Category Archives: Real Estate

Commisery for Purplebricks customers overpaying for tied solicitors by hundreds of pounds?

How much ‘commisery'(tm) might you feel if you had been encouraged or even required to use a specific firm of solicitors by your estate agent, only to find that over £380 was going straight into your agents pocket as a backhander from the solicitor in question? All perfectly legally of course.

In a written quotation from late 2018 recently sent to the author (see below) on conditions of strict anonymity, the firm quotes the fees for its professional services as £599 plus VAT (excluding disbursements). However, £382.85 plus VAT of this is paid straight back to Purplebricks PLC as a referral fee. So, exactly the same service that the firm of solicitors are charging customers £718.80 for, could be literally hundreds of pounds less expensive if they weren’t paying a huge introducer fee to Purplebricks.

Like many, but by no means all, estate agents Purplebricks PLC (stock market ticker #PURP ) make much of their income from referring people who buy and sell through them to a solicitor. It’s a perfectly legal practice as long as it is declared to the customer at the outset. The Property Ombudsman scheme

also requires that an agent informs the clients (the person selling) of any commission they make in this manner (see screenshot).

The quotation sent to the author makes it clear that this eyewatering sum has been correctly declared to the person being quoted. However, I have no knowledge of whether sellers are informed of how much Purplebricks might earn from a buyer who also uses the same firm, neither do I have any evidence to suggest that Purplebricks are not complying with the law.

Given that Purplebricks customers who choose to defer the typical upfront payment of around £1,100 are effectively required to use this firm of solicitors or pay an additional fee to ‘not’ use them, there may be some readers who might question whether a Publicly Listed Company that champions itself as a cheap way of selling your home but, who charge a fee even if they don’t sell* PLUS earn hefty backhanders from closely associated companies is very cheap at all.

*according to Jefferies, 49% of Purplebricks customers don’t actually sell. This has been strongly disputed by Purplebricks but the firm, who are notoriously litigious, have never supplied evidence to disprove the claim. Readers must draw their own conclusions.

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“Best and final offers” – What does it mean at PDQ?

new board 1a soldWhen there is strong interest on a property and a number of offers are received in quick succession, at PDQ (as at many other agents), we often advise the owners to use a process called ‘best and final’ offers to decide which potential buyers offer to accept; effectively a blind auction. We have found is the fairest and least pressured way to agree a sale because everyone is bidding equally. We also find it helps prevent gazumping.

Experience and evidence shows this ensures the best price is obtained for our customers, unlike the alternative ‘open-bid’ system used  by some agents which often results in a lower sale price and bad feelings

For example, a bidder who has been told the other bidder has offered, say, £500,000, may only offer £501,000 despite being prepared to go much higher to secure the property. When bidding blind, all interested parties reasonably expect the other bidders to value the property as highly as they do and, to be able to afford to bid to that level. Consequently, bidders will offer their genuinely best price rather than the lowest price they believe they can get away with.

Note: If you are a buyer reading this, all agents have a legal and contractual obligation to negotiate the best price for their customer, the seller.

At PDQ, we ensure that all offers remain confidential to us, the person who has offered and the owner I.e. no-one else who has offered is given the level or substance of any other persons offer unless instructed to do so by the owner.

Once initial offers have been received and the owner has agreed to the best and final process, we ask everyone who has offered for their ‘best and final’ offer. At this point, we also explain that no-one is under any obligation or pressure to increase however, we inform that everyone else who has offered also this opportunity and, if they wish to make a higher offer, this is the time to make it.

Once we have all of the best and final offers, we put them to the owner along with every buyers position and any proof we have of that position* (buying with a mortgage, cash, subject to the sale of another property, and any chain details we have been able to confirm). The owner then makes a decision and the successful bidder is informed.

NB – Under English law; any offer received by an estate agent must be passed on to an owner (and confirmed in writing) up to the point of exchange of contracts unless, the agent has a written letter from the owner instructing them not to consider further offers. So, whilst best and final offers may have been agreed, offers must still be put forward by all agents. However, at PDQ, we generally advise owners to honour agreements made under best and final unless there are very good reasons to change buyers (often known as gazumping) such as the buyers position has changed from cash, to requiring to sell a property before being able to purchase.

