Mobile Home Park Industry Review
MOBILE HOME PARK INDUSTRY REVIEW
Mr CRITTENDEN (Wyong) [4.45 p.m.]: I congratulate the Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Women on instituting a review of the vexed issue of the rights of residents of mobile home parks and of the entire mobile home park industry. The timetable established by the Minister when the review panel was set up was, I thought, somewhat ambitious, but it is certainly on target. Last Thursday I received an issues paper published by the Department of Fair Trading. It deals with many of the concerns of residents of mobile home parks and of park owners. Every person who wants to make comment on this matter has until 31 October to do so. Wyong Shire Council is this State’s local government body with the most mobile home park sites - 2,219 sites - and permanent residents.
The departmental paper details the vexed history of this issue and the confusion between caravan parks and mobile home parks. I hope that many of my constituents who are residents of mobile home parks take the opportunity to present the committee with suggestions, and I encourage honourable members from the north and south coasts particularly to seek the views of their constituents also. This is a golden opportunity to introduce legislation to deal with the issues relevant to mobile home parks. It is my understanding that the owners’ representative, Mr Norton Whitmont, has presented a paper. That paper is constructive in many respects.
It is important to ensure that the committee has before it all the relevant concerns so that an appropriate decision can be made. The park owners claim that it is important to ensure that the level of rent revenue generated by a park keeps pace with general running costs. That is true, but it is also important to recognise the unique position of people living in mobile home parks, who own their homes but not the land on which the homes are situated. If they disagree with a proposed rent increase, they have to move their home - at a cost of up to $15,000. Theirs is not a usual landlord-tenant relationship. It is further claimed by park owners that landlords of other properties do not have to face great hurdles with regard to small rent increases. That is also true, but not many landlords own entire suburbs or parts of suburbs.
Park owners have asserted that normal market forces determine what is a fair rent. At present the issue affecting residents the most is that of rent increases, which are imposed with monotonous regularity two or three times a year. Most park residents now pay about $90 per week to rent a patch of land on which to site their home. Market forces do not apply because there are only a few parks in any one locality. To establish collusion under the Trade Practices Act it must be established that the rents charged seem remarkably similar. However, more importantly, the level of services provided by park owners is substantially different. In some parks a minibus is provided for the benefit of the residents and there are social clubs with a social network. Those facilities are subsidised by the park owners. In other parks there is no infrastructure and none of those services are provided. [Time expired.]
Mrs LO PO’ (Penrith - Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Women) [4.50 p.m.]: The review of the mobile home park industry is necessary because patterns of living in the 1990s are different from those in the past. In the past everything one did was related to land. It does not matter whether one lives in a shack or a mansion council rates are levied on the land. If property is left in a will to a relative, it is not the house that is left but the land. In mobile home parks the land and the house are no longer bound together; one person owns the land and one person owns the home. That is quite different from anything that has happened before.
Mobile home parks are throwing up unique problems. Some of my colleagues who are really concerned about their constituents have prevailed on the department to deal with those problems. The problems did not exist in the 1960s or the 1970s; they are problems of the 1990s. The Government is determined to conquer the problems before we reach the year 2000 so that the consumers of New South Wales, particularly families who choose to live in mobile homes, are in some way protected from greed in some cases and in others from the vagaries of living in a house which is located on land they do not own.