Opinion on The Legal Aspects of The Supply of Mobile Homes

1.         There are 4 key elements that have to be considered in order to be satisfied that a Timberspecs mobile home complies with the legal requirements set out in the relevant legislation which is the “Definition of a Caravan” contained at Section 29 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 as subsequently amended and extended.

2.         The first of these is the obvious requirement that the mobile home shall be designed or adapted for human habitation. If I refer to the Timberspecs brochure, it is evident that this requirement is fully met by all those mobile homes that are supplied by Timberspecs.

3.         The second requirement relates to the actual size of the mobile home. This is a matter of fact that is evident from the design of the mobile home. The limits specified within the Act are:

            (i)         length: (exclusive of drawbar) 20 metres (65,616 feet)

            (ii)        width:   6.8 metres (22,309 feet)

(iii)       height (measured internally) from lowest floor level to the ceiling at the highest level: 3.05 metres (10,006 feet)

4.         The third requirement is as to how the mobile home is constructed both when it is delivered and when necessary work is done on site following delivery:

            (i)         the legal specification:

in “not more than two sections separately constructed and designed to be assembled on a site by means of bolts clamps or other devices….”

(ii)        it is self-evident that if the Timberspecs mobile home is delivered to the site in two sections, they will have to be joined together. The method used for such“joining together” is clear from the legislation when it refers to “bolts or clamps” but is significantly vague when using the words “or other devices”. The usual legal rule for interpretation of statutes is that the vague word should be treated as being similar to the other express words to which it is annexed (the eiusdem generis rule). In this case, therefore, the “other devices” should be joining devices that can be sensible alternatives to “bolts or clamps”. The fundamental purpose of a bolt or a clamp is to hold the two sections together. It must follow therefore, that any other “device” that has the same purpose and effect will fall within the legal requirement. I cite, as examples, a length of wood or steel that has the same effect in joining the two sections together. This cannot be an exclusivelist of alternative devices – it is the intention of the method of joining the two sections together that is the essence of the legal requirement.

5.         The fourth requirement is referable to the method of transport of the mobile home to the site at which it:

            It is “when assembled physically capable of being moved by road from one place to another (whether by being towed or by being transported on a motor vehicle or trailer”

            There then follows a caveat that has a clear and ascertainable meaning:
(the mobile home) “shall not be treated as not being a caravan…..by reason only that it cannot lawfully be so moved on a highway when assembled

(i)         This requirement appears to be intended to ensure that the structure is, truly, “mobile”. The two sections must be capable of being moved by road BUT the fact that the two sections, when assembled, cannot, lawfully be moved by road IN ONE LOAD does not affect the validity of the mobile home

(ii)        the times when Local Planning Authorities test this requirement is often after the delivery and assembly of the mobile home. The test applied is whether or not the structure can (a) be disassembled and (b) lifted so as to establish that the structure remains “mobile”

(iii)       what happens to a Timberspecs mobile home after it has been delivered to site and  assembled is, clearly, a matter for whoever occupies or owns the mobile home from then on. If the structure is altered in such a way as not to comply with the legal requirement, then it cannot be Timberspecs’ responsibility.

Opinion from:

HARRY WOLTON, Q.C

Legal and Planning Consultant