Discover what PDQ can do for your property or business here

*Agents have an obligation under Property Ombudsman rules to make reasonable attempts to ascertain the ability of a buyer to fund the purchase. However, it is illegal for an agent to insist you use their financial advisor or, to state or imply that an offer will not be put forward or, may be less favourably considered, if a buyer refuses to use an agents preferred supplier.

A solution to the housing crisis that doesn’t cost councils a penny?

The housing market is in crisis with many first time buyers locked out of owning and, in many areas, being able to rent property at affordable levels. As a country, we also have a homeless problem with a shocking lack of care for the mentally ill and, our military veterans.chris matterport me

Various solutions have been tried over the years and charities have also played a vital role in alleviating some of the need. For years there has been much hand wringing and blame-gaming by politicians for who is at fault but, the problem stubbornly remains.

Owning a home of ones’ own is not a human right but, having a secure place to call home is.

I believe there is a solution that has been staring us as all in the face for many years and it does not require any additional spending.

Local government (councils) currently sit on, and annually invests in, billions of pounds worth of investments, predominantly in stocks and shares for their pension funds. This is almost always invested in major companies who have little to no local connections or interest in the well-being or growth of the area and people whose money they have invested in them. Neither is there any guarantee that these investments will provide any return and, may even lose money.

However, if local and national government were required to use a minimum of 50% of existing pension funds and new contributions to invest in their own local housing needs, this would have immediate, medium and long term benefits. This investment would be in the form of, but not limited to

  • Making means-tested local authority buyer property deposits available

  • Building new, and refurbishing existing vacant property stock, means-tested, short to medium term social housing

  • Building flats and help centres for the homeless to be leased to and run by homeless charities at nominal rates

Making means-tested local authority buyer property deposits available. This would operate by offering qualifying local residents secured loans for private property purchase to be used as deposits. Deposits would be up to ten percent of the purchase price and would be based over a ten-year period. The homeowners would make affordable capital repayments with no interest over the first 10 years (e.g. £20,000 loan = £83.33 per month for 10 years) guaranteeing local government a minimum return on their investments and a source of income.

Any remaining initial loan amount plus interest would be repaid in whole or in part on the sale of the property (most buyers move home 2 to 4 times in their lifetimes though this figure varies) or, become due after ten years. The interest rate would be calculated as a percentage rate of the median house price inflation over the term of the loan for the Council area as a whole as using ONS or HM Land Registry figures. Homeowners who did not need or want to move after the ten year period would have a commercial interest rate calculation made for the previous ten year period (set against Bank of England rates) which ould be payable as a lump sum or, spread over a further ten year period at a variable current rate of interest.

To protect the homeowners and facilitate the flow and turnover of housing stock, the maximum chargeable interest would be capped at a set amount of any house price inflation. To ensure council pension investments were assured of a return (unlike at present), the minimum interest payable would be at an agreed minimum percentage; (for example, this could be set at 1% below Bank of England Base rates over the period.

Building new, and refurbishing existing vacant property stock, means-tested, short to medium term social housing. Self-explanatory. Councils would again have funds available to invest in their local housing needs to bring back derelict and unused housing stock into use and, to build new housing stock for social rent.

Building flats and help centres for the homeless to be leased to and run by homeless charities at nominal rates. Not only is looking after this countrys’ homeless a moral imperative, there are also sound financial reasons to help people back into society and a secure home. By utilising existing pension funds and contributions to invest in these buildings, existing expenditure on policing and emergency accommodation can be utilised elsewhere or, saved.

If implemented, I believe the above innovations would build happier communities and good, better-maintained cities, towns and villages. The positive consequential advantages would be many. A happier society tends to be healthier, crime drops, jobs are created and wages increase.

