Rights of mobile home occupiers

A mobile home occupier's rights depend on whether they live on a protected site and whether they own or rent their home.

This content applies to England

Rights of people who live in mobile homes

A person who lives in a mobile home or caravan might have different rights depending on whether:

  • it meets legal definition of mobile home

  • the site they live on is a protected site

  • they own or rent the mobile home

For example, a person living in a mobile home on a protected site with permission to stay there year round is likely to have protection from eviction by the site owner.

Someone staying in a mobile home on private land which does not have a licence or planning permission might have very little legal protection.

Definition of a mobile home

The terms mobile home and caravan are used interchangeably in the law.

A caravan is a structure which is designed or adapted for human habitation and is capable of being moved from one place to another.[1] This does not include railway rolling stock or tents.

This definition covers a broad range of movable structures, including traditional caravans, campervans, motorhomes, and adapted static railway carriages. A houseboat, which consisted of a caravan on a float (known as a Hartford Houseboat) was held to meet the statutory definition of a caravan. The caravan could be towed and removed but the float could not. [2]

A large two unit caravan can be included if it:[3]

  • is composed of no more than two sections

  • can be transported by road when fully assembled

  • is less than 20 meters in length, 6.8 meters in width and 3.05 meters in height

Transportation

A structure can meet the definition if it is capable of being transported by road, even if it would not be lawful to do so.

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 met the definition of a caravan.[4]

A mobile home met the definition which was 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.[5]

Lodges and chalets

Structures such as cabins, lodges, chalets and other park home structures can be considered mobile homes if they meet the definition.

The Court of Appeal found that a lodge was a caravan because it was composed of two sections and could be transported when assembled. Additional elements such as a veranda were not necessarily sections. The measurements were taken from wall to wall, and did not include the roof and the eaves.[6]

A park home which consisted of four prefabricated sections and could only be moved after being dismantled was not a caravan.[7]

Structures which do not meet the definition of a mobile home

Someone who lives in a structure they own which does not meet the definition of a mobile home might not have statutory protection from eviction if they rent the land it is situated on. For example, if a person rents a piece of land and constructs a lodge or cabin on it, they might have a common law agreement for the land that can be ended by notice to quit.

A person who rents a structure that does not meet the definition might have a tenancy or licence agreement. This might have the protection of the Housing Act 1988 or the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

The Court of Appeal found that there was an assured tenancy of a chalet in a resort despite the agreement only referring to the plot of land. Both landlord and tenant had believed that the tenant had bought the chalet. It formed part of the premises let under the tenancy as it was annexed to the land.[8]

Protected and unprotected sites

A site owner normally needs planning permission and a site licence to use land as a caravan site. A site licence might be granted for either:

  • holiday use

  • residential use

  • a mix of residential and holiday use

A protected site is one that allows people to reside there year round. It must have a site licence and planning permission which either:[9]

  • is not granted for holiday use only

  • does not prohibit the stationing of mobile homes for human habitation at certain times of the year

Find out more about protected mobile home sites.

Someone who owns or rents a mobile home has more rights if they live on a protected site. They have protection from eviction by the site owner.

How to check if a site is protected

If a person has an agreement that states they can live in the mobile home year round, the site might be a protected one.

The site licence should be displayed somewhere on the site.[10] The person can also obtain a copy of the site licence from the local authority.

Unprotected sites

A site is not protected if:

  • the licence only allows for occupation for certain times of year

  • the owner does not have a licence or planning permission

Some mobile home or park home sites state that residents can only occupy the mobile home or pitch for a certain amount of months or weeks per year. Others might state expressly that they are for short term holiday use only.

Private land without a licence or planning permission is an unprotected site. For example, if a person lives in a caravan in someone's garden or a field.

People living on unprotected sites do not have the same level of statutory protection as those on protected sites. They might have a contract with the site owner that requires a certain period of notice before they can be asked to leave.

Rights of people who own a mobile home

Someone who owns a mobile home and rents a pitch on a protected site has the protection of the Mobile Homes Act 1983.

The Act implies terms into the agreement including on:[11]

  • pitch fees

  • rights of entry to the pitch

  • repair and maintenance of the site

  • rights to assign the pitch agreement

The site owner can only end the agreement by bringing a claim in the County Court. They can do this if the occupier has breached a term of the agreement or if they are not living there as their only or main residence.[12]

Find out more about rights of mobile home owners.

Mobile home owners on unprotected sites

A mobile home owner who rents a pitch on an unprotected site does not have statutory protection from eviction. The site owner does not need a possession order to require the mobile owner to leave at the end of the agreement.

A written agreement with the site owner might specify terms such as:

  • the pitch fee and how it can be increased

  • what notice the occupier needs to give to leave

  • notice requirements if the site owner wants to evict the occupier

If there is no written agreement, other communications could be used as evidence of the terms of the agreement. For example, text messages, emails or Whatsapp messages.

