With the current cost of living crisis and many people feeling the financial strain, some residential park operators have found it more difficult this year to reach agreement with the park homeowners on their annual pitch fee review.
Under the Implied Terms of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 (as amended) which are incorporated into the written agreement between park operator and park homeowner, the pitch fee may only be changed by agreement with the park homeowner or by an order of the appropriate judicial body, upon the application of the park operator or park homeowner.
If you have sought to review the annual pitch fee payable at your residential park by correctly serving a valid and timely pitch fee review notice and prescribed form, but could not reach an agreement with one or more park homeowner[s] and you have exhausted discussions with the relevant park homeowner[s] (and if applicable, any Qualifying Residents’ Association at the park) to try to reach agreement, you may have to consider making an application to the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) (the “Tribunal”) for determination of the annual pitch fee payable.
Making an application to the Tribunal
It is important to remember that there are deadlines for making an application to the Tribunal. If you served your review notice and form on time, which is at least 28 clear days before the annual review date, an application to the Tribunal can be made at any time after a period of 28 days starting with the review date but no later than three months after the review date.
If your review was carried out late, an application can be made at any time after a period of 56 days starting with the date on which the review was served, but no later than four months after the date of service. Should you miss the deadline for submission, the Tribunal will only permit your application if satisfied that there are good reasons for failure to apply, which it will not do lightly.
Applications to the Tribunal need to be in the correct form which is available from the government website and enclose supporting documentation, including a copy of the written agreement with the park homeowner and a copy of the pitch fee review notice and form served on the park homeowner. You may need to submit evidence to support the amount of the review you are proposing.
The application needs to be submitted to the relevant regional Tribunal office and there is a fee of £20 per application to be paid to the Tribunal. A full copy of the application should be sent to the park homeowner in respect of whom the application is made, together with confirmation that the application has been made to the Tribunal.
Thereafter, provided your application is in order, the Tribunal will issue directions as to what it requires from each party in order to make its determination, which it may do based on the documents provided or it may decide it needs to hold a hearing to hear representations from both park operator and park homeowner.
The Tribunal panel may decide that a site inspection is necessary to reach its determination, particularly where it is asked to take improvements to the park, the condition of the park or services to the park homes into account by either party, when determining the pitch fee payable.
Due to capacity, some Tribunal applications are taking longer than usual to be considered and to reach determination stage, so you should not expect a quick decision.
It is important to weigh up the possible outcomes before deciding whether making an application to the Tribunal is the optimum course of action at your park.