownership is normally impossible.
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.
Pitch fees 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 pitch fees. 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 only 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.
Inheriting a park home
If you die while living in your park home and it’s your main or only or main residence, then any member of your family who was living with you at the time inherits the property – taking over your contract with the owner of the site, along with all of your legal rights.
And your wife, husband, or your civil partner has priority over any other family member.
But if you lived alone at the time, then whoever inherits the property under your will has the right to sell it. However, it’s important to note that in this case, they have no automatic right to live there – although can do if the site owner gives their permission.
Do I need a survey done on the park home?
Like appointing a solicitor, getting a surveyor to have a good look at the condition of the park home is not compulsory, but it’s it’s very sensible. And again our advice is backed up by that from the Leasehold Advisory Service who say:
“If you are planning to buy a park home you may wish to get a survey report from a specialist park home surveyor. Although it isn’t compulsory, it is a good idea to assess the condition of any park home you are looking to buy. “
Are park homes registered with the Land Registry?
No, ownership of park or mobile homes isn’t recorded at the Land Registry, unlike the ownership of traditional houses or flats.
Do we have to pay Stamp Duty when buying a park home?
No, Stamp duty is not something you need to worry about.
Can I live in a static caravan all year round?
Living in a mobile home or static caravan year-round is possible, but it depends on your particular circumstances. In England, the Mobile Homes Act 1983 regulates that you can only live in a static caravan permanently if it’s situated in a park with a permanent residential license or on your own private land with planning permission.
Holiday parks, on the other hand, are only for temporary stays, usually with time limits and seasonal restrictions.
If you plan on placing a static caravan on your existing property, you can do so temporarily without planning permission under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1980, but it cannot be used as a permanent home. So, for example, you can park your static caravan in your garden or on the drive without planning permission, but only temporarily; for example, while your house is being renovated. It can’t be used permanently to living without planning permission. But it’s important to check with your local council, as rules and regulations do vary.
Mobile Park Homes – increased protection for homeowners from 2021
New rules to protect park homeowners were brought in by the government in October 2021. From that date there has been be a “fit and proper person” test for “protected” site owners.
When considering this test, local authorities must consider the business history of the site owner, whether they are competent to manage the site or have broken any relevant laws and that they are signed up to a redress scheme for dealing with complaints
Councils have now also been given increased powers to combat bad practice and exploitation on park home sites, and stronger enforcement powers to deal with those owners those who fail to comply with the new rules.
To quote Housing Minister, Heather Wheeler MP, in 2018:
“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.”
However, regardless of the reform, it is always really sensible that you conduct a thorough investigation into the reputation of the park home site owner and the residents.
Our specialist park home conveyancing solicitors will advise and represent buying your new home from the beginning until 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.