From purely a cold investment point of view, the above paragraph outlines how I believe this will help ensure local property prices remain stable and grow, bringing in good returns for the pension funds who have invested in them. The greatest returns though are for our society.

My partner mustn’t know you’ve been here…

The Christmas period is a happy time for many and for making new friends and entering into new relationships. Sadly, it is also (and not entirely unrelated in some cases) a catalyst for the end of relationships too.

shutterstock_397156225If you are going through a break-up (or are planning to), for whatever reason, and there is property involved (and always if you have children), try to aim to keep it as civil as possible. It will cost you a great deal less in stress and money in the long run (and your children will thank you at some point too)! This is advice born out of both painful personal and extensive business experience.

As agents, we are often asked to discreetly give an opinion on price prior to the other partner even knowing the relationship is about to end.

A good agent will always be discreet but, the chances are your neighbours will spot a stranger coming to your door and will drop you in it, usually at THE most inappropriate time. “Morning you two, I saw you had a friend popping in this morning. Is it family?”

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awkward

If we are invited in once the split is advanced, we often find that one partner will always angle towards the lowest valuation possible and the other, the highest; dependent on who hopes to buy out the other/ stay in the home.

This often causes even more pain and anguish as you now both have a new cause of tension: whose agent/ valuation is right?

That said, divorce lawyers will often suggest that each party obtains their own valuation. The cynics amongst us, may believe that this is designed to stir up more angst and expensive legal work but that is pure speculation. Cough.

If lawyers are involved, from experience, it is better for both people to ask for their respective lawyers to commission an RICS surveyor to give an opinion on value and any obvious defects in the property with both people agreeing to abide by that surveyors value but, to set the marketing price at a set figure above the surveyors valuation (e.g. 5% – 10% to allow for negotiation and surveyors being, occasionally, cautious). The cost of the surveyor split two ways will be FAR cheaper than the cost of one or two letters between lawyers as each side battles it out to try to win the ‘whose value is right argument’.

Once you have a mutually acceptable figure, we would advise you choose a good agent, who will accompany every appointment. Both people agree to ensure the home is in a presentable condition and that they leave the house empty while viewings are taking place (so no one can accuse the other of trying to affect the viewers’ decisions about a property).

wigradiusimagesAll agents must, by law, check to see if anyone else has a financial interest in a property and, must also treat each person equally. If you have a court order giving you control over the process, the agent will need to take a copy of this.

It’s also vital before you put your home on the market, that you both agree who is taking what in terms of curtains/ carpets etc. and anything from the garden etc. and that this is given to the agent. At PDQ, we ask all of our clients to complete a legal Property Information Questionnaire and the Law societies Fixtures and Fittings list to give to potential buyers to a) eliminate confusion and potential arguments over what is being sold/ left with the property and, b) to speed up the sale process once a sale has been agreed.

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Purplebricks and its finance company have liabilities in perpetuity – Emoov collapse should sound alarm-bells for investors and business partners

“Consumer watchdog Which says 5000 sellers could be affected by the collapse of Emoov” https://www.propertyindustryeye.com/consumer-watchdog-which-says-5000-sellers-could-be-affected-by-collapse-of-emoov/ Source Property Industry Eye (PIE)

Purplebricks share price continues to nose dive
Purplebricks share price continues to nose dive

The collapse of eMoov into administration again demonstrates the fundamental flaw in the call-centre estate agency business model but, it also highlights a severe problem for Purplebricks and the few other remaining call-centre agents that has been alluded to before but, in a different context. Their contract binds the companies to deliver the contracted service in perpetuity.

As the PIE story demonstrates, Purplebricks* consumers who have paid for a service upfront or, deferred payment, are now entitled to that cost being refunded or, tfor the customers to enforce the contract for eternity. 

Given the consistent and dramatic share price fall over the past year, its continued ‘shyness’ in substantiating many of its bold claims (88% listing to sold by Michael Bruce CEO on Radio 4 MoneyBox) and, its inability to provide a shred of evidence to repudiate Anthony Codlings damning Jefferies report which stated that Purplebricks sells (completes on) at most 51%** of all of its clients that it takes circa £1,300 from on average.

