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Mobile home on farmland does not have statutory protection

13 April 2011

A mobile home brought onto a field near Bromley, Kent, without the permission of the landowner is not protected under the Mobile Homes Act 1983, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Carol Wyatt brought in the mobile home to replace a “fairly dilapidated” caravan after her partner died, the court heard. It was located on 1.7 acres of rough pasture which Wyatt’s partner had used for a livery business.

The mobile home had a certificate of lawful use and paid rent for the entire plot of land. The landowner, Diane Murphy, served a notice to quit in 2009.

Giving the leading judgment in Murphy v Wyatt [2011] EWCA Civ 408, Lord Neuberger said that when the tenancy was originally granted, in 1975, there was no planning permission or certificate of lawful use for keeping a caravan on it.

He said it was “not inconsistent” with the policy of the Act if an occupier who entered into an agreement to station a caravan on land before gaining planning permission was not protected by the Act.

“It would be a little surprising if the 1983 Act protected an occupier, who, after entering an agreement, brought a caravan onto the premises and lived in it, simply because there was nothing in the agreement which precluded him from doing this, unless there had always been planning permission for such a use (in which case the possibility would have been contemplated).”

He went on: “I find it impossible to accept that the 1983 Act can apply to more land than the land on which the mobile home is to be sited and any amenity land enjoyed with the mobile home, such as a garden – i.e. more land than the pitch as defined in paragraph 29 of schedule 1 to the Act.”

Lord Neuberger said that if the Act applied to land included in any agreement other than the pitch, it would run into “serious conflicts” with the legislation protecting business and agricultural tenants.

“The clear implication is that parliament did not envisage any risk of overlap or conflict with the 1983 Act because it could only apply to a pitch.”

Lord Neuberger concluded that the 1983 Act would “in practice, almost always (if not always) only apply to an arrangement which is limited to permitting an owner to station a mobile home on a pitch”.

He dismissed Wyatt’s appeal. Lady Justice Arden agreed, though she added that when the county court considered a fresh possession order it may have to consider human rights arguments under article 8 of the Human Rights Act. Lord Justice Longmore agreed.

Andy Creer, barrister at Hardwicke Chambers, acted for Murphy. Creer said the Court of Appeal had defined the scope of the Act.

She said that until now most decisions involving mobile homes were enforcement decisions, with local authorities taking action for breach of planning permission.

“There have been relatively few cases dealing with the definition of a protected site,” she added.

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