Mobile homes and caravans

The editor of this section of the site is Tim Selley, solicitor with Crosse and Crosse Solicitors LLP (www.crosse.co.uk)

 

Mobile Homes Act 2013

Mobile Homes Act 2013

This Act changed a number of features of mobile home law. In particular it deals with pitch fees, a regulation for site ownership along the fit and proper person lines, park rules and restrictions on sale of homes on sites. Not all of the provisions are coming into force at the same time.

 

Protected site

Mixed (holiday and residential) sites

John Romans Park Homes Limited v Hancock

[2018] UKUT 249 (LC)

Summary

Having regard to the fact that (i) no particular part of the site was restricted to holiday use only, (ii) the planning permission for the site and (iii) the site licence, that the whole site was a "protected site".

Facts

Site owner alleging two homes on its site did not have the protection of Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended) (“MHA”)

The site in question is a mixed site with some residential homes having the protection of MHA, but other homes which are classed as holiday homes.  

Issues

Could the site be viewed for MHA purposes as a "protected site" so that the homeowners could have agreements with the rights under MHA?

First instance

The FTT held, distinguishing Berkeley Leisure Group ltd v Hampton [2001] EWCA Civ 1474 that as no particular part of the site was restricted to holiday use only, and having regard to the planning permission for the site and the site licence, that the whole site was a “protected” site”.

Decision on appeal

The Upper Tribunal upheld the FTT decision.  Whilst as in Berkeley, a site licence could distinguish on their terms to there being differing permitted user for different parts of the site, here, the permission and licence did not do so. Whilst it did limit the number of plots that could be used for permanent homes, that was not the issue.  In this case, the permission and licence did not distinguish between individual pitches.  It did not specify that any individual pitch should be for holiday use only.  Whilst they did limit the number of MHA homes, that was not of relevance to the decision in the case.

 

Application of the Mobile Homes Act 1983

Howard v Charlton

[2002] EWCA Civ 1086

Facts

The mobile home owner had an agreement, to occupy part of the caravan site, which was protected by s1 of the Mobile Homes Act 1983. Subsequently he added an extension to the caravan. The site owner argued that this made the caravan a fixture, that the protection afforded by the Act therefore ceased to apply and that he was entitled to possession.

Held

The Court of Appeal disagreed. The agreement still applied and there was nothing in the agreement entitling the site owner to terminate it on the grounds stated. In any event the Act applies not to the home as such but to the agreement.

 

Home owner security

Transfer of site owner's interest

Wyldecrest Parks (Management) Ltd v Turner

[2020] UKUT 0040 (LC).

Summary

A resident in a mobile home, on a site protected by the Mobile Homes Act 1983 is not entitled to see a copy of the lease under which the site owner holds the site.

Facts

The case concerned St Dominic Park in Cornwall.  T and his partner had been homeowners on the site since 2006, when they were given a standard "Mobile Homes Act" agreement by the then freehold owner. In 2018, the site had been sold.  Subsequent to the sale, a lease had been created by the purchaser in favour of Wyldecrest. T wanted to see a copy of that Lease.

First instance

The First Tier Tribunal ordered W to disclose a copy of this lease. It was implicit the lease in question was not for more than seven years as it then would have been registerable.  W appealed.

Decision on Appeal

The appeal was successful.  On a paper determination, Upper Tribunal Judge Elizabeth Cooke noted that T had no worry in terms of the security of tenure he and his partner enjoyed. This was because the agreement made in 2006 was with the then freehold owner.  As such, s3 (1) of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended) (“MHA”) applied:

“An agreement to which this Act applies shall be binding on and endure for the benefit of any successor in title of the (site) owner and any person claiming through or under the owner or any such successor”.

She described this as “crucial protection for the occupier of a mobile home.  It means the agreement continues in operation even when the site changes hands”. The rights of T and his partner were unaffected by a change of ownership of the site or however long or short W’s lease was.

It however was appreciated that the position would not be the same if T and his partner had not been granted their agreement by a freehold owner.  Paragraph 2 of Chapter 2 Schedule 1 of MHA says:

“if the (site) owner’s estate or interest is insufficient to enable him to grant the right for an indefinite period, the period for which the right (to station the mobile home) subsists shall not extend beyond the date when the (site) owner’s estate or interest determines”.