This means that Purplebricks has an exponentially increasing exposure to clients who can contractually demand their money back/ enforce the marketing and support package in perpetuity (allowing for ever increasing Rightmove charges and LPE retainers etc. Either Purplebricks and its finance company must hold sufficient and ever increasing cash reserves to be able to meet this contingency or, they face a potential charge of selling services they do not have the ability to provide as contracted.

See also

https://blog.pdq-estates.co.uk/2018/05/08/are-purplebricks-set-to-repay-millions/

https://blog.pdq-estates.co.uk/2017/12/12/purplebricks-and-the-case-of-the-regulators-who-wont/

https://blog.pdq-estates.co.uk/2017/08/24/attempted-intimidation-by-a-plc-or-fair-comment/

*Stock market ticker PURP #PURP Social media @PurplebricksUK @purplebricksAUS @PurplebricksUSA

**believed to be a ‘safe’ conservative figure to keep Jefferies lawyers happy

Christmas can be a GREAT time to sell, however humble your home may be.

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Many people delay putting their home on the market prior to Christmas in the mistaken belief that they are:

a) unlikely to find a buyer “it’s the wrong time of year”  or,

b) going to be snowed under with viewers over the festive period (excuse the pun)

In fact, the run up to Christmas can be one of the best times to have your home up for sale. 

“It’s the wrong time of year” – Certainly, there are less buyers looking for and viewing homes in the run-up to Christmas BUT, those who are, are deadly serious. If someone calls our office in November December and says they want to find a home, we know they are very likely to actually buy.

The surge of buyers looking on our website year after year from December the 26th is profound. If you wait until the New Year to put your home up for sale, it will miss that surge of motivated buyers and will just become one of the many homes coming onto the market in the New Year. Smart sellers know this and put their home up for sale before Christmas; avoiding the competition and adding rarity value to their property.

As for being bothered over the festive period? Less but higher quality viewings that have been vetted by a good agent will mean you are very unlikely to be bothered by hordes of viewers (and, if you are, the resulting likely higher sale price will help cover those Christmas extras on your credit card!). Additionally, a 3D tour, such as the ones we use at PDQ, by Ocean3D is perfect to allow potential buyers to see if your home is going to match their requirements before physically viewing; meaning that those who DO view are far more likely to buy and, be far less likely to be wasting your time.

“Really?!…. I don’t need planning permission to put a stunning, modern mobile home in my garden?!”

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Picture credit – Habitat Mobile Homes Ltd 

Use of a mobile home in the garden of a residential house.

If you want to site a mobile home in a field or an area outside of a garden you will need to apply for planning permission.

Siting a mobile home in a garden does not directly require planning but we advise applying for a ‘Certificate of Lawfulness’ from the Planning Authorities. It’s surprisingly true that laws relating to touring caravans, the type you tow behind a car, also apply to mobile home and static caravans: a type that can be significantly larger and suitable for year-round residential accommodation.

A caravan, be it a touring or static caravan or a large twin-size mobile home, is regarded as an article of movable personal property known as a ‘chattel’ and there is no public law preventing one being kept in someone’s garden, but there are Laws that regulate the ‘Use’ of land. It is NOT a Permitted Development Right. Siting a Caravan is NOT ‘Development’ whether permitted or otherwise. If the proposed mobile home falls within the criteria of use, conformity and location, then the situation is outside of planning control and approval from the Authorities is not needed.

We do, however, advise that in all cases a Lawful development Certificate is obtained for peace of mind. A lawful development certificate (LDC) is a statutory document confirming that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning control purposes. A mobile home will not require planning permission based on the follow criteria:

Location 

The caravan must be in the ‘curtilage’ of a dwelling house. This is the drive or garden, not adjoining paddock land, for example.

In James v Secretary of State for the Environment 1990 it was held that there are three criteria for determining whether land is within the curtilage of a building, namely:

  1. physical layout
  2. ownership, past and present
  3. use or function, past and present

 Definition of a ‘Caravan’

The actual structure must conform to the legal definition of a ‘caravan’ described in the Caravans Sites and Control of Development Acts 1960 and Associated Articles.

