My Holiday Caravan Feedback to Static Holiday Sites (Wales) Bill

Here is an open letter to Darren Millar (MP) regarding his request for feedback on the draft Static Holiday Sites (Wales) Bill, dated 11th December 2013.

Since 2005 My Holiday Caravan has provided independent information to those looking to buy a static holiday caravan on a UK park, working closely with national and regional park operators.

This experience has given us a real insight to the motivations and concerns of static caravan buyers and owners.

As you are in the process of seeking feedback on the Static Holiday Sites (Wales) Bill, we have summarised the key issues from caravan owners canvassed by online surveys and face to face contact at UK caravan shows. We have tried to balance this with views of park operators which we have access to via our commercial partnerships.

We have thus focused on the key areas which we feel, based on this feedback, need clarification in law to protect caravan owners and park operators.

Residential Use

Misappropriate use of holiday homes as permanent residence is a concern for legitimate park operators and caravan owners.

The proposed maximum occupancy of 28 days within 3 months would potentially restrict a usage for a caravan owner who wishes to holiday for an extended period beyond 28 days. Legitimate caravan owners often can have “longer stays” especially those who have retired and such restrictions could potentially harm the whole industry.

It is permanent continual residential living that is the key issue.

At this time, many conscientious park operators are struggling to enforce a non-residence policy. Buyers can give a false permanent address or sell their property after holiday home is purchased.

Under the proposed bill park owners become directly liable for their caravan owners. It seems the only option open to them is to control access more directly (perhaps on a weekly basis via a key-management process) for which many feel defeats the freedom and point of holiday home ownership.

As the bill targets park owners rather than caravan owners who float rules, we can’t see any other truly enforceable way for a park to prevent misuse.

12 month park licences being granted by many local authorities in the UK sits uneasily with many in the industry, as the feel they erode the very definition of a holiday park by elimination of the “closed season”, whereby permanent residence was impossible.

Many are also asking which governmental body would enforce this new legislation with park operators and on with what regularity.

Licence Agreements

We enclose the most prevalent feedback from static caravan holiday home owners on licence agreements.

  • Wording should be clear and have fair terms for both parties.
  • Caravan owners like a lease which states the number of years a caravan can stay on a pitch (e.g. 20 years) and that can be renegotiated on at the end of term. Contracts which are dependent on “condition” of caravan can be vague and park operator retains the final say on eviction.
  • Buyers expect a full and detailed list of ownership costs.
  • Caravan owners want protection against unfair increases in site fees and have protection if park is purchased by a third party.
  • Caravan owners want utilities to be provided at cost with open and transparent billing.
  • Owners also want to be able to sell their caravan independently without interference from the park operator (paying commission as per their licence agreement). We have regular reports of parks not allowing private sales and applying below market valuations.

After Care

One of the most prominent complaints from dissatisfied caravan owners is lack of aftercare and breaches of licence agreements.

Customer charters are good in principal but hard to enforce once you have purchased and the park operator revokes on promises.

Suggestions:

  • Handover meeting should be completed with all new buyers detailing key personnel on site.
  • Licence agreement should clearly lay out complaints handling procedure.

Support

When owners are in dispute with parks they often feel there is no support mechanism apart from expensive legal action against park operator. With so many potential grey areas, this action is always going to have an inherent risk.

Currently in the UK, the National Caravan Council will arbitrate if the park is a member of the approved scheme, but have no real powers to intervene if a compromise cannot be found.

Others seek advice from organisations such as NACO who provide advice on legal matters.

With the proposed legislation, caravan owners would need to know where to look for support in its enforcement e.g. The Office of Fair Trading.

We hope our input is of benefit to your feedback process, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need anything in the future.

Kind Regards,
Paul Craven