This page gives provides a summary and overview on the Association’s achievements so far.
The first section outlines licence and fees issues. This is followed lower down the page with a commentary on caravan sales, site management issues etc.
Achievements: Licence and annual fee issues
Agreements with Swanage Town Council (STC) from 2008 to 2009
Negotiations with STC resulted in significant agreements and clarifications in 2008 and 2009. In summary (more detail is given in the overview below) these covered proper calculation of licence fee increases in line with the licence agreement (then using RPI), annual consultation on fee increases, payment by instalments, clarification of what the site owner can charge for and recognition and refund of double recovery charges.
Agreements with Darwin, after their purchase of the Park in 2009
All agreements with Swanage Town Council (STC) passed to Darwin as successor in title to the park, as explained in a letter from the Town Clerk in June 2011:
“ .. amendments to the standard BH & HPA licence agreement were agreed by the Town Council in January and April 2009. This information was fully disclosed to the purchasers (Darwin) of the Holiday Park later that year as part of the due diligence process.”, and “ ….. the amendments to the licence agreement that were agreed by full council in 2009.”.
Thus all the amendments agreed with STC outlined above have been accepted by Darwin as successor in title to the park.
Overview of licence and fee issues
Reduction in Core Fee
In 2009 STC and Darwin agreed to keep to the licence and only increase core fees by RPI (Darwin has agreed CPI from 2013/14). As a result, fees are now about £1,100 less in total since 2009/10 than otherwise.
Basis of Core Fee calculation
This was clearly established by STC eg annual consultations and fee calculation process and basis, the option of payment of fees and rates by instalments.
Sums spent by the park owner
Sums spent by the park owner on the park and/or its facilities, are to be for the benefit of the caravan owners. Otherwise they are to be paid for by the park owner.
Deletion of “any other factor”
“Any other factor” can no longer be used as a means of increasing annual fees.
No double recovery
This is an important issue for which STC made a refund to all caravan owners on the site, of about £350. Any one-off costs must be removed before calculating the following year’s fees.
On-off capital expenditure
One-off capital expenditure for any one year will be the estimated sums for items proposed by Darwin for the benefit of the caravan owners. Otherwise it will be paid for by the park owner. How depreciation is dealt with has been agreed.
The option of instalments for fees and rates
A contractual arrangement was agreed with STC in 2008, and has been implemented ever since.
Guidance on Unfair terms in Holiday Caravan Agreements – OFT 734.
OFT 734 is issued by the Office of Fair Trading for park owners and how they are to operate. STC and now Darwin have agreed that they will comply with OFT 734 and any other Government guidelines. This is excellent news for us, the caravan owners.
Ongoing licence and fee issues (summer 2012)
Single licence concept
At present (August 2012) we are waiting for a meeting with Darwin and NACO to finalise a revised licence. This is Darwin’s initiative – they asked for one licence for the whole of the park. It seems a sensible way forward and it was agreed in March that both we and Darwin would provide our comments to NACO for a revised licence and NACO would coordinate this. This we have done in good faith.
We have provided several dates to Darwin through NACO, and are waiting to hear when we can meet. Darwin have recently placed discussions on hold and we are waiting for further explanation.
We are now minded to agree approximately 20 items in the draft licence (Part 1 & Part 2), whilst further discussion is needed on about 9 items. Some of these are just a matter of agreeing wording. Once both sides have finished the discussion and the compromise process, we believe that we will have a licence that retains all the best parts of your existing licence (STC or Darwin).
In the meantime all the agreements made with STC and Darwin on existing licences remain valid.
Refund for services not supplied
Since Darwin took over the park in 2009, we have paid for services provided by STC but which were no longer provided by Darwin. A refund of £150 was offered by Darwin in March 2012, and accepted by the Association. We await the refund.
Similarly, for those with a Darwin licence since 2009, the services were advertised but not provided, so a pro rata refund is required.
Agreement for no Pitch Premiums
Those with an STC licence do not pay pitch premiums. However, Darwin are introducing £5,000 for a sea view for Darwin licence holders. What about no sea views, or semi sea views? We do not agree with this as it is discriminatory in our view.
Achievements: Caravan sales and site issues
Help for members who bought defective caravans
If your caravan has defects we have helped members deal with these.
Refunds for members who bought defective caravans
We have helped to obtain refunds of £42,000 and £45,000 for members with defective caravans or have been mis-sold their caravan in the last 18 months or so. Remember that if your caravan is not fit for purpose you have a right to reject it (take advice first).
Return of caravans retained contrary to the licence
We have helped members who have had their caravans seized by the park owner contrary to the licence, so they have had those caravans returned to them.
Help members to reclaim sales commission wrongly deducted from their sale
Many members have had commission deducted from the sale price contrary to the licence. We are helping those to get this commission returned, as the licence makes it clear that the commission is to be paid by the buyer, not the seller.
Agreement to an administration fee when a caravan is sold privately - agreed with Darwin
When a caravan is sold privately and little or no work has been undertaken by Darwin, we have agreed a fee of £500 as the administration fee for just changing the names on the licence and some other small details. We still believe this is too much for so little work, but have accepted this so far.
Raising the profile of practices on the park
The Association is involved with NACO, MPs, Parliament and other national associations to combat bad practices on holiday parks. This includes support from the Office of Fair Trading and Dorset Trading Standards - both of whom are there to prevent non-compliance with the licence and actions contrary to OFT 734, the Protection against Unfair Consumer Contract Terms Regulations 1999 and the Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. This also includes checking that actions are not contrary to the Sale of Goods Acts etc, and the Equality Act 2010.
Achievements: ongoing discussions
All of the above shows how important it is to have a good relationship between the park owner and the caravan owners’ Association. It also shows that the two parties have worked and can continue to work well together for the benefit of both park and owners.
The Association is there for you and with the support of so many owners grouping together we achieve so much more than any of us can achieve on our own.
We look forward to further discussions with Darwin so that we can finalise the single licence they suggested and help to achieve the best and most attractive park in Dorset if not the country!