Appeal Decision by the Secretary of State (Erewash Borough Council 2002) determined that there are 3 tests to be applied to the park home:

  1. construction test
  2. mobility test
  3. size test

Use

The use must be incidental to the use of the house, meaning used in conjunction with. There are 4 accepted ‘incidental’ tests, reported to the House of Commons (Hansard, for 22 November 2005) as arising from relevant case-law. These are:

  1. the relationship between the respective occupants
  2. the relative size of the house, its garden and the caravan
  3. the relative scale of accommodation in the caravan and the house
  4. the degree to which the caravan is functionally connected to and subordinate to the use of the dwelling house

    Mobiles Homes in Gardens

    Planning Permission for Mobile Homes in Gardens

    OVERVIEW

    A caravan, be it a touring or static caravan or a large twin-size mobile home, is regarded as an article of movable personal property known as a ‘chattel’ and there is no public law preventing one being kept in someone’s garden, but there are Laws that regulate the ‘Use’ of land and ‘Development’.

    The siting of a caravan within the garden of a property does not require express consent provided a ‘material change of use’ or ‘Development’ has not occurred. If a caravan is parked in a drive or sited in a garden and used by members of the household in connection to the enjoyment of the house or as extra accommodation for visiting guests, provided the occupants continue to use the facilities of the house, then the siting of the caravan has not changed the ‘use’ of the land. However, if for example a caravan is sited in a garden and used as business premises, separately rented or used as a primary independent dwelling, with no relation to the main house, the local planning Authority could decide that an unauthorized ‘material change of use’ has occurred, for which planning permission will be required.

    The most important element is location. The location has to be in the direct garden, it can’t be on paddock land, or scrubland that is some distance from the house, even if the location is within the property boundary it really needs to be in the direct garden.

    A mobile home can be used in a garden without planning but you will need to justify how the use of the caravan supports the use of the house and how it will not become a separate or independent dwelling. For example the people who sleep and wash in the mobile home will use the cooking facilities of the main house. The structure must also be located in the actual garden, not surrounding land. Caravans, including mobile homes up to 65x22ft, can be sited in the direct garden of a house without planning permission if they are used by members of the household as additional living space not as independent accommodation.

    Key Factors

    There are three key factors to determine whether siting a caravan in a garden will not require planning permission. They are; the location of the caravan is garden, the caravan itself conforms to the legal definition, the use of the caravan is functionally link to the house.

    Location

    The caravan must be in the ‘curtilage’ of a dwelling house. This is the drive or garden, not adjoining paddock land, for example.

    In James v Secretary of State for the Environment 1990 it was held that there are three criteria for determining whether land is within the curtilage of a building, namely:

    1. physical layout
    2. ownership, past and present
    3. use or function, past and present

    Definition of a ‘Caravan’

    The actual structure must conform to the legal definition of a ‘caravan’ described in the Caravans Sites and Control of Development Acts 1960 and Associated Articles.

    Appeal Decision by the Secretary of State (Erewash Borough Council 2002) determined that there are 3 tests to be applied to the park home:

    1. construction test
    2. mobility test
    3. size test

    Use

    The use must be incidental to the use of the house, meaning used in conjunction with. There are 4 accepted ‘incidental’ tests, reported to the House of Commons (Hansard, for 22 November 2005) as arising from relevant case law. These are:

    1. the relationship between the respective occupants
    2. the relative size of the house, its garden and the caravan
    3. the relative scale of accommodation in the caravan and the house
    4. the degree to which the caravan is functionally connected to and subordinate to the use of the dwelling house

     

    Different Types of Caravan

    The legal definition of a caravan covers a wider range of structures than conventional touring caravans. A ‘caravan’ is any structure designed for human habitation that is capable of being transported. The term ‘caravan’ applies to touring caravans, motorhomes, static caravans and twin-unit mobile homes and park homes.

