People living year-round in mobile (park) homes normally own their home and rent the land on which it is stationed from the site owner (paying a pitch fee). The Government estimates that around 85,000 households live in mobile homes on 2000 sites in England. Most mobile home sites are privately owned with a small number owned by local authorities. Mobile homes can offer an attractive housing option for retired people, consequently residents tend to be older. The age profile of mobile home owners can make it challenging for them to assert their rights when dealing with unscrupulous site operators.

The legal framework: issues and shortcomings

The legal framework within which site and mobile home owners operate has developed in a piecemeal fashion. The Mobile Homes Act 1983 extended the rights of mobile home residents, particularly in respect of security of tenure. However, various shortcomings in its provisions were identified, leading to calls for its review and amendment. In 1988 Shelter’s now disbanded Mobile Homes Unit produced a report on the operation of the 1983 Act which called for changes to be made, including: having pitch fee levels fixed by rent officers; the development of an effective system of arbitration; and stronger duties on local authorities to inspect unfit housing on mobile homes sites.

Following a review carried out by a Park Homes Working Group in 1998, some of the shortcomings identified were addressed by the Housing Act 2004. Nevertheless, concerns around malpractice in the park homes sector persisted. These focused on: complaints about unfair fees and charges; poor standards of maintenance; and site owners obstructing the ability of home owners to sell. The Labour Government conducted a further consultation exercise in 2009, following which detailed proposals to strengthen the site licensing system were set out in Park homes site licensing reform: The way forward and next steps. These measures were not implemented prior to the 2010 General Election.

The Coalition Government published A better deal for mobile home owners on 16 April 2012. The Communities and Local Government Select Committee conducted an inquiry into the park homes industry and published its report, Park Homes, in June 2012. The Committee found “widespread malpractice” in the sector and concluded that the existing legislative framework was “inadequate”.

The Mobile Homes Act 2013

After drawing fifth place in the 2012 Private Members’ Bill ballot, Peter Aldous used this opportunity to introduce the Mobile Homes Bill 2012-13. The Bill secured Government support and amended the existing legislation to strengthen the protection offered to mobile home owners. The 2013 Act implemented many of the proposals contained in A better deal for mobile home owners and recommendations made by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee in Park Homes. The Coalition Government issued detailed guidance on the rights and obligations of site and mobile home owners. The remit of the Leasehold Advisory Service was also extended to provide free information and advice to “owners of mobile homes, site owners, local authority officers or anyone else with a question about the law on park homes”.

2017 Review of mobile (park) homes legislation

Despite legislative activity in this area, mobile home owners are not content that all of their issues have been resolved. For example, there is particular dissatisfaction about the continuation of the requirement to pay a commission fee of 10% on the sale price of a mobile home to the site owner. A separate Library briefing paper on Mobile (park homes): 10% commission on sales provides detailed information on this charge.

In 2015, the Government set up a Park Homes Working Group “to identify evidence of poor practice where it exists, and investigate how best to raise standards and further tackle abuse”. The Group, which included national resident groups and industry trade bodies, concluded its work and put forward its recommendations to Government.

The Government conducted a two-part review of mobile (park) homes legislation in 2017. The review also sought views on some of the Park Homes Working Group’s recommendations.

The review concluded that, overall, the measures introduced by the Mobile Homes Act 2013 had been effective in improving the sector. However, the review also identified areas where further action was needed, including: some administrative processes and procedures could be streamlined; some park home residents still lacked awareness of their rights and responsibilities; some local authorities faced barriers in carrying out their enforcement activities; and some site owners continued to take unfair advantage of residents.

The Government’s response to the two-part review, published in October 2018, sets out proposals to strengthen the existing legislation by:

  • improving residents’ rights;
  • giving local authorities more enforcement powers to tackle rogue site owners;
  • working with the sector to raise awareness of rights and responsibilities of residents; and 
  • developing and disseminating best practice amongst local authorities.

The Government has subsequently introduced a legal requirement that a mobile home site owner or manager must demonstrate they are a ‘fit and proper person’ to manage a site.

The Government has also supported Sir Christopher Chope’s Private Members’ Bill, Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Bill 2022-23, which is currently passing through Parliament. The Bill will amend the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to change the pitch fee review inflationary index, which is used by site owners to increase the fees paid by mobile home owners on their site, from the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). CPI is generally lower than RPI, which will provide a cost saving to mobile home owners.

The Government remains committed to improving protections for mobile home residents and “will introduce the required legislation when the parliamentary timetable allows.”

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Housing policy is a devolved matter. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have introduced specific legislation to regulate activities on residential mobile home sites – section 4 of this paper provides an overview.

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