Mobile home security

In John Romans Park Homes Ltd v Hancock [2018] UKUT 249 (LC), Martin Rodger QC, Deputy President of the Upper Tribunal, made an interesting, tricky, but important distinction concerning the criteria for when a park provides security for a mobile home.  Mobile home security is dependent on whether the park is a “protected site”: Mobile Homes Act 1983, s 1.  A protected site is defined in the Caravan Sites Act 1968 as being “land in England in respect of which a site licence is required [ie a caravan site] … not being land in respect of which the relevant planning permission or site licence — (a)  is expressed to be granted for holiday use only …”.

The question in the case concerned what was to be done where part of the site had been expressed to be for holiday use only.  In Berkeley Leisure Group Ltd v Hampton [2001] EWCA Civ 1474, this question had arisen in the context of a park site which had certain specific pitches granted planning permission for permanent residence, and thus within the security provisions of the 1983 Act.  Security was claimed, however, in respect of another pitch on the basis that the whole site had not been restricted to holiday use only.  Walker LJ held that one could discriminate between the different parts of the site: ” … it may be both natural and necessary to treat the area as divided into two or more parts for the purposes of identifying any ‘protected site’.”  There was an absurdity in the opposite conclusion, because the occupier would have security of tenure but the park owner would be liable to planning enforcement.

In Hancock, the not dissimilar question arose but in a situation where the planning permission had been given for a total number of 12 permanent homes and 30 non-permanent sites.  The park had been divided broadly into the permanent and holiday lets, and a side letter from the local planning authority in 1977 had shown the different lets on a plan.  There were two lettings of mobile home sites (to the Hancocks and Ms Newey and Mr Hall, as assignees), both of whom had been told that they could occupy their home permanently.  Mr Romans had acquired the park after the letting, and their pitches were not on the part which had been identified in the sale as being the 12 permanent pitches.

The Deputy President distinguished Berkeley Leisure Group on the basis that the planning permission in this case was general and not specific to certain pitches: “what matters are the terms in which the permission and licence are expressed”.  It was to have 12 permanent pitches on the site.  The 1977 letter and plan did not affect the planning permission, and, in any event, it could not make any difference to the meaning and effect of the planning permission.  Counsel for Romans had argued that, once 12 pitches were occupied, then there would be a breach of planning permission in respect of the additional pitches.  But, that was not the point: “No matter how many permanent residential mobile homes there are on the site, it cannot be said of any individual pitch that the relevant planning permission is expressed to be granted for holiday use only” ([51]).

Any absurdity could have been avoided by the park owner writing in to the individual contracts that the resident could not use the property as their only or main residence (and thus not meet the criterion for security): “If the site owner does not impose such a restriction, he may find itself in difficulty, but the difficulty is one against which it (or its predecessor) could easily have protected themselves and there is no reason to allow their failure to do so to influence the proper interpretation of the 1968 Act” ([56]).  The same might have been said in the Berkeley Leisure Group case, perhaps.

Congrats to Jamie Burton and Pete Johnson, who were respectively counsel and solicitor for the Hancocks, for running this clever argument successfully.

Posted in Housing law - All, leases and others, Regulation and planning and tagged , , , .

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