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If you are looking for a park home, make sure you buy wisely

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Many people – especially those looking to down-size – are attracted to life in a park home or so-called mobile home.

With the terms park home, residential park home, static caravan, holiday home, leisure home and mobile home all in common currency, however, it is imperative that you understand the differences between them - and your legal rights to occupy one permanently as your principal place of residence.

Things may go horribly wrong when a holiday home, for example, is mistaken for a park home – unintentionally or even mis-sold as such. Just how wrong is illustrated in a report by the BBC on the 16th of January 2020, when dozens of static caravan owners – or holiday home owners – allege they were mis-sold their mobile homes as places they could live in permanently, the whole year-round.

Construction standards

Mobile home is a generic term given to any lightweight construction which is modelled on a caravan but, at the end of the day, may look anything but a mobile home and more like a small house.

The standard of construction typically differs between a mobile home intended for occasional use as a holiday home and one that is used to live in the year around. The former – also referred to as static caravans and leisure homes – are typically built to European standard EN 1647. A permanent home or park home, on the other hand, is typically built to a higher British Standards Institute (BSI) BS3632 – with improved insulation, modern central heating and double glazing – explains the Sell My Group.

The law

If you are looking to live in a park home as your main place of residence, however, it is how the law distinguishes between a static caravan (or leisure home) and a park home that needs to be taken in to account.

The distinction is made through the licences granted by local authorities to the landowners on which either holiday homes or park homes are pitched. There is separate licensing for sites intended only for:

  • static caravans (in which owners may live for up to 11 months of the year only and must maintain an alternative permanent address); and
  • licences granted for park homes (which may be lived in throughout the year, from one year to the next, as the owner’s sole place of residence).

If you live in a static caravan or holiday home permanently, not only is the owner of the site in breach of the local authority licence, but your lease of the pitch on which the mobile home is berthed is far less secure, and you are liable to eviction. That is the uncomfortable truth discovered by the dozens of owners referred to in the BBC report referenced above.

A parliamentary briefing paper in June of 2019 estimated that some 85,000 households permanently live on some 2,000 licensed park home sites in the UK. They are far outnumbered by the number of static caravans used as holiday homes – some 365,000 caravans, says the National Caravan Council (NCC), on more than 2,500 sites.

Park home insurance

Recognising the different standards of construction and the use to which it is put, mobile home insurance also distinguishes between:

  • a static caravan licensed as a holiday home (where static caravan insurance is required); and
  • a park home in which occupants may live all the year round (where park home insurance is required).

Further reading: What is the difference between mobile home insurance vs static caravan insurance?