What to think about
To avoid confusion and misunderstanding, the terms and conditions of your agreement should be in writing. Before signing anything, make sure you have all the information to make your decision.
You need a pitch to use a static holiday caravan and therefore the agreement will comprise a contract for the sale of the caravan and a license giving permission to use the pitch.
It is important that you understand and agree how long your caravan can stay on the pitch. Is an annual license going to be long enough? A license of short duration gives the caravan owner little security, and when it comes up for renewal the park owner may offer to renew it on less favorable terms. If the park owner wants you to replace your caravan with a newer model, when will this happen? You should ask and keep a note about:
- The price, age, details and condition of the caravan
- Any transportation, siting and commissioning costs
- The rate of depreciation of caravans
- The criteria for deciding if a caravan is no longer up to park standards
- The location, type and size of the pitch
- How long the pitch license is for, whether and how you can renew it
- Whether the park has planning permission
- The conditions of the local authority site license that affect you
- How long the park is open during the year
What is provided?
- When the park is open so you can use the caravan
- Any arrangements for winter storage
- The amenities and services provided by the park owner
- Any planned maintenance and site development
What else you have to pay
- The annual fee to use the pitch and the arrangements for payment
- The criteria for increases in pitch fees and charges and how they have changed in the past
- The costs for electricity and other utilities and for the supply of these
- Whether you have to insure through the parks block insurance policy and whether there is an administration charge if you don’t
- Other fees and charges – what they are for, and when they are due
- The park rules and regulations
- Any restrictions on use, transfer of ownership and sale of the caravan
- In what circumstances your caravan could be moved from the pitch or park
- Notice required to leave the site and the refunds policy
If things go wrong
- Any disputes procedure
- If the park owner is a member of a trade association or follows a code of practice.
The terms of your agreement should be readily understandable. You may be asked to comply with other terms and conditions as well. Take your time to read the contract for the sale of the caravan, the pitch license, the park rules and regulations and any other agreement, such as a credit agreement, carefully. Ask for time to read through all this and don’t let yourself be rushed into a decision. If you don’t understand what the terms mean, ask. Make sure you know what you are agreeing to now and what is to happen later.
What are unfair terms?
Unfair terms are those made by the park owner in advance, in an agreement that you have no choice over, other than to accept or reject as a whole, and that give the park owner an unfair advantage over you. A park owner has to deal fairly and openly with you.
Unfair terms are often hidden in the detail. For example they could
- Seek to exclude the park owners legal liabilities
- Impose unfair penalties, restrictions, or obligations on you
- Be unclear about what you have to pay so that you may get unexpected bills.
Terms should be clear and easy to read. Agreements should no use jargon, difficult works you don’t understand or over-long sentences.
If you think a park owner is using an unfair term to your disadvantage, or you are not sure about a certain term, take some independent legal advice.
What to look out for
Watch out for terms that:
- Exclude the park owners liability to supply a caravan of satisfactory quality, fit for its purpose and matching the description he gave
- Exclude the park owners liability for negligence in causing death or injury, or damage to your caravan, car or other possessions
- Are not clear about what you have to pay both now and later on
- Let the park owner make significant changes to your rights and obligations without consulting you, or for reasons that aren’t clear
- Tie you into buying goods and services from the park owner for no valid reason
- Let the park owner move you from your pitch without valid reason
- After you caravan has been moved, do not require the park owner to return you to your original pitch or a comparable one
- Prevent you during the period of the pitch license from selling the caravan and transferring the pitch license to someone else (though the park owner can legitimately require you get his consent first, provided he does not refuse it unreasonably)
- Allow the park owner to require that you buy a new caravan to be able to stay on the park, when your caravan is of a good standard and the license period has not expired
- Give the park owner the right to sell your possessions to recover money you owe him
- Make you pay an excessive interest rate, or extra penalty charges, for late payment of fees and charges
- Allow the park owner complete freedom to decide the meaning f terms in the agreement
- Allow the park owner complete freedom to decide whether you are in breach of the agreement and to penalize you
- Allow the park owner to end the agreement for minor breaches of the agreement
- Impose unreasonable restrictions or conditions on your use of the caravan
- Refer to the other documents or terms that you have not seen
- Are long, legalistic or in other ways unclear.
Where can you get advice
Consumerline (Northern Ireland) – Tel: 0845 600 62 62 or www.consumerline.org
Citizens Advice or local advice centers – see local directory information or www.citizensadvice.org.uk