Park homes can be an attractive choice for some people, for example older people downsizing from conventional family homes. Sadly, not all sites are managed well, and evidence shows that some site owners do not meet their responsibilities or respect the rights of residents.
I know many would like to see further changes to the ten per cent commission of the price of a mobile home upon sale. Government-commissioned research has been undertaken by the University of Liverpool to gather data on this issue in order to have a solid evidence basis for any potential changes. The final report drew attention to complex issues around the payment of commission on the sale of a park home, residents’ mobility and the financial viability of parks.
I understand that the final report is being considered by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The research is publicly available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mobile-homes-the-impact-of-a-change-in-the-maximum-park-home-sale-commission/the-impact-of-a-change-in-the-maximum-park-home-sale-commission-executive-summary
The Government is supporting a Private Member's Bill tabled by the Member for Christchurch, Sir Christopher Chope. The Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Bill will change the pitch fee review inflationary index from the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). This change is a long-standing Government commitment and I know that many park home residents will join me in welcoming the introduction of this Bill to Parliament.
CPI will be applied to all pitch fee reviews where the pitch fee review notice is served on or after the day that the Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Bill comes into force. The Bill also makes clear that site owners cannot pass the difference between the RPI and CPI increase on to mobile home owners. The First-tier Tribunal must deem unreasonable any amount included by site owners to compensate them for the financial loss arising from the RPI-to-CPI change, whether real or anticipated. Already, residents and park owners can apply to the First-tier Tribunal if they cannot agree on an appropriate pitch fee.
Regulations have been introduced to improve the management of park homes and other caravan sites. Measures include an assessment that the person responsible for managing the site is suitable to do so and of good character, which will help target and remove the worst offenders from the sector. The test will be useful for enforcement action against unscrupulous site owners and will help protect residents of park homes and other residential caravan sites, many of whom are elderly and vulnerable. Site owners were required to submit applications by 1 October 2021.
Under the new system, local authorities must maintain a register of people who are fit and proper to manage a park home site in their area. Applicants for registration are screened on possible criminal records and site owners can face unlimited fines under the regulations. Offences include operating a site without being on the local authority register, breaching the conditions attached to an entry on the register, and providing false information in an application.
I know many park home residents want to make sure local authorities take their role seriously in protecting people from rogue park owners. I do think it is important that magistrates' courts have a role in the process, which in this case would be issuing orders to revoke site licences. I know local authorities want to keep the administration costs as low as possible for applications, and the fees should be reasonable and transparent.
The Government has issued guidance to support councils in implementing these new requirements. Further information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mobile-homes-fit-and-proper-person-test-guidance-for-local-authorities/mobile-homes-a-guide-for-local-authorities-on-the-fit-and-proper-person-test
The Mobile Homes Regulations 2020 ensure that local authorities publish a fees policy for the fit and proper person test. The fee, estimated to be between £20 and £500, is to be paid by the applicant, although some site owners may pass on costs to residents. However, as the registration is expected to be valid for up to five years, it is unlikely to place a considerable burden on park home residents.
Please be assured that I want to see an improvement in protections for park home residents and I will continue to follow any developments closely.