There are many different types of park home, from a residential home, where you live throughout the year, to holiday homes, which have restrictive licences from the local authority as to when they can be occupied. You would have thought that the type of park home being sold to a prospective purchaser would be made plain by the site owner or the particulars of sale. Unfortunately this is not always the case.
Many people have bought park homes as a home only later to find out that the legal reality is that it can only be occupied for holiday purposes during a limited time of the year. Any occupation in breach of these conditions may put that individual in breach of the licence. The repercussions can be serious. The local authority has the ability to take enforcement action against the site owner but more concerning for occupiers is that the council can serve notice for removal of the unit and evict the home owner. The site owner can apply for retrospective planning consent but there is no guarantee that this will be successful.
Case of ‘misrepresentation’
If you believe the park owner has misrepresented the nature of the licence, you may have a case. However, it is not easy to prove. For starters, some buyers plunge into the purchase without asking questions about the licence. If this has happened, you will struggle to prove misrepresentation has occured. If you have assumed the park has a residential licence and the site owner hasn’t said otherwise, your case has shallow foundations. After all, unless you explicitly ask the question, the park owner may think you know the site is not residential. There is also the possibility that the park owner himself is not aware of the type of licence the park has. Crazy though this sounds, PH&HC is aware of many such cases.
If both home and land owner are in a state of blissful ignorance, the local authority may take pity on home owners but the ‘misrepresentation’ defence won’t apply.
The misrepresentation must be a distortion of fact by the site owner and not one of opinion or belief. The statement must be relied upon by the purchaser when acquiring the home and the result causes a loss to the occupier. If representations are made verbally, they may be difficult to prove should the site owner deny the representation. A judge would have to hear the oral evidence from the parties and consider who he believes, or which evidence he prefers on the balance of probabilities. The best evidence, of course, would be written evidence, but, as you can imagine, such brazenly fraudluent behaviour is rare. Even if all the ingredients of misrepresentation could be proven with evidence there is no guarantee that the final judgment could be enforced. Many site owners tend to take the form of limited companies. We understand that companies in this area of business do not have a particularly good track record of remaining solvent and it is not unusual for a company to go into liquidation only for a new company to take over. Unfortunately, when this happens it tends to be the case that the liabilities of the previous company die with it and therefore any judgment obtained would be very difficult to enforce. The only exception to this is if the new company purchases the assets and liabilities of the previous one which would mean you could potentially sue the new company.
At the opposite end of the scale from ‘misrepresentation’, there are cases where park owners are completely blame free and it is the home buyer who is wittingly acting recklessly in a bid to save money. Some site owners will categorically state that their site has a holiday licence only for home owners move in on a full-time basis, disregarding the imperative to have a separate permanent residential address.
While this may seem tempting – cheaper home, no council tax, etc – it leaves the home owner with absolutely no security of tenure.
If the local authority gets wind of this, the home owner can be evicted and left potentially homeless. No matter who suggests living permanently on a park with a holiday licence – the park owner, a neighbour or your other half – don’t do it! Some unscrupulous site owners will dangle this carrot. The advantage to the site owner is that holiday park homes do not fall under the remit of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 and as a result occupiers do not have the same rights against the site owner. Importantly, an occupier will not have any security to occupy and are often treated as simple licence agreements which can be easy terminated by the site owner.
Before you buy, it is imperative you consult the site licence carefully. This should be provided to you upon reques. On a good park, it should be displayed in the site office. We would also suggest getting legal advice (see panel on right). You should consult with a lawyer who deals with mobile home law and it is important to mention that should the advice given to you be wrong or negligent you could sue your lawyer. Given the uncertainties surrounding the enforcement of judgments against site owner companies it might be a comfort to know that if your lawyer’s advice was wrong you can always enforce your judgment against the firm of lawyers.
Whether you obtain advice or not, if you find that the licence is restricted to holiday seasons and you require the home as a main residence, do not be duped into buying it. It might seem like a good idea to acquire the property for a fraction of the normal price but the reality is you could end up being evicted and losing your money and home.
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