Mobile home passes according to deceased’s Will [as varied] but without the benefit of pitch agreement (Barrs Residential and Leisure Ltd v Pleass Thomson & Co


Publication Date:
09 Jun 2020


Description:

Private Client analysis: The mobile homes legislation provides a complex sui generis legislative framework regulating the relationship between the owners of mobile home parks and individual home owners. Difficult questions can arise on the death of a mobile home owner as to succession and/or whether the value of the mobile home can be realised for the deceased’s estate. This appeal to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), which is necessary reading for all estates practitioners and those advising mobile home park owners, analyses the statutory provisions applicable on death and highlights the dangers of the deceased’s Will not including appropriate provisions dealing with the mobile home and of disposing of the home without the benefit of the contractual agreement which permits it to be stationed on the mobile home park. Written by Guy Adams, barrister, at New Square Chambers.

 

Barrs Residential and Leisure Ltd v Pleass Thomson & Co (executors of the estate of the late Colin Hearne) [2020] UKUT 114 (LC)

 

What are the practical implications of this case?

The legislative provisions were described by the judge as ‘far from straight-forward to follow’ and ‘virtually impenetrable to those owning and occupying mobile homes, as well as the site owners, who seek ready access to the legislative provisions setting out their respective rights and obligations’. In this case the professional executor made the fatal mistake of assigning title to the mobile home without the benefit of the pitch agreement. The case is of importance to those drafting Wills who wish to ensure a smooth succession, those acting for estates who do not wish to fall into the same trap and those advising mobile home park owners who wish to know what their rights are following the death of an occupier.

 

What was the background?

The late Colin Hearne was living on his own in a mobile home stationed on a protected site at the date of his death. He left a Will under which the mobile home fell into residue. By a Deed of Variation, it was declared that the Will be varied so as to give the mobile home to Mr Hearne’s son on condition that he paid a sum of money to the estate, which was duly paid. On the same day the executor executed a Deed of Assignment of the mobile home to the son. The First-tier Tribunal (Lands Chamber) had decided that the assignment was ineffective because it did not comply with the relevant statutory provisions under the mobile homes legislation and that, as the executor ‘stood in the shoes’ of the deceased, they remained entitled to sell the mobile home or gift it to a family member in accordance with the statutorily implied terms in the pitch agreement.

 

What did the court decide?

On appeal the Upper Tribunal allowed the appeal. It was important to distinguish between the mobile home as a chattel and the contract between the park owner and the occupier (the pitch agreement). The Mobile Homes Act 1983 (MoHA 1983) prescribed the circumstances in which title to the mobile home could be sold or transferred with the benefit of the pitch agreement so that it enured for the benefit of the assignee. Though the benefit and burden of the pitch agreement only passed if the (complex) statutory provisions were complied with, nothing in the legislation imposed any specific requirements or restrictions on the transfer of the mobile home as a chattel. The son was not a person residing with the deceased in default of a widow, widower or surviving civil partner in accordance with MoHA 1983, s 3(3)(a), nor was he entitled to the mobile home by virtue of the deceased’s Will or under the law relating to intestacy under MoHA 1983, s 3(3)(b) and therefore the pitch agreement did not pass for his benefit nor was he bound by it. The Deed of Assignment was however effective at law to transfer title to the mobile home to him, but as he was not entitled to station it on the mobile home park, its value would be very substantially affected.

 

Case details

  1. Court: Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber)
  2. Judge: His Honour Judge Stuart Bridge
  3. Date of judgment: 27 February 2020

 

 

This article was first published by Lexis®PSL on 09/06/2020

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