Mobile home definition

Legislation defining mobile homes and caravans, and the approach of the courts to defining mobile homes.

This content applies to England

Legislation for mobile homes and caravans

In legislation 'mobile home' and 'caravan' are synonymous and defined as 'any structure designed or adapted for human habitation which is capable of being moved from one place to another whether by being towed, or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer, and any motor vehicle so designed or adapted'.[1]

The definition excludes railway stock on rails forming part of the railway system, and tents.

The definition includes:

  • conventional caravans and mobile homes

  • dormobiles

  • touring caravanettes

  • adapted railway carriages

A large, twin-unit caravan may come within the definition if it is:[2]

  • composed of not more than two separately made sections

  • physically capable of being transported by road when assembled (even if it cannot lawfully be transported)

  • does not exceed 65.616 feet (20 metres) in length, 22.309 feet (6.8 metres) in width, and 10.006 feet (3.05 metres) from the floor to the ceiling internally

The connection of mains water/electricity/sewerage or addition of cosmetic skirts that do not fix the structure to the ground do not prevent it from coming within the definition.

Case law relating to mobile homes

What is a mobile home is a matter of fact and degree according to the legal and non-legal context of each case. In determining whether a structure was or not a mobile home, the preferable approach was first to examine the meaning of a caravan in its ordinary sense (for example a covered carriage or cart or a dwelling on wheels which could be towed) and then to see whether the context provided for any different or more refined meaning.[3]

Chalets with roofs and porches may be within the definition, although in determining the width and length the measurement is normally taken from wall to wall, and excludes the roof and the eaves.[4] Advisers should be aware that the dimension test often causes problems and local authorities may interpret this incorrectly.

A structure that is sufficiently attached to the land and cannot be removed in one piece or in sections is likely to be a dwelling-house.[5]

A prefabricated structure standing on a concrete base was held not to be a caravan because it could not be moved in one piece and, to be a caravan, it had to be designed or adapted for human habitation and be capable of being moved by a single motor vehicle without having to be dismantled.[6]

A mobile home with an extension which was too wide to be moved lawfully on the public highway but could lawfully be moved if disassembled into two components each was held to be within the statutory definition of caravan. [7] Also within the statutory definition of a caravan was a mobile home attached by large bolts to a concrete wall and foundations, as it was possible to remove the bolts, and the wall and foundations were only under a small part of the mobile home. The removal of the towing bar was no obstacle to transporting the home, as it could go on the back of a lorry.[8]

Last updated: 18 March 2021


  • [1]

    s.29 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960; s.5(1) Mobile Homes Act 1983.

  • [2]

    s.13 Caravan Sites Act 1968, as amended by reg 2 Caravan Sites Act 1968 and Social Landlords (Permissible Additional Purposes) (England) Order 2006 (Definition of Caravan) (Amendment) (England) Order 2006 SI 2006/2374.

  • [3]

    Windsor and Maidenhead RLBC v Smith [2012] EWCA Civ 997.

  • [4]

    (1) Brightlingsea Haven Ltd (2) Hammerton Leisure Ltd v (1) Morris (2) Foster (3) Clark [2008] EWHC 1928 (QB).

  • [5]

    Elitestone v Morris 30 HLR 266 [1997] 1WLR 687; (1997) 30 HLR 266, HL; Spielplatz Ltd v (1) Pearson (2) Pearson [2015] EWCA Civ 804.

  • [6]

    Carter v (1) Secretary of State for the Environment (2) Carrick DC [1994] EWCA [1994] 1 WLR 1212.

  • [7]

    [7] (1) Odina (2) Launay v Mackland Ltd [2009] Central London CC claim no. 7HW01516.

  • [8]

    Hand v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2014] EWHC 314 (Admin).