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Mobile homes.

The editor of this section of the site is Tim is Tim Selley, solicitor with Crosse and Crosse Solicitors LLP (www.crosse.co.uk)

Pitch fees

Annual increase

Wyldecrest Parks (Management) Limited v Keynon
[2017] UKUT 28 (LC)

Vyse v Wyldecrest Parks (Management) Limited
[2017] UKUT 24 (LC).

Summary

Both cases dealt with the rights of site owners to increase the month fee that home owners pay. The Tribunal in both cases considered whether increased fees charged by the local authorities for site licences to the site owner could be passed on to the home owners. This was allowed in one of the cases.

Outline facts

Broadly, the ability of site owners each year to increase the monthly pitch fee is governed by Chapter 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended) at paragraphs 16 – 20 (the “implied terms”). In both cases these provisions were considered by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) in separate hearings. In each case the sites were operated by the same owner and the same issue arose. This related to whether the charging by the relevant local authority of a site licence fee, which came about due to changes in the licensing regime stemming from Mobile Homes Act 2013, could be passed on to the home owners through the pitch fee increase process.

The Deputy President Martin Rodger QC outlined the law in Kenyon. He said the effect of the implied terms for pitch fee review can be summarised in the following propositions:

“(1) The direction in paragraph 16(b) that in the absence of agreement the pitch fee may be changed only “if the appropriate judicial body … considers it reasonable” for there to be a change is more than just a pre-condition; it imports a standard of reasonableness, to be applied in the context of the other statutory provisions, which should guide the tribunal when it is asked to determine the amount of a new pitch fee.
(2) In every case “particular regard” must be had to the factors in paragraph 18(1), but these are not the only factors which may influence the amount by which it is reasonable for a pitch fee to change.
(3) No weight may be given in any case to the factors identified in paragraphs 18(1A) and 19.
(4) With those mandatory consideration well in mind the starting point is then the presumption in paragraph 20(A1) of an annual increase or reduction by no more than the change in RPI. This is a strong presumption, but it is neither an entitlement nor a maximum.
(5) The effect of the presumption is that an increase (or decrease) “no more than” the change in RPI will be justified, unless one of the factors mentioned in paragraph 18(1) makes that limit unreasonable, in which case the presumption will not apply.
(6) Even if none of the factors in paragraph 18(1) applies, some other important factor may nevertheless rebut the presumption and make it reasonable that a pitch fee should increase by a greater amount than the change in RPI.”

Keynon

The Council in this case had delayed in issuing its fee structure so that its increase had not taken place in the year for which the increase in the pitch fee was sought. However, the Upper Tribunal allowed an appeal deciding the list of matters referred to at paragraph 18 was not exhaustive and other factors could be taken into consideration under paragraph 20 (A1).

Vyse

The principle of the recovery of a fee was also accepted by the Upper Tribunal in this case but the Tribunal did not agree it was appropriate for the site owner to pass on part of the licence fee which the authority had added for alleged (but disputed by the site owner) “extra risk due to an apparent lack of management”.

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