Tied in with this as well was the issue as to whether the FTT in any event, had the power to order the production of a copy of the lease. Section 4 of MHA as now in force, shares jurisdiction for MHA cases between the FTT and the Court.

The Judge agreed that Section 4 provided a forum for the resolution of "any question arising under (MHA) or any agreement to which it applies". However, where in the instant case there was no dispute arising under MHA or the occupier’s agreement, Section 4 was not engaged and as such, the FTT did not have the power to order disclosure. 

 

Mobile Homes Agreement

Termination - old notice

Telchadder v Wickland (Hodlings) Ltd

[2012] EWCA Civ 635

Summary

A Judge had been entitled to terminate a mobile home agreement based on a warning notice served three years prior to proceedings being commenced and had taken into account all the relevant factors including disability and convention rights.

Facts

D owned a mobile home that was sited on a plot on a protected mobile home residential site owned by C. D resided there pursuant to a licence agreement dated 1st June 2006, which incorporated ‘Park Rules’.

Following anti-social behaviour by D, which C claimed were in breach of the Park Rules, D served a notice setting out particulars of breach and the anti-social behaviour on 15th July 2006. D served a further warning letter on a few days later. Further warning letters were sent including one on 15 August 2006 after D had dressed up in camouflage and combat clothing, including a mask, and had made unwanted approaches to other residents causing them alarm and distress. Subsequent to that D made threats to kill other residents. Possession proceedings were issued in 2009.

D suffers from a disability; mild learning disability, autistic traits, anxiety disorder and depression. He also has a history of heroin addiction.

C applied for a possession order.

First instance

The Judge found a number of anti-social behaviour allegations had been proved and that there was therefore a breach of the Park Rules and the licence agreement. Paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 of the 1983 Act implies a term into a licence agreement that:

    ‘The owner shall be entitled to terminate the agreement forthwith if on the application of the owner, the appropriate judicial body – (a) is satisfied that the occupier has breached at term of the agreement and, after service of a notice to remedy the breach, has not complied with the notice within a reasonable time; and (b) considers it reasonable for the agreement to be terminated’

The Judge also found that the letter of 15th August 2006 was a notice under the paragraph. He then made an order for possession after considering whether it was reasonable to make such an order in light of the incidents he had found, but also against the background of D’s disability, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Equality Act 2010 and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Issues

D appealed on the basis that:

  • The notice of 15 August 2006 was not sufficient notice for the purposes of the Act, and
  • It was not reasonable to terminate the agreement and order possession.

Decision on appeal

The appeal was dismissed. In relation to the first point, the Court of Appeal found that the notice was adequate. Mummery LJ said that it did what the legislation required in that it:

    "described the conduct complained of, required the defendant to stop it, gave him an opportunity to do so and warned him of the consequences of not doing so."

Further he commented that unlike other forms of statutory notice, there was no prescribed wording or form and no limits on duration.

In relation to the second point, Mummery LJ agreed with D that it was necessary to consider the 1995 Act, the 2010 Act and the Convention, whether or not expressly pleaded or relied upon as part of the circumstances in which an order was to be made. However, the Judge had done precisely that and had balanced D’s rights as against the other occupiers and residents.

 

Pitch fee increases

Annual increase

Wyldecrest Parks (Management) Limited v Keynon

[2017] UKUT 28 (LC)

Vyse v Wyldecrest Parks (Management) Limited

[2017] UKUT 24 (LC).

Summary

Both cases dealt with the rights of site owners to increase the month fee that home owners pay. The Tribunal in both cases considered whether increased fees charged by the local authorities for site licences to the site owner could be passed on to the home owners. This was allowed in one of the cases.

Outline facts

Broadly, the ability of site owners each year to increase the monthly pitch fee is governed by Chapter 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended) at paragraphs 16 – 20 (the “implied terms”). In both cases these provisions were considered by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) in separate hearings. In each case the sites were operated by the same owner and the same issue arose. This related to whether the charging by the relevant local authority of a site licence fee, which came about due to changes in the licensing regime stemming from Mobile Homes Act 2013, could be passed on to the home owners through the pitch fee increase process.

