THE FOLLOWING SUBMISSION HAS BEEN LODGED WITH THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT IN RESPONSE TO A CALL FOR COMMENTS ON THE OPERAATION OF THE LICENSING OF RESIDENTIAL MOBILE (PARK) HOMES SITES IN SCOTLAND.
QUESTION 1. Are you aware of the current rules on the licensing of mobile home parks
with permanent residents?
Yes. In depth knowledge
QUESTION 2. Do the rules seem fair? Do they get the balance right?
On the one hand, the rules should not be too complicated or unrealistic.
They should not make it difficult to run a park as a successful business or
have expensive costs that get passed onto residents.
On the other hand, the rules should ensure that parks are safe. The rules
set by the Parliament should protect permanent residents, especially
vulnerable residents, from being exploited. And they should enable
councils to investigate, enforce the rules, and ban rule-breakers.
If the rules don’t seem fair, what would you change?
ANSWER 2 On the whole the rules are fair and Scottish Government guidance,
issued in 2017, was based on what the officials, at the time, believed the
legislation covered. As the licensing system was rolled out it became
obvious that local authorities were interpreting the guidance in different
ways and treating the licensing priorities differently. Some residential
sites are still not licensed nearly two years after the May 2019 deadline.
Where this was not actually the fault of an authority because either
applications have not been made or for other reasons, authorities have
been slow to take the enforcement action available under the act even in
the most glaring of cases.
Additionally certain omissions from the guidance also became obvious.
For example, in some cases, authorities were fastidious in including
resident’s rights in licence conditions, others ignored the provisions of
the Mobile Homes Act (Written Statement) (Scotland) Regulations 2013,
the single most important piece of Mobile Home legislation in Scotland
for 50 years. The best authorities took care to apply fully the provisions
of the Model Standards for Residential Mobile Home Site Licences
(December 2018) while others just outlined the requirements leaving
interpretation up to park owners.
There are only rare examples of authorities fitting licence conditions to
actual applicants or parks. Most take a generic approach to licence
conditions thus allowing site owners to place their own interpretation on
the conditions and in the worst cases allow such site owners to continue
rogue activity. SCOPHRA can cite numerous examples of breaches
which have been reported to authorities, but which have been largely
ignored. It is our experience that certain authorities hide behind what
they call lack of powers, but it must be remembered that authorities may
impose any licence condition they believe appropriate and are bound by
law to enforce their conditions. Also, authorities now charge
considerable sums for site licences, in many cases thousands of
pounds, the cost of which is passed on by law, to residents but
authorities seem to overlook that this is a paid for service which is not
being provided to the ultimate payers.
Councils have strong and sufficient enforcement powers which are NOT
being used appropriately.
In the matter of fairness, SCOPHRA acknowledges that the system must
be fair to both sides of the industry and will not support associations or
residents who do not follow both the letter and spirit of the law.
SCOPHRA supports bona fide site owners as well as residents when
requested and have also advised certain local authorities. To bring
clarity and transparency, the rules need to address residents’ rights and
responsibilities as well as site owners’ responsibilities to residents while
managing residents’ expectations of councils to what is available in law.
One of the most serious examples of unfairness was the exclusion of
interested parties having any right of input into the licensing application
process. While most licensing provision in Scotland includes the right of
public comment or objection, no such provision was made in site
licensing. While the SG Guidance recommended that Councils should
consider any information put before them, where this was done it was
invariably ignored. It was also unfair that Councillors were not expressly
included in the licensing process. SG guidance suggested that
decisions could be left to individual officers which SCOPHRA finds very
disturbing. SCOPHRA can cite cases where applications were approved
on the nod, even in the face of objections from residents who were
suffering badly at the hands of rogue owners. It is possible this
happened because of the lack of councillor scrutiny. SCOPHRA now
demands that such applications in future be heard by a dedicated
council committee and that as in planning applications, provision be
made for statutory comment or objection.
