Park home residents 'exploited'

Clive BettsLegislation "more suited to the 1960s" is failing to protect park home residents from exploitation by unscrupulous owners, according to the Communities and Local Government Committee.

Many residents, often elderly, experience problems with maintenance, security, written contracts and intimidation by site owners or managers, the committee found.
Launching the report of an inquiry into park homes, committee chairman Clive Betts said: "We received an exceptionally large body of evidence showing the park homes industry has been infiltrated by a rogue element and our recommendations are designed to drive these operators out of the sector."

He continued: "While we recognise that there are some good site operators, the vast majority of the evidence we received suggests that malpractice is widespread across the sector. Complaints from residents about unfair fees, poor maintenance and site owners making it difficult for residents to sell their homes are common.

"The committee found that a quarter of park home residents had experienced problems with maintenance, security or safety standards, that nearly a fifth of residents had experienced problems with the written contracts they had with site owners and that residents had experienced intimidation by site owners or managers at a significant number of sites in the UK."

Widespread problems identified in the report include sale blocking, when a site owner prevents a resident from selling their home on the open market by withholding "approval" of the prospective buyer to force a low-priced sale before selling it on for a profit.

Other problems included increasing harassment by site owners, a licensing regime that fined site owners a maximum of £2,500, and confusion over contractual obligations between site owners and home owners.
Park homes are relatively low-cost bungalow-style residential properties, usually sited on private estates, widely marketed to retired people looking to downsize and release equity tied up in larger homes.

Figures suggest about 160,000 people live in 84,000 park homes, with 68% aged 60 or over.

Mr Betts said: "The current legislation is beyond inadequate. It fails to deter unscrupulous site owners, fails to give local authorities effective powers to improve conditions, and fails to protect residents, many of whom are retired. Rules governing this sector have evolved piecemeal, and need to be updated as soon as possible."
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