It is 25 years since IPHAS (the Independent Park Home Advisory Service) was formed, and over the intervening years it has offered advice to thousands of people either living in park homes or contemplating a move to one. It has also wielded considerable influence with Government about improvements to the law surrounding this unique type of dwelling. Despite the passage of the years, its services are still as much in demand today as they were then.
Moving from a traditional dwelling to a park home is a big step but one which increasing numbers of people are undertaking (especially those wanting to downsize and release some capital as retirement approaches). However, many find that the park lifestyle is totally different from anything they have been used to previously, and they need advice on various aspects – park rules, utilities, site licensing, legislation and a host of other things.
It was that uncertainty about the lifestyle upon which they had recently embarked that led Joan and Ernie Aylott to become two of the founder members of IPHAS.
Joan, Ernie and their family had enjoyed camping and motorhome holidays for many years and, when visiting the annual caravan show at Earls Court one year, they saw some park homes and decided to investigate the possibility of moving to one as their retirement approached. Two years later, having done a great deal of research, they felt they were well equipped to find their ideal home and park. They embarked on a tour of 33 parks before deciding on one in Dorset, largely because of its beautiful surroundings.
Despite all the research, Joan and Ernie found that there were still things they didn’t know about park home life. For instance, when they started to dig a pond in their garden they quickly discovered, during a visit from their park owner, that they would need his permission before embarking on a project such as that. They were also guilty of breaking the park rules when they allowed their son to stay with them for a few months (the park was for retired people only).
So, feeling the need for further ‘education’ about the lifestyle they had chosen, Joan joined a national residents’ association where she worked alongside the late Roy Waite before they decided (with Ernie and Beryl - Roy’s wife), to set up their own residents’ association. They called it the Independent Park Home Advisory Service (IPHAS for short). They achieved great success and were grateful for the support they received from Lord Graham of Edmonton (who, to this day, is still the organisation’s vice-president).
Joan and Ernie’s eldest son, Rus, who became IPHAS’s ICT officer from its earliest days, said that he was very proud of what his parents’ legacy had become and wanted to thank all those, past and present, for their input and commitment. He added that IPHAS was in good hands and would continue to support its members and the park home lifestyle and values for many years to come.
IPHAS is not a national residents’ association; it is an ‘advisory service’, as its name suggests. Another word in its title which is also important is ‘independent’. IPHAS has no affiliations to other organisations.
THE IPHAS TEAM
Alan Savory joined IPHAS a year after it was formed and quickly became its Government Liaison Representative and was awarded an MBE in 2008 for his work. Alan is now IPHAS’s senior consultant and a fount of knowledge about all aspects of park home legislation.
Over the years, Alan has advised thousands of residents faced with court action and has represented some in the county court. He has also helped residents who have taken their cases to the First-tier Tribunal (formerly the Residential Property Tribunal Service – RPTS) for resolution. Many of IPHAS’s very helpful publications have been written by Alan. As if this were not enough for one individual, Alan also keep the IPHAS website up-to-date, and is the organisation’s treasurer.
IPHAS has a governing body of three people. Alan Savory is one, and Alan’s deputy, David Tweddle (who is based in the north of England) is another. David attends Government-level meetings with Alan and is also responsible for the training of any new advisors who join the team.
The third governing board officer is Sheila Aldous who handles block memberships. Upon Joan Aylott’s retirement, she also took over IPHAS publications, general inquiries and overall administration.
Consultant Stephen Hassall advises on problems that come to IPHAS via the members’ Freephone telephone line. Based in the West Country, he attends meetings and liaises with local councillors and related parties.
The IPHAS team is small and they all work from their own homes to answer queries that come in by post, email, fax or telephone. Beryl Giblett who joined the team in March 2013, shares the Freephone telephone inquiries with Stephen and responds to emails requesting advice. She was promoted to the role of consultant (from advisor) last year.
Michael Hooper joined the team in May 2014 and became an advisor in 2015. He deals with emailed requests for help.
Although Patricia Winfield initially took on an advisory role within IPHAS when she joined in 2014, she has now taken on the demanding job of individual membership administrator.
An organisation as large as IPHAS has had to embrace new technology and this was done from the organisation’s very early days, thanks to the help of Joan Aylott’s son, Rus (an IT consultant), who maintains all the technical aspects, integrity and standards of the IPHAS website, databases, software and back office functionality, and also manages the audio-visual presentation and recording requirements of the team.
Anne Walters joined the team in 2006, having had a background in the park home industry since 1975. She edits the IPHAS publication – The Advisor – provides articles about the organisation to the specialist press, and is minutes secretary.
