If you are thinking of buying a park home in the UK and having it sited on an “idyllic” holiday park, then again. It could cost you dearly and give you nothing but headache and heartache. It’s extremely tempting for expats living here in Spain to buy a park home in the UK to give them a bolt-hole, just in case something goes wrong as we get older and need somewhere to return to, perhaps giving a gateway to get back into the UK NHS system and knowing that after-care and/or retirement home place or hospice care will be available. But beware – you might end up buying a lovely park home of your dreams and have it on a site which is owned by a ruthless money grabber who cares nothing of you and just looks on you as a milch cow.
Here is our experience: – Back in 2011, my wife and I decided to sell our home on the south coast of England and to divide our capital to allow us to buy a park lodge and to purchase a quad on the Orihuela Costa, the plan being to stay nine months in Spain and three months in the UK. The first purchase was the lodge. We were recommended to a site by someone who told us that he lived permanently in a van on this quiet country site where the rabbits played and sometimes deer roamed in nearby fields. We focused on how far park homes had progressed, offering luxury living, ours was a two bedroom, two bathroom, one en-suite, kitchen with American fridge/freezer. It had everything going for it. We gave the site manager the go-ahead to buy the van from the manufacturer, have the concrete pitch extended to provide decking front, back and one side, plus skirt all around. It cost us almost 80 thousand, but we considered it good value, thinking it would provide summer accommodation for up to 25 years of retirement. Site fees were around three thousand pounds a year but with no council tax or water bills to pay, it all sounded good. If need be we could live there for 11 and a half months of the year, just paying more in rent and leaving for just two weeks. Ridiculous, I know, as this is classed as a holiday park.
Once we moved in we heard rumours how ruthless the site owner was, but we were advised that provided we observed the park rules all would be OK. Everything was fine for the first three years. But then we heard rumours that the site owner wanted to lay a new road enabling him to double the number of plots. The road would run right under our van and 20 others. From then on life became hell. The general manager offered to remove our decking at their expense and to store it, but we would have to have it re-erected at our expense. I had the temerity to question why we had to pay for the re-erection of the decking, which originally cost us 13 thousand pounds and bought through the site company. We also suggested the decking should be dismantled by professionals, ideally by the company which erected it. At that point the owner withdrew his offer to have the decking removed at his expense and said that unless I was “co-operative” he would not renew our licence to have our van on his land next year. Then we discovered that this snake in the grass had allocated us a pitch which meant we no longer had room to site our rear decking. I had no alternative but to have the decking removed by the decking company. We have since sold the rear decking, and the side and front decking we moved to another part of the site. This was accomplished thanks to the help of my two sons and a large trailer – no help being offered or provided by the site staff. In addition to this we had to remove all our heavy paving slabs, statues, plants, ornaments, shed with tools and other garden items from our pitch into storage, again all by ourselves. And remember, all this is for the site owner’s benefit, not ours!
Our new pitch is going to be laid about 20 feet away, once the new road is laid. In the meantime the van will be placed temporarily onto a pitch already laid about 50 yards away. Owners of around 20 other vans will be facing the same trauma as us as the road is progressed and all face having to move all their belongings, decking, and everything else at their expense. If they complain in any way it will be made worse for them. We met our MP a few weeks ago who told us that because we were on an unregulated site, it was just like a car owner leaving it on private land – the land owner could order it off at any time. We had no rights whatsoever. He also said that living on an unregulated site was rather like stepping back into feudal Britain, with the lord of the manor “owning” the people on his land. He finally told us that he had come across many other cases far worse than ours, for example where owners of sites had suddenly discovered the possibility of gaining planning permission for homes on the land and ordering vans off, giving them next to no notice. A week before we left to return to Spain, the decking company removed the decking and dumped it on the grass beside our van. In the process of removing it they ripped two down-pipes away from the van, splitting the plastic side, which now means that three panels need to be replaced. Needless to say, the company won’t be getting their money until the work is done satisfactorily. Taking the decking down and replacing it will cost us almost five thousand pounds, and if you factor in our time in moving our garden ornaments, paving, etc, the cost goes up to seven thousand! And all for the site owner’s benefit, not ours!
My advice is that anyone thinking of buying a static van or lodge should be very careful where they have it sited – always ensure it goes onto a regulated site, which gives van owners protection.
Unregulated sites still have to be licensed by local councils, but the licence is, more often than not, not fit for purpose because policing them is so far down councils’ lists of priorities it is seldom, if ever looked at. The licence for our site is a complete joke, as the site owner drives a coach and horses through it. And what makes the situation even worse is that site owners are most reluctant to take vans from other sites because they want to have new vans on their land – to get the sales commission offered by manufacturers. A very cosy set up, all designed to give maximum benefit to the land owner and screw the van owner. So if the owner ordered us off his land by in effect not renewing our yearly licence we would have no-where else to put it. Of course, if people were far more reluctant to buy and were far more careful where they sited them, manufacturers might begin to put pressure on site owners and get the whole sickening “industry” into the 21st century.
So, there you are, if you see adverts on TV and in newspapers saying how wonderful park home living in the UK is, be very, very scared. Read the small print on the contract and if it is all one sided, as ours is, don’t touch it with a barge pole. You could live to regret it big time. Please, pass this article on to anyone else you know who is thinking of buying a static home in the UK. The more people that know the pitfalls the better – they should know that there are some site owners who are just as bad as the scumbags who ran the worst timeshare scams in the past – and we know how much misery they caused people! As for the government – they need to introduce meaningful legislation to control holiday park home site owners and the sooner the better.