One of the anomalies of the current licensing system is the fact that if an
existing site owner did not apply for a licence under the new regime, the
Council was (apparently) unable to take any action against them. This
view is incorrect because the 2014 legislation gave councils clear
powers to report such cases to the procurator fiscal for prosecution for
illegally running a mobile home site without a licence. (The penalty is a
fine of up to £50,000). SCOPHRA is aware of councils who take the
view that it is better to grant a licence to (even a suspect) applicant,
rather than refuse a licence because of the burden it places on the
council in appointing a manager to run the park. Licensing officers
expound to residents that the grant of a licence gives them enforcement
powers, but these powers are rarely subsequently used, and residents’
complaints are swept under the carpet. SCOPHRA believes that this
aspect of the legislation requires to be urgently reviewed.
QUESTION 3. Local councils are in charge of the licensing system in their area. Do you
have a view on how well this is done in your area? Do they have the
resources and powers they need to do it effectively?
ANSWER 3 Since 2019, SCOPHRA has carried out continuous monitoring of site
licensing progress throughout Scotland by personal contact with sites,
site owners, councils and Scottish Government officials. Data has been
successfully obtained from many authorities by SCOPHRA but in certain
cases, either requests have not been fulfilled, fulfilled inadequately, or in
the case of East Lothian Council, had an appeal upheld by the
Information Commissioner against an attempt to charge excessive fees
for site licensing information. The only Council in Scotland to attempt to
charge fees for such information.
The information gleaned suggests that there are:
a) 130 residential parks in Scotland
b) Around 5000 authorised licensed pitches in Scotland
3 Comparing the occupancy of SCOPHRA member parks we estimate
that there are 1.56 occupants per residential park homes in Scotland.
4 Extrapolating these figures suggests that there are 5000 mobile homes
in Scotland being used as permanent residences with a Scottish
population of 7800 permanent mobile home residents. Our research
also suggest that the average age of residents is over 70.
With regard to actual performance of Councils, SCOPHRA has
considered its own research and experience in dealing with all Scottish
Councils and the experience of its member associations in forming the
SCOPHRA has been in contact with all 32 local authorities with varying
degrees of co-operation and list our experiences in the chart below - a
league table of performance covering co-operation with enquirers,
quality of information provided, new licences issued, Fit and Proper
Person examination, quality and thoroughness of licence conditions and
degree of follow up and enforcement of conditions. In summary, while
all councils except Highland replied to FOI requests, replies revealed
that eight councils did not send a template copy of the licence and ten
councils were still using old licences. Only three Councils highlighted
residents’ rights in the licence conditions – North Ayrshire, Perth and
Kinross and to a lesser extent Aberdeenshire. Alarmingly, out of 28
Councils, only 3 fully included the Model Standards in licence conditions.
The majority only included a summary of the conditions with few specific
or indeed only scant reference.
QUESTION 4 Do you have any other views you wish to share on the licensing
system for mobile home with permanent residents?
In England, statutory provisions have been in force since 2014 which
regulate the kind of rules which site owners can impose on residents.
The Mobile Homes (Site Rules) (England) Regulations 2014
These regulations prohibit unfair rules on residential sites such as
demanding that homeowners be ‘not permitted to use their own
tradesmen’ or are ‘required to use the site owner’s staff’ at inflated
Other barred rules inter alia include:
1. Purport to threaten eviction for failure to comply with the rules.
2. Prohibiting a resident from making any improvements to the home or
3. Require all visitors to the site to report to the Site Owner or the office.
4. Require residents to purchase only goods or services of any
description supplied by the Site Owner or such other person as he
nominates (including heating oil or LPG)
5. Require residents to only use such tradesmen as the Site Owner
nominates (including the Site Owner).
Such activity is taking place in Scotland today. Since local authorities
can impose such licence conditions as they deem fit, SCOPHRA
suggest that the Sottish Government embrace the content of the English
regulations and instruct all local authorities to include such provision as
part of site licences with immediate effect, or to bring forward legislation
to impose these regulations if so requires. These provisions represent
common sense and will only inhibit rogue operators. Good business will
not be affected in any way.
