On 10 November 2017, the Governor of Queensland granted assent to the Housing Legislation (Building Better Futures) Amendment Bill 2017 (Bill). The Bill proposes amendments, amongst others Acts to the Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) Act 2003 (Act).
The key amendments to the Act (subject to point 7 below) will commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation. This commencing day is yet to be confirmed by the QLD Parliament.
The Bill proposes to:
…increase transparency in the relationships between park owners and home owners, and
strengthen consumer protections to provide more security and confidence to home owners.
Reforms include a new, staged pre-contractual disclosure process; limitations on rent
Increases; prescribed behavioural standards for park owners, staff and home owners; and
other related measures.
Outlined below are the key amendments to the Act:
1. Staged pre- contractual disclosure
A new two staged pre-conditional disclosure process obliging the park owner to provide home owners with:
- The initial disclosure documents (site rent information, park rules etc.) at least 21 days before entering into site agreements; and
- Other documents (in the approved form) at least 14 days before entering into site agreements.
The home owner can reduce these timeframes to 7 days by having their lawyer sign a waiver notice.
2. Cooling-off period
A new cooling-off period where:
- If the disclosure process has been complied with, a cooling-off period of 7 days applies; or
- If the disclosure process has not been complied with, a cooling-off period of 28 days applies,
from the date after the day the last person signs the site agreement.
A home owner may terminate the site agreement within the cooling-off period by giving notice to the park owner, and if the home owner has granted a person a security interest in the manufactured home, to that person.
3. Cooling-off period for the assignment of site agreements
A new 7-day cooling-off period for the assignment of site agreements, being 7 days after the park owner consents to the assignment. The period will increase to 28 days after consent if the park owner has not given the buyer the necessary disclosure documents.
The new proposed sections:
- require the seller must not complete the sale of a manufactured home unless the park owner has consented to the assignment of the site agreement and the buyer has been given the disclosure documents;
- outlines what happens when a buyer terminates the assignment agreement under the new cooling-off provisions – the seller must, within 14 days after the termination day, refund any amount received under the agreement to the buyer and ownership reverts to the seller; and
- makes void any part of a term in the sale agreement that seeks to exclude, change or restrict the operation of the above requirements.
4. Site rent increase
The site rent can only be increased if:
- the site agreement states the basis for working out the amount of increase;
- the increase is not worked out by using more than one basis at a time (ie. the site rent cannot increase by CPI and market review at the same time);
- there is no more than one increase per year;
- a general increase day has been nominated by the park owner for when site rents for all eligible sites in the park will be increased on the same basis;
- where increased by market value, the valuer engaged by the park owner has consulted with the home owners committee or, if there is no committee, with certain specified numbers of home owners at least 63 days before the next general increase;
- home owners are provided with a ‘general increase notice’ providing information about the proposed increase, the market valuation (in the case of market review) and how the home owner can dispute the increase at least 35 days before an increase.
A registered valuer must state in the market valuation ‘… any connection to, or agreement with, the park owner that may call into question the independence of the valuation’.
5. Site rent increase – special costs
Site increases that are necessary to cover ‘special costs’ the park owner has incurred or expects to incur, include:
- significant increased operational costs;
- the cost of significant repairs in relation to common areas or communal facilities that could not have been reasonably foreseen; and
- The cost of significant upgrades to common areas or communal facilities.
Park owners who propose to increase rent to cover special costs must issue a notice to home owners detailing the type of cost, the amount of the cost incurred and the amount of proposed increase in the site rent.
For a proposed upgrade to common areas or communal facilities, if 75% of home owners agree to the increase, all home owners are taken to have agreed.
If a home owner doesn’t agree to the increase, the park owner must first attempt to mediate the dispute before applying to the tribunal. There are specific criteria for the tribunal to consider when making a decision on the proposed increase.
6. Charges for utilities
Park owners are prohibited from charging home owner’s administrative or meter reading fees for the supply of utilities to a site.
7. Obligations about behaviour of park owners and home owners
New obligations on park owners and home owners with respect to behaviour (eg. Not to unreasonably interfere with peace, comfort or privacy, free from harassment and intimidation).
Park owners must provide home owners with a complete response to any correspondence with regards to a complaint within 21 days after it being received.
This provision commenced on assent on 10 November 2017.
8. Emergency plan
The park owner must ensure and maintain an emergency plan for the park (including emergency procedures, testing and implementing those procedures and providing information and training for home owners).
9. Dispute resolution
The introduction of a three-step dispute resolution process – negotiation between the parties, mediation before a mediator and then the parties may make an application to the Tribunal.
The definition of a residential park dispute, (formerly site agreement dispute) has been broadened to include disputes about matters relating to the day-to-day running or operation of a residential park (including a failure to communicate or cooperate in dealing with the matter) and disputes between home owners.
10. Prohibition on restricting visitors
Park owners must not prevent a visitor from visiting a home owner or other resident of the park who is providing health or community services.
Further, parks owners must not prevent a visitor from visiting a site or a common area without reasonable excuse (such as the visitor interfering with the reasonable peace, confirm or privacy of another home owner).
Subject to section 104 (point 7 above), these key amendments are yet to come into force.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the team at Amity Law.