Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Guidance for Holiday Caravