Park home owners accused of abuse
An EHN survey of local authorities has exposed the way unscrupulous park home site owners badly treat their residents, many of whom are older or vulnerable people.
A number of EHPs also expressed a degree of cynicism over the government’s resolve to tackle rogue site owners. Under current legislation mobile home and caravan residents have fewer rights that those in permanent homes.
Eight of the ten councils that responded said they were aware of residents being harassed or abused at a site within their remit. Four authorities had carried out, or were preparing, prosecutions against site owners for a range of misdemeanours.
Three said in some cases residents had their health put at risk due to poor maintenance of facilities such as gas and electricity. Overcrowding of mobile homes was also cited as a common problem.
Angus Council said one resident in dispute with the site owner returned one day to find his home had been moved to a different part of the site that had no facilities.
Epping Forest DC said it had received 16 complaints from park home residents over the past five years. Owners had reportedly threatened to remove homes when the occupiers were out, and builders had been ‘abused’ and prevented from carrying out repairs.
In one incidence the Health and Safety Executive were called in after concerns were raised over the way gas bottles had been fitted.
A spokesperson said the authority was collating incidents of harassment as evidence should the government introduce a ‘fit and proper person’ test for site owners, as has been proposed.
She added: ‘However, while the government may give local authorities powers to deal with poor sites, it needs to be recognised that obtaining reliable evidence from residents about instances of harassment by site owners is not easy.
‘Park home residents are often older or otherwise vulnerable people who are reluctant to take formal action and give evidence in court if necessary.
‘It is hoped that the government will take these views into consideration when determining its response to the consultation exercise.’
Last month housing minister Grant Shapps announced plans to ‘modernise’ caravan and park licensing, which could include giving councils the power to refuse licences, carry out emergency works and charge for their licensing functions.
But despite these proposals some EHPs have expressed their doubt.
Don Browning, CIEH accredited associate and a member of Hart DC’s private sector housing team, told EHN: ‘I was involved in the previous government’s consultation during 2001/10 where a lot of work was done, just to have it brushed aside by this government who decided to start up a committee inquiry and yet another consultation.
‘I think by the time we are given the sufficient powers I shall be retired.’
Keith Williams, from the private sector housing team at Exeter City Council said: ‘I am not confident that the government will do anything worthwhile.’
Other councils were more upbeat in their views. A spokesperson for Bournemouth BC said: ‘Whether the necessary changes make it as far as the statute book remains to be see. But it does seem that Westminster is serous in its desire to tackle this matter if possible.’
South Gloucestershire Council also said it was confident the government would allow local authorities to tackle poorly maintained park home sites.
CIEH principal policy officer Bob Mayho said: ‘Many of the residents of park homes are elderly or vulnerable. These people, indeed all residents on park home sites, need to be able to feel secure and safe in their homes and free from harassment by unscrupulous owners and landlords.
‘The vast majority will, but for some the actions of a minority of owners put their security and safety at risk. The CIEH will be seeking a constructive and positive outcome from the current consultation, with the aim of giving local authorities the necessary tools to tackle bad landlords.’