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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
New rights for mobile home owners?
By Melanie Abbott
Producer, Radio 4's Face the Facts

Mobile home owners can be vulnerable if they try to sell
Mobile home owners have fewer rights than other home owners

An investigation by the BBC has found that legislation designed to improve the situation of 200,000 mobile homeowners around Britain has in many instances failed to make any difference.

People living in mobile homes on mobile home parks - and there are around more than 1600 dotted around the UK - are in the unusual position of owning their own home but not the land it sits on.

That belongs to the site owner to whom they pay ground rent.

They also need his or her permission to be able to sell their home.

And sometimes that permission has not been forthcoming, with claims that landowners are blocking sales of mobile homes, making it impossible for owners to realise their asset.

New rights?

The Amendment to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 came into force in England last October.

John Waite, presenter, Face the Facts, at a mobile home for sale
The BBC's John Waite investigates the mobile home business

In the government's own words, it was designed to tackle "rogues" who have entered the mobile homes industry.

But the legislation has done nothing to tackle the problem of blocked sales.

In one mobile home park alone in Wolverhampton, there are three elderly women trying to sell their homes who claim they are being blocked by the owner.

Dorothy Pritchard put her home up for sale almost two years ago.

"I got a cash buyer within a week of putting it on the market and I thought thank goodness for that. I was absolutely delighted.

"But when he came to see the site owner he suddenly pulled out. And it was the same story with three more buyers," she said.

The site owner, Christopher Nedic, told buyers that the home needed to be moved because the concrete base it was placed on was cracked.

And he warned that if the home was moved it may disintegrate because of its age.

Instead he offered Dorothy 10,000 for her mobile home, which had been valued at 90,000.

A surveyor has told the BBC that Dorothy's home was in good order and the crack was minor and could be repaired easily without moving the mobile home.

When the programme, posing as a potential buyer, rang Mr Nedic to ask about the home, he told us "that home is a bodge up, it's bodged to death. You'll be better off getting a new one."

Bigger profits

Although site owners get 10% commission on any home sold on their site, there are big profits to be made in selling new homes.

The manufacturers' price for a new home can be as little at 29,000.

But manufacturers only sell through site owners.

By the time a home is in place on a park it is likely to cost double that, despite the fact that the site owner will have benefited from a discount from the supplier.

Colin Packman, from the Park home residents alliance, which was set up five years ago to campaign for better rights for mobile home owners, says there is a clear incentive for site owners to get rid of old homes.

"That's where they make the real money. Look at any brochure and you will see them advertising 'new development' everywhere.

"They want to get the old homes off because they know that new ones will be more profitable," he said.

Site owner Christopher Nedic strenuously denied blocking sales and said most of the residents on his park are content.

Nor, he said, does he advise potential buyers that older homes are going to be scrapped.

Tighten up

When the government was passing the new laws last year, Lord Graham of Edmonton suggested that it should include a clause to ensure site owners can't prevent sales.

During the grand committee stage of the bill in the House of Lords, he suggested a rewording to add the following clause:

"The owner shall not do or cause to be done anything which might adversely affect the right of the occupier to sell their mobile home, including making detrimental and unproven statements about the home, its condition or location in the park".

However, the government declined to accept this, instead including a clause that said that the site owner is not allowed to "unnecessarily withhold his approval for a sale".

The Department of Communities and Local Government still maintains that the legislation is adequate.

They told the BBC that "disputes are rare as protection from rogue site owners is now better than ever before."

"We have changed the law to give residents greater control over sales and have introduced new safeguards for owners from harassment," they added.

But now Lord Graham is pushing hard for the law to be toughened up even further.

"Undoubtedly there is a real cause for concern, because elderly frail lonely people are put in a position where they are very often bullied by the bully boys, and some site owners use unscrupulous tactic to hound and brow-beat vulnerable people," he says.

Face the Facts is broadcast on Radio 4 at 1230BST on Friday 3 August. It is repeated on Sunday at 2100BST.

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