The mobile home occupier might be able to take legal action for damages if the site owner breaches a term of the agreement.

Rights of people who rent a mobile home

The rights of someone who rents a mobile home might depend on whether:

  • they live on a protected site

  • the structure is a dwelling house

Mobile home renters on protected sites

Someone who rents a mobile home stationed on a protected site has protection from eviction under the Caravan Sites Act 1968.

If the agreement is periodic, the site owner must give at least four weeks notice.[13] The site owner can then apply to court for a possession order. The court has the power to suspend the order on terms. For example repayment of arrears.[14]

It is a criminal offence for any person to prevent the mobile home renter from occupying the mobile home on a protected site without court proceedings.[15] This would also cover situations where the person rents a mobile home from someone other than the site owner.

Mobile home renters on unprotected sites

Someone who rents a mobile home and pitch on an unprotected site does not have protection under the Caravan Sites Act.

They might have a written agreement that sets out terms the site owner or owner of the caravan must follow. For example, on rent or how the agreement can be ended. If there is no written agreement, other communications could be used as evidence of the terms of the agreement. For example, text messages, emails or Whatsapp messages.

The mobile home occupier might be able to take legal action for damages if the site owner breaches a term of the agreement.

Someone who rents a mobile home might be able to argue that they have protection under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. The Act makes it unlawful for someone to evict a person without court proceedings from any premises let as a dwelling.[16] This does not apply where premises are genuinely let for the purpose of a holiday.[17]

Tenancies of mobile homes and park homes

Someone could have a tenancy of a mobile home if it is a dwelling house. The structure must be annexed to the land. A caravan or motorhome that can easily be removed from the land it is stationed on is considered a chattel and not a dwelling house.

If a structure is a dwelling house, it might not meet the statutory definition of a mobile home. For example, a chalet which, once constructed, could not have been removed without being completely dismantled was found to be annexed to the land. The occupiers were found to have a tenancy.[18] As it could not be transported in a single piece, it could not be considered a mobile home.

Find out more about rights of mobile home renters.

Benefits for mobile homes

Someone who is working age can claim universal credit for help with rent payments or site charges for a caravan or mobile home.[19] This includes people who rent a mobile home, and people who own the mobile home and rent the pitch.

The amount they receive is the lower of either:

  • the actual rent or pitch fee they pay

  • the cap rent they are entitled to based on the size of the household (local housing allowance)

Find out more about size-related criteria for universal credit housing costs.

Someone who is pension age and lives in a mobile home might be able to claim housing benefit to cover rent and pitch fees. Most people of working age cannot make a new claim for housing benefit.

Housing benefit for a mobile home is not subject to local housing allowance limits. The eligible rent is set with reference to determinations by the rent officer.

Homeless applications by mobile home occupiers

A local authority must accept a homeless application if it has reason to believe someone might be homeless or at risk of homelessness.

A person is legally homeless if they live in a movable structure such as a caravan, mobile home or houseboat, and there is nowhere where they have permission to put it and live in it.[20]

This might include someone who:

  • has to park their mobile home by the road

  • is on a site where the owner has withdrawn permission to be there

  • stays on a caravan site where the rules do not allow them to live there

A person might be threatened with homelessness if the site owner has given them notice or started court proceedings.

If a local authority is satisfied that someone is legally homeless it must take steps to help them secure suitable accommodation. This could include helping them find somewhere they can lawfully live in their mobile home if this is suitable for their needs.

Find out more about the homeless application process.

Last updated: 22 March 2023

Footnotes

  • [1]

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

  • [2]

    Tingdene Marinas Ltd v Jaffe [2023] UKUT 16 (LC).

  • [3]

    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.

  • [4]

    Odina and Launay v Mackland Ltd [2009] Central London CC claim no. 7HW01516.

  • [5]

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

  • [6]

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

  • [7]

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

  • [8]

    Spielplatz Ltd v (1) Pearson (2) Pearson [2015] EWCA Civ 804.

  • [9]

    s.5 Mobile Homes Act 1983; s.1 Caravan Sites Act 1968.

  • [10]

    s.5(3) Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960.

  • [11]

    s.2(1) and Pt. 1, Sch.1 Mobile Homes Act 1983, as amended by Mobile Homes (Pitch Fees) Act 2023.

  • [12]

    paras 4 and 5, Part 1, Sch.1 Mobile Homes Act 1983.

  • [13]

    s.2 Caravan Sites Act 1968.

  • [14]

    s.4 Caravan Sites Act 1968.

  • [15]

    s.3(1) Caravan Sites Act 1968.

  • [16]

    s.3 Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

  • [17]

    s.3A(7)(a) Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

  • [18]

    Spielplatz Ltd v (1) Pearson (2) Pearson [2015] EWCA Civ 804.

  • [19]

    sch 1, para 2 Universal Credit Regulations 2013/376.

  • [20]

    s.175(2)(b) Housing Act 1996.