Park home site residents have fewer rights
Local authorities across the UK have urged MPs to give them greater powers to crack down on unscrupulous caravan and park home site owners.
Residents at the sites, which often house older and more vulnerable people, are not given the same legal protection as those living in permanent housing.
Under current legislation, local authorities cannot refuse to grant a licence to a site owner and cannot charge licence or monitoring fees. This means councils cannot lay down minimum site standards, and breaches of licence conditions can only attract a maximum £2,500 fine at a magistrates court.
MPs have been receiving a number of complaints from park home residents over recent years. This prompted housing minister Grant Shapps to put forward plans to ‘modernise’ caravan and park licensing and allow councils to carry out works if the site owner is unco-operative.
A DCLG consultation published this week asked for views on giving councils the power to refuse licences, carry out emergency works and charge for their licensing functions.
It is estimated that the cost to local authorities of increased monitoring and enforcement is will be around £22.3m, with revenue from licences estimated to be around £26.5m over ten years.
Around 25 councils submitted evidence to an inquiry into the government’s proposals, launched by the Parliamentary Communities and Local Government Committee in December.
EHOs and trading standards officers said they should be allowed to decide whether site owner was a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold a licence.
A submission from a trading standards team said: ‘In our dealings with consumer complaints and advising park home owners, the department has witnessed what could reasonably be labelled bullying and harassment and seen residents either physically or effectively evicted from sites.’
The majority of submissions called for councils to be given greater powers. One said: ‘It may be useful to provide power to the licence authority to serve an improvement notice with powers to require certain remedial measures similar to the power allowed for breaches of health and safety legislation.’
Another called for a licensing regime similar to that governing HMOs.
Speaking to the committee this week, housing minister Grant Shapps said there was a ‘big and growing problem’ and warned that some residents had been badly mistreated.
He added: ‘It is so unacceptable that the government is compelled to act.’
CIEH head of policy David Kidney said: ‘Local authorities need to be able to charge for the licensing process so that they can put the necessary effort into weeding out the rogues and crooks.
‘The inability to carry out urgent works and re-charge the owner in cases of emergency is a serious gap in the existing law so putting this right would also be welcome. We will be considering the CIEH’s response to the consultation and we will welcome contributions from members at this early stage in our considerations.’
There are around 160,000 park home residents in England, with 68 per cent being aged 60 or over. The 2001 Census revealed that around 31 per cent of all people living in caravans and mobile temporary homes had a long-term limiting illness.
According to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), between 7 and 14 per cent of park home residents have been harassed by ‘rogue operators’, and as a result had their health put at risk due to poor maintenance and repair.