A 70-year-old widow, recognized by the British government for her efforts to secure equal legal rights for mobile home owners, has been robbed—of her mobile home.
Sonia McColl had been forced to sell her mobile home because she received numerous death threats at that address, all related to her campaign to protect people like herself—mobile home owners at the mercy of mobile home park operators.
McColl decided to move to an undisclosed address, and bought a second-hand mobile home. While the home was waiting in a storage yard to be shipped to its permanent address, the entire mobile home—forty feet long and weighing some 11 tons—was stolen.
“I’m devastated and shocked, I still am, I’m numb,” McColl told the UK Daily Mail. “They’ve taken everything I’ve got.”
The theft left McColl both broke and homeless. She had spent all her cash to buy the new home and have it repaired. She had it insured for everything—except theft from a supposedly secure storage yard. She cannot afford to buy another home—she cannot even afford to rent one.
“I’m staying with some friends at the moment,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
The Devon and Cornwall police are asking anyone with information to contact them via phone or email.
Police Constable Marie Gorfin said: “The home would have to had to been taken by a specific low loader trailer that is capable of taking a caravan of this size and by someone that knew what they were doing.
“This is a very high value and emotive crime as victim is now homeless and clearly distraught.
“We are urging anyone with information to come forward to police by emailing us via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 101 quoting CR/102371/17.”
McColl and some people around her believe that her home was stolen as an act of revenge for McColl’s years of campaigning for the rights of mobile home owners, according to The Sun.
McColl’s family persuaded her to sell her home in a park in Dorset after she received numerous death threats at that address. McColl responded by moving to Devon. Before she could have her new mobile home shipped to her new property, it was stolen.
McColl told the Daily Mail that she started campaigning to stop park owner abuse, such as sale-blocking and unfair fees.
“I ran a campaign that changed the law so that could not happen anymore, and I’m currently doing one that is trying to stop them taking 10 percent commission when people sell their homes,” she told the Daily Mail.
“Consequently I did have death threats.
“I used to live in a park home in Dorset and after losing my husband and dog I received a number of death threats telling me to abandon what I was doing.
“My family convinced me to sell my home and move elsewhere so I put my home up for sale, sold it, and moved to another location just as the campaign was taking off. I moved to Devon.”
McColl said that she had the new home insured while on a park site or in transit, but that insurance didn’t cover the unit while it sat in seller’s storage yard. “It was in their yard, they said it was secure but obviously it wasn’t,” she said.
The company originally contracted to move the home backed out at the last minute. McColl hired another, and that shipper was expected to show up on Saturday, Nov. 25. The mobile home was stolen between 6 p.m. Nov. 22 and 6 a.m. Nov. 23, according to the Devon and Cornwall Police—but was not reported missing until the next day.
McColl’s son David Randall told Leasehold Knowledge Partnership that “It is stretching credulity to believe that this is just a piece of bad luck.
“I am sure that this is a planned form of revenge.”
“My mother has fought so hard to help and assist the lives of thousands of park homeowners,” he explained. “This has culminated in her now suffering total loss of everything.”
A Campaigner for Mobile Home Owners’ Rights
McColl, who lived in a park in Wareham, Dorset, decided mobile home owners needed to be organized, so she started the Park Home Owners Justice Campaign.
She was known across the UK—and in Parliament—for her tireless battle to protect mobile home owners’ rights.
Many UK mobile home owners are retired people living in mobile home parks on very tight budgets. McColl learned that park owners were taking advantage of their tenants. It’s her view that the park owners were counting on their tenants’ old age, limited legal knowledge, and limited budgets to get away with making extra money off them.
These practices were facilitated because the BH@HPA (British Holiday and Home Park Association), the trade group supporting the mobile-home industry, sat on the secretariat board of the All Party Parliamentary Group for park homes, the government committee which drew up laws concerning mobile homes and mobile home parks.
Park owners, for instance, would find out when a tenant planned to sell a lot, and would contact the buyer and offer a home and lot at a competitive price, thus gaining a new tenant and trapping an old one who couldn’t sell his or her home.
Also, park owners, due to lobbying efforts, had gotten a law passed which gave the park owners a 10-percent commission every time a home in that park sold—even if the park owner had nothing to do with the sale. This would often cut out most of the profit from the sale which the elderly owner usually needs.
Groups like Park Home Owners Justice Campaign already succeeded in getting that commission reduced from 25 percent to 10 percent, and aim to get it removed entirely.
In 2014, McColl was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her efforts to protect the rights of mobile-home owners.
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