The Deputy President Martin Rodger QC outlined the law in Kenyon. He said the effect of the implied terms for pitch fee review can be summarised in the following propositions:

    "(1) The direction in paragraph 16(b) that in the absence of agreement the pitch fee may be changed only “if the appropriate judicial body … considers it reasonable” for there to be a change is more than just a pre-condition; it imports a standard of reasonableness, to be applied in the context of the other statutory provisions, which should guide the tribunal when it is asked to determine the amount of a new pitch fee.
    (2) In every case “particular regard” must be had to the factors in paragraph 18(1), but these are not the only factors which may influence the amount by which it is reasonable for a pitch fee to change.
    (3) No weight may be given in any case to the factors identified in paragraphs 18(1A) and 19.
    (4) With those mandatory consideration well in mind the starting point is then the presumption in paragraph 20(A1) of an annual increase or reduction by no more than the change in RPI. This is a strong presumption, but it is neither an entitlement nor a maximum.
    (5) The effect of the presumption is that an increase (or decrease) “no more than” the change in RPI will be justified, unless one of the factors mentioned in paragraph 18(1) makes that limit unreasonable, in which case the presumption will not apply.
    (6) Even if none of the factors in paragraph 18(1) applies, some other important factor may nevertheless rebut the presumption and make it reasonable that a pitch fee should increase by a greater amount than the change in RPI."

Keynon

The Council in this case had delayed in issuing its fee structure so that its increase had not taken place in the year for which the increase in the pitch fee was sought. However, the Upper Tribunal allowed an appeal deciding the list of matters referred to at paragraph 18 was not exhaustive and other factors could be taken into consideration under paragraph 20 (A1).

Vyse

The principle of the recovery of a fee was also accepted by the Upper Tribunal in this case but the Tribunal did not agree it was appropriate for the site owner to pass on part of the licence fee which the authority had added for alleged (but disputed by the site owner) “extra risk due to an apparent lack of management”.

 

Site licences

Compliance notices

Shelfside (Holdings) Ltd v Vale of White Horse DC

[2016] UKUT 400 (LC)

Summary

Local authorities who serve compliance notices on site owners do not act in a judicial capacity and do not have to be satisfied "beyond reasonable doubt" that a breach has occurred. Further, there had been no breach of policy in deciding to take the enforcement action.

Relevant statutory provisions

In outline, the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 (CSCDA 1960) provides for the control of certain caravan sites by local authorities. A new licensing regime was introduced largely by amendment to the Act, which came into force in 2014. This enables local authorities to serve compliance notices in relation to, inter alia, breaches of site licence conditions.

Facts

A local authority (L) served compliance notices on the site owner (S) in respect of issues arising from the licence for a site. A home on the site had been situated in contravention of two site licence conditions, namely distance from the site boundary and being too close to another home.

The compliance notices in essence required the home to be moved so as to remedy these two breaches. S appealed against the notices to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber). At the hearing S admitted that the two licence conditions had been breached by the siting of the home in question. The FTT found for L and refused to quash the compliance notice. S then ap-pealed to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber).

Decision

The Upper Tribunal dismissed the appeal.

S argued that before serving the notice L needed to be satisfied “beyond reasonable doubt” that the breaches had occurred. However, on the basis that the statutory power in section 9A(1) CSCDA 1960 provides for the ability to serve “if it appears” there is a breach, this ground was dismissed. There was no reference to the standard of proof nor should any be im-plied as L was not acting in a judicial capacity. The Tribunal pointed out that the compliance notice procedure was an alternative to criminal prosecution, in which the criminal standard of proof would apply.

S also then alleged breaches of “policy” as to L’s decision to take the enforcement ac-tion. Reference was made to:

  • The Regulator’s code issued by the Department of Busi-ness Innovation and Skills under section 23 of the Legislative Reform Act 2006, which men-tions the 1960 Act as one of the provisions regulated by the Code;
  • The 2008 “Model Standards” for site licence conditions; and
  • The “Best Practice Guide for Local Authorities on Enforcement of the New Site Li-censing Regime” from the Department for Communities and Local Government and is-sued following the Mobile Homes Act 2013.

The Upper Tribunal did not find any failings by the authority having regard to these matters, HHJ Bridge said:

    "Not only do I consider that the decision of the FtT is unimpeachable as a matter of law, but I am of the view that the decision was the right decision to make."

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