The day after the park home owners demonstration at Westminster, they were defeated in the upper property tribunal as site owner Wyldecrest overturned a decision that it had to provide activist Tony Turner with a statement of account.
“A forward step backwards,” was how he described it. “It means that park home residents have little to no protection with regard to financial transparency.”
Earlier Mr Turner had successfully persuaded the first tier tribunal that Wyldecrest was obliged to supply him with details of all of the sums due from him since 1 January 2019 and all the payments he had made, including the payment date and the name of the account to which each payment was credited.
Mr Turner had made the application under section 4 of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 against Wyldecrest Park (Management) Limited, which is the largest owner and operator in the UK of residential park homes sites, owning 98 sites which accommodate about 10,000 residents on approximately 6,100 pitches.
Wyldecrest’s directors are Alfred Best and David Sunderland, and it is owned by Best Holdings Group Limited which had net assets of £236 million in 2021.
The upper tribunal noted that Mr Turner describes himself as “an active campaigner for park home residents’ rights”, and “It is perhaps not surprising that Mr Turner and Wyldecrest do not always see eye to eye, nor that their disagreements sometimes have to be resolved by tribunals (for a recent example, see Wyldecrest Parks (Management) Ltd v Turner  UKUT 40 (LC)).”
The upper tribunal, under Martin Rodger KC, summarised Mr Turner’s argument:
“First, Mr Turner’s own inquiries suggested that occupiers of some of Wyldecrest’s other parks were overcharged for utilities and other services, and he now wished to establish whether he had overpaid at any time.
“Secondly, Mr Turner considered that in the event of a future dispute he would wish to be able to trace payments made using his own bank records and would therefore need to know the account to which his payments had been credited.
“Thirdly, he wished to guard against the possibility that after his death or incapacity it might be suggested to his family that arrears existed of which he had not previously been made aware and which would have to be discharged before his home could be sold.
“Finally, Mr Turner wished to clarify whether the FTT had jurisdiction to make the order he requested.”
Wyldecrest responded that there was no uncertainty over what Mr Turner was obliged to pay since pitch fee reviews were required to commence by notice given in a prescribed form “and because the agreement included an implied term entitling Mr Turner to request documentary evidence of the new pitch fee and all charges for services”.
Wyldecrest, which like Mr Turner was not legally represented, also said that the FTT had no jurisdiction to entertain the application, because it did not raise any question under the 1983 Act or under the agreement.
Martin Rodger continued: “If Mr Turner is correct that the imbalance between site owners and occupiers, the vulnerability of many of them, and the opportunity for abuse which exists in the relationship between owner and occupier, means that a term for the provision of statements of account is essential for the proper working of the agreement, it is surprising that Parliament did not include it as one of the statutory implied terms.
“No such implied term is found in a residential tenancy agreement (which creates a similar sort of relationship), nor is it invariably, or even usually incorporated by express agreement.
“The fact that tens of thousands of pitches on protected sites are occupied without the suggested term yet without apparent difficulty makes it impossible to accept that business efficacy requires that it be implied.
“… the FTT did not have jurisdiction in this case to order Wyldecrest to provide a statement of account and I set aside its decision and dismiss Mr Turner’s application.”
The full ruling can be read here
Martin Rogers KC is clearly a very able judge but some of his logic on factual matters escapes me.
In his judgement he states: “The fact that tens of thousands of pitches on protected sites are occupied without the suggested term yet without apparent difficulty makes it impossible to accept that business efficacy requires that it be implied.”
To say “without apparent difficulty” when such matters were presumably not, and could not be, considered in the case must be speculation.
Having listed the Judge Rogers a number of times in the past and read many of his judgments it leaves a feeling his understanding of finance is far less developed than his knowledge of the minutia of jurisprudence.
My favourite ever silly statement from an UT judge was Judge Mole who said words to the effect that “budgeting is notoriously difficult”. Perhaps for a judge yes but in the real world budgets are basic things that people produce in every line of business. In the service charge world they are very simple.
The decision of the ULT is as its stands – but it starkly highlights inadequacies in the laws that frequently benefit unscrupulous landlords in most if not all housing sectors.
The surrounding facts of this particular case have gone unmentioned in the written decision but can be found via the website – parkhomespolicyforum.co.uk – that refers to the use of insolvent companies, concealed short-term leases and the histrionics that include the previous shutting down of other Wyldecrest companies by the insolvency service in the public interest, those abandoned leaving creditors high and dry and those where the nominated managers were recently denied fit and proper status, a scenario where it was unsuccessfuly argued that financial transparency was even important for usually elderly residents but where the law apparently says otherwise.
The whole system is corrupt as hell and will never change.all the companies involved are crooks.
We live in a corrupt country (world), it always has been and always will be. The things that need putting right in this country (and the world) – not just leashold and park homes – are countless. The wheels of government – even if there were the will – and the law turn beyond slowly, It took William Wilberforce forty years to end the enormous evil of slavery. How enormous is the evil of leasehold, park homes? How many greater evils are there? How much will is there in government to right any wrongs? It appears to me that lobbying and campaigning are useless, but what else is there? Revolution and the guilotine?
Far too despairing. I suspect our society is on the cusp of fast and radical change, many of its certainties and practices being played out. Will this govt reform leasehold according to the Law Commission blueprint (achieved via LKP)? I would not put the chances above evens. But it will be reformed, along with quite a few other things.
This government seems determined to continue to sidestep implementing long overdue leasehold reform.
Hopefully a general election will pave the way.