    Touring Caravans. These are the ones we see towed behind cars. Designed for occasional recreational use. They are built to BS EN 1645 and must meet the requirements for the construction and use of road vehicles.

    Motor-caravans incorporate the living accommodation similar to that of a touring caravan onto a motor base vehicle and are therefore designed specifically for touring. They are built to BS EN 1646 and must be road legal.

    Static caravans, also called holiday caravans and single units, are designed for recreational use not yearlong residential accommodation. They are not directly towed on roads but transported in one complete section on a HGV trailer. They are built to BS EN 1647.

    Park Homes refers to single and double unit caravans designed for residential use and built to BS 3632.

    Mobile homes refer to caravans that are designed for residential use and are not to be directly towed on roads by a vehicle. They do not have to meet any BS standards but they must meet the mobility and size test and additionally the construction test for twin units.

    Common Questions

    If I couldn’t drive a small car to my back garden, how would a massive 20 x 6 meter 5 bedroom mobile home be moved in and out?

    Mobiles Homes can be assembled onsite from prefabricated panels and the mobility off-site and down a non-specific road is hypothetical.

    This is best answered in ‘The Appeal Decision; Brightlingsea Haven Limited v. Morris 2008’ where it stated ‘It is the structure that must conform to the law not the means of access to where the structure actually is, and whether it may have difficulty in reaching a road.

    It is now common practice to build or assemble caravans in hard to access back gardens. The structure must remain movable and capable of transport down a hypothetical road, even if access to a road may require craning over buildings or complicated procedures. The structure need not have direct access to a road to be deemed a ‘caravan’. In terms of construction, Mobile Homes can be assembled onsite from many prefabricated pieces so long as they conform to the construction and mobility test. Other caravans like touring and static caravans need not meet the construction tests but must remain movable. For large mobile homes it is recommended a kit-form caravan is purchased from a specialist reputable manufacturer as opposed to building one independently.

    Why would I want to live in a Caravan? I’ve stayed in caravans at holiday parks; they look horrible and are freezing cold in the winter!

    Many people think of mobile homes and static caravans as having substandard comfort, dreary designs and paper-thin walls. However, they are not all like this. Modern mobile homes can offer all the luxury of conventional residential living. They can be built to the same insulation values as a normal house and come in a variety of designs and styles.

    How big can a ‘caravan’ be?

    Although the maximum size of a caravan is limited to 20 x 6.8m in the Caravan Sites Acts, it is still considerably large, with enough space for over five bedrooms, toilets, kitchen and living spaces. A caravan can be significantly larger than most buildings capable of obtaining planning approval as annexes.

     Why not just have outbuildings? Homeowners have rights to build outbuildings without planning permission. Why would I consider a Mobile Home?

    Many homeowners are familiar with the ‘Permitted Development Right’ to have sheds and other outbuildings in a garden without the need for planning approval (The Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order 2008)
. However, the development rights for outbuildings don’t allow living accommodation and a structure with a kitchen and bathroom is not allowed.

    What’s the most common problem?

    The main problem that occurs with the Local Authorities (if the boundary of the garden and compliance with the Caravans Sites Act is not in question) will be the argument that if the caravan has all the facilities for independent living it is therefor capable of being used as a separate dwelling and a separate planning unit will have been created. Consequently, the use of the land will have changed from a single dwelling or incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling. However, this argument is not supported by Case Law. All caravans have the facilities for independent living by their very definition. There is no law that states that a caravan with full living facilities constitutes development. This applies more to buildings than caravans. One possibility to overcome this argument is to independently sign an ‘affidavit/statutory declaration’ stating that the use of the caravan will be not be as a separate dwelling.

    What about farmland? Can I put a caravan in a field?

    The answer is yes, but you can’t use the caravan as accommodation. It must be used in association with the use of the land. On farm land the caravan must be used for farming activities, storage or a rest area required by health and safely for workers. It cannot be used residentially as living accommodation without approval because the ‘use’ of the land would have changed from agricultural to domestic and a ‘material change of use’ would have occurred. A mobile home can, however, be used as accommodation for a limited 28 days of the year. There is no clear wording within this law that states the caravan needs to be moved off-site when not inhabited.

