The growth in the mobile homes sector over the past few years is a reflection of the pressure in the housing market. Many residents like the lifestyle that comes with it and the normally rural or seaside location. For people who are priced out of buying in the housing market, a mobile home can represent an affordable option better than paying rent.
However there have been serious problems in the ‘park homes’ sector that have left residents facing poor services and unable to get a proper value for their home when they decide to move on.
There has been a remarkable consensus amongst politicians that something needs to be done and it now looks likely that a private members introduced by Peter Aldous MP will be passed with Government and Opposition support in the Autumn.
Last week the Government published its response to a report from the CLG Select Committee which moved things a step closer towards a conclusion. It says: ‘The Government acknowledges that whilst there are good site operators who provide a decent service to their resident home owners and operate within the law, we agree with the Committee that malpractice is widespread. We also agree with the Committee that the current legislation does not adequately protect residents and their assets, and fails to enable them to fully exercise their rights as home owners.’
There is agreement that the practice of ‘sale blocking’ should be ended. Site owners currently have the right to ‘approve’ prospective buyers, which is, as the Committee said, ‘rarely used legitimately’. Instead of being a vetting process, refusal has been used as a means of depressing prices and effectively forcing owners to sell to the site owner, enabling them to sell on at a significant profit.
There is acceptance by both the Committee and the Government that there needs to be much greater professionalism in the management and maintenance of sites and a stronger challenge to criminality, including harassment and intimidation, which is common. The existing law, and any new law, needs to be better understood and there needs to be an effective regulatory regime operated by the local authorities and a better informed response from the police. Surprisingly in light of its more general views, “The Government acknowledges that local authorities are poorly resourced to monitor conditions on park home sites. We accept that without a proper funding stream many local authorities are unable or unwilling to devote resources to monitoring and enforcement. We have, therefore, consulted on changes to the licensing regime which would enable local authorities to charge site operators for their licensing functions, including a power to levy an annual fee for administration and monitoring of licences.’
One area of disagreement is that the Committee recommended that there should be a ‘fit and proper person’ test for site owners, but the Government disagrees arguing that the other measures proposed ‘should remove the opportunity for criminal operators to make easy profits through unscrupulous practices’. And there is disagreement as to whether pitch fee reviews should be linked to the Consumer Price Index (Committee) or the Retail Price Index (Government). Use of indices is an area where the Government seems to show no consistency, picking and choosing what suits it at a particular moment – in relation to benefit upratings for example.
Without labouring the point too much, the sensible outcome to the campaign for new legislation and the all-party support it has gained is in stark contrast to the private rented sector where many of the same arguments apply but the Government has set its face against meaningful regulation. I suspect this is for the ideological reason that it sees mobile home owners as owner occupiers who should have their rights protected rather than mere tenants.