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Legal limbo for many seniors in mobile home parks

Seniors in South Australia have called on the State Government to urgently review laws covering mobile home parks, as older residents raise concerns over the lack of legal protections.

In its budget submission to the Weatherill Government, Council on the Ageing (COTA) South Australia said a survey of 191 park residents found that security of tenure was their principle concern, followed by poor transport, high site rents, overdue repairs, a lack of conflict resolution and accessibility problems.

“While park residents own their own homes (deemed transportable), they only lease the land on which these are built. At any time, the land can be sold out from under them,” COTA SA warned.

The peak body’s comments come after the Productivity Commission last month concluded that residents of mobile home parks had “significantly weaker security of tenure” than retirement village residents.

“As they do not own the land on which their dwellings stand, residents can be affected if operators decide to change the way they use their land,” the commission noted in its Housing Decisions of Older Australians report.

For many residents, security of tenure was low, the commission noted. In all states except Queensland and NSW, residents could be evicted without grounds if given sufficient notice, it said.

However, some recent legislative reviews had resulted in more substantial levels of consumer protection and security of tenure for residents. “In Victoria, parks that registered after September 2011 must offer their residents site agreements with a minimum term of five years. Such reviews have been recently completed in Western Australia and NSW, and are currently being undertaken in Queensland and Victoria,” the commission noted.

In Western Australia, seniors groups and experts have previously raised the legal uncertainties facing older residents in mobile home parks.

A 2014 report by researchers at the University of Western Australia’s Law School concluded:

“The strict legal position of many residents in residential parks is precarious.”

That research, commissioned by COTA WA, found the issue had become controversial with the closure of several parks in the state.

“The sites, often located on what has become prime land with considerable redevelopment potential, have been purchased by developers, necessitating the departure of the residents. In such circumstances, many former residents are left without alternative accommodation and those who own a relocatable home may be unable to find an alternative site,” that report noted.

Meanwhile, in South Australia, COTA SA has urged the State Government to “proceed as a matter of urgency” with a planned review of the state’s Residential Parks Act 2007 and called for the review to involve “a wide consultation process” including with COTA SA and the SA Residential Parks Residents’ Association.

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