Old Planning Consents.
SCOPHRA has recent experience of site owners who are using planning
consents for sites which were granted over 40 years ago to develop
sites today and as way of sidestepping the current model standards. We
recommend that consideration be given to demanding that site licences
include provision for up-to-date planning consents to remove this
Fit and Proper Person Tests
SCOPHRA is all too aware of licences which have been granted to
individuals with a dubious record in the park home industry. The 2014
legislation clearly included this provision to weed out such rogue
operators (The introduction to the legislation actually said so) but
unfortunately there is evidence of licences being granted where a record
of misbehaviour in the industry was well documented. In the early stages
of the new licence rollout it was clear that existing licensees were
renewed despite written evidence of wrongdoing. SCOPHRA believes
that the FPPT is and was not being applied robustly in certain
SCOPHRA also expresses great concern over situations where site
owners who are fully licensed and FPPT cleared are facing criminal
charges over their operation of sites and yet are permitted to continue
their illegal activities while awaiting trial. Some method of suspension of
a licence must surely be desirable?
Park Management Qualifications and Requirements
Some licences demand that a park manager live onsite or be available
within one hour for emergencies. Many, if not most sites provide gas,
electricity, water and sewage services via the site owner who does not
always live onsite or have an onsite manager. SCOPHRA can cite
numerous examples where utility failures, particularly electricity outages,
were not restored for many hours because of the lack of emergency
arrangements. In two cases this adversely affected residents who were
dependent on emergency oxygen.
SCOPHRA are aware of park managers who have no experience of park
management (usually salespeople dependent on property sales for
income) who double as managers. Inevitably frictions arise where these
persons have no knowledge of mobile home law, licence conditions or
basic health and safety requirements. Guidance from Scottish
Government on the appointment of interim park managers require these
to have a knowledge of park management yet permanent managers do
not require this. SCOPHRA suggests that this matter be addressed.
There is continued evidence of holiday site owners selling mobile home
and lodges (sometimes valued up to £250,000) on holiday home parks
but passing these off as permanent residential homes. The licensing
system is much to blame since holiday park licences can and do permit
homeowners, in many cases, to use the properties year-round, 365
days. These parks will not have planning permission for residential use
and require the homeowner to have a main home elsewhere.
Unscrupulous site owners, however, exploit the 365-day permission and
advertise these properties as permanent homes and unwitting buyers
purchase them in the belief that they are covered by the Mobile Homes
Act. When they find out their mistake it is too late and as in
Aberdeenshire a group of residents in 2019 found themselves thousands
of pounds out of pocket. SCOPHRA urges an overhaul of holiday park
licensing and investigation and enforcement by every Scottish Council
action in respect of every holiday caravan park in Scotland.
One of the biggest issues in Park Home legislation is dispute resolution.
While in England and Wales a First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber)
has operated for many years, in Scotland only referral to the Sheriff
Court is available. Since this route is costly and indeed frightening to
elderly and vulnerable homeowners it has allowed rogue operators to
exploit this vulnerability with threats and harassment, illegal charges,
fraud and in some cases hounding people from homes. Rarely do
homeowners fight back and certainly Councils often cave in to threats of
legal action from site owners. The situation in England is much different,
the ease of a tribunal hearing and the relatively low cost has encouraged
park home residents to fight (mostly successfully) for their rights.
Scotland already had a Housing Tribunal, The First-tier Tribunal for
Scotland, Housing and Property Chamber - formed to deal with
determinations of rent or repair issues in private sector housing;
assistance in exercising a landlord’s right of entry; and relatively informal
and flexible proceedings to help resolve issues that arise between
homeowners and property factors. SCOPHRA believes that it would be
easy to add residential park homes to its remit.
SCOPHRA urges the Scottish Government to place residential mobile
homes within the Housing Tribunal.