The 2013 Mobile Homes Act and the associated problems of the paperwork involved in buying and selling homes, and the need to liaise effectively with the park owner concerning site rules, has put huge demands on the consultants and advisors. IPHAS is always keen to expand its ‘team’, so anyone interested in joining should contact Sheila Aldous at email@example.com
ADVICE AND CONSULTATION
As well as advising residents, IPHAS also attends Government meetings with a view to getting the legislation changed. Although the Mobile Homes Act 1983 was a significant step forward, there was an imbalance of power between park owners and residents and there were still too many ways in which some unscrupulous park owners could take advantage of residents. By meeting with the Government department responsible for park homes, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, (MHCLG formerly the DCLG) and with the All Party Group of Parliamentarians for Mobile Home Owners, Alan and David have made an input into changes in legislation. They have worked in close co-operation with NAPHR, another national residents’ association. They have had an input into changes made by the Housing Act 2004, regulations made in 2006 and 2011 and by the Mobile Homes Act 2013. There have also been changes to park home law in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and, most recently, a change to the park licensing arrangements.
In its early years, IPHAS held ‘Link’ meetings at various venues all over the country with the aim of helping park home residents living within the catchment area of each meeting to understand the Mobile Homes Act 1983 and associated legislation. These meetings also enabled experts in various fields of park home living (e.g. legal, insurance, home construction and maintenance, and local authority) to help residents with any problems that may have arisen as a result of their move to a park home. They often managed to get local MPs to attend these meetings, too.
When the new legislation was enacted in 2004, the Government took its own ‘roadshows’ to various parts of the country. These were meetings which informed residents about the changes to the legislation, and Paul Baker Insurance Services (PBIS) now sponsors and conducts its own road shows on subjects such as the legislation, finance, insurance, maintenance, refurbishment and the park home lifestyle. PBIS always invites an IPHAS representative to speak at these ‘roadshows’ about the organisation and the ways in which it can help members.
Advice is given free of charge to members of IPHAS (membership is £6 per year – see membership information below).
HOW IPHAS WORKS
Each member of the IPHAS team of advisors is very well versed both in the relevant legislation and in all aspects of park home living. Park home residents usually seek advice in the event of a dispute between themselves and their park owners. Having told inquirers about their legal rights, IPHAS advisors try to suggest ways of handling disputes without going to a First Tier Property Tribunal. If such action is unavoidable, a team member will be able to assist residents with the complexities of the tribunal procedures and paperwork and, if necessary, with choosing and instructing a lawyer.
IPHAS happily concedes that a large proportion of park owners operate their parks well and demonstrate a caring attitude towards their residents and treat them fairly. An indication of IPHAS’s reputation for independence and fairness to all is the fact that, in the past, some park owners have asked IPHAS for guidance on changes to the law and how they should apply it in dealings with their residents.
At Government level, IPHAS works with other associations which also represent the views of residents to ensure that their interests and rights are protected in any proposed changes to legislation.
Local authority officials also come to IPHAS for advice, and so does the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and other relevant organisations, including solicitors. As the IPHAS team does not have legal qualifications, it cannot represent either side in legal proceedings but it can offer guidance to all parties in the hope that tribunal action may be avoided and the dispute settled amicably.
IPHAS team members offer information about residents’ rights under the current legislation and the advice or recommendation given is for information only. It remains the responsibility of the resident or park owner to make his/her own decision on action to be taken, on the basis of the information given by IPHAS. Advice is offered in good faith, but IPHAS cannot be held responsible for the consequences of any action taken, whether or not it was based on the information given.
IPHAS advisors and consultants live in various parts of the country and are totally committed to helping their members. However, although they give their time willingly and freely, they are not office based, nor do they necessarily operate within office hours. Therefore, they ask inquirers to understand that although they try to deal with queries as soon as possible, this may not always be possible due to other commitments they may have.
HOW TO JOIN IPHAS
IPHAS welcomes all membership requests but points out that it is only able to give limited advice to those living in holiday homes on holiday parks.
IPHAS offers two types of membership – individual and block.
Individual. This is for homes on a park where there is no IPHAS agent or ‘distributor’ and/or there are less than five IPHAS registrations on the park. Individual membership is £6 per annum.
Block. This type of membership is for parks where one registrant has undertaken to be a ‘distributor’ and collect fees. Five or more homes need to be registered with a distributor so that each one can receive a 20% discount over individual membership (i.e. £5 as opposed to £6).
Further information can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org, telephone 0800 612 8938 or write to:
Sheila Aldous, 17 Little Witcombe Court Park, Green Lane, Witcombe, Glos GL3 4TZ