    Should the Council be contacted?

    You don’t have to contact the Council but it is recommended, especially in cases of large mobile homes. If all the circumstances are satisfied and Lawful, then you can get a letter of confirmation from the Council, either an informal reply to a letter or via an official Lawful Development Certificate, which involves completing the application documents.

    Why not just apply for planning permission for an annexe?

    Statistically there will be a high chance of refusal. When residential annexes are granted planning permission they are frequently smaller 1-2 bedroom buildings. Mobile homes can be 20 x 6.7 metres and have over 5 bedrooms, significantly larger than a building likely to be granted conventional planning approval. Additionally there is no restriction on style. Planning permission will often require that the style and finish is ‘in keeping’ with the area. Whilst, a mobile home can be finished to your preferred taste.

    Noteworthy Citations

    1- Parliamentary Questions The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister  (Jim Fitzpatrick) 22 Nov 2005 Column 1491. Column 1491-1492  (Extracts)

    This reference is to Parliamentary Questions concerning the use of caravans in gardens by gypsy travellers. In addressing these concerns, the Secretary of State made the following conclusions about the general ‘use’ of caravans in gardens.

    “A caravan is not a building. Stationing one on land is not itself “operational development” that requires planning permission, although associated works such as the provision of infrastructure and hygiene facilities may well be. Under planning law, householders can park caravans in their gardens or driveways indefinitely, provided that no material change of use of land occurs. However, in certain circumstances, the placing of a caravan on land may change the principal use of that land, which would amount to development in the form of a material change of use of land. It is for that reason that the use of land for an occupied caravan generally requires planning permission. A householder is entitled to use caravans as extra accommodation without planning permission, provided that the occupants continue to use the house, for example, the kitchen or bathroom. If, on the other hand, a caravan is there for another purpose not incidental to the enjoyment of the main dwelling, known as the dwelling house—for example, it is inhabited quite separately from, and independently of, the dwelling house—planning permission for change of use of the land would, generally speaking, be required. As it would result in the creation of a new planning unit, such permission may well not be granted in a residential area.”

    “current law allows flexibility for local authorities to determine the merits of any case as to whether the stationing of a caravan or caravans constitutes development requiring planning permission. Examples that might be considered ancillary could include uses such as storage, home office, additional sleeping accommodation and garden shed. A separate residence is clearly not ancillary to the use of the main dwelling house.”

    2- Letter from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

    The following extract is taken directly from a letter to a resident’s action group (CW10) from a Planning Policy Adviser at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

    “Each local planning authority has to take a view on whether any particular activity amounts to ‘development’ within the meaning of section 55 of the main Act. There are two types of development—’operational’, such as building or engineering work, and ‘material change of use of land’. A boat or vehicle would be a chattel rather than a building or a structure, so could only be considered as development if it represented a material change of use of land (eg, if someone set up a commercial boat-repair business in what was supposed to be his back garden). Similarly, a caravan, as defined under section 29(1) of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, as modified by section 13(1)(b) of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 is not a building. However, if someone started using one as a self-contained dwelling within the curtilage of a dwelling house the local planning authority would require a planning application for change of use of land. Putting one dwelling into the curtilage of another is always a material change of use.”

    3- Communities and Local Government Circular 01/94 Paragraph 29

    This is a 1994 Communities and Government Circular regarding the use of caravans by gypsies. Although a 2006 paper referring to traveller and gypsy sites has preceded this circular, its general comments on the use of caravans in gardens can still be cited as relevant.

    “A caravan within the curtilage of a dwelling house may have a number of ancillary uses for which planning permission would not be required. For example, it could be used for additional living accommodation, provided that it remained part of the same planning unit as the dwelling house and the unit remained in single family occupation.”

This article was written by and permission given for its’ reproduction by http://habitatmobilehomes.com to whom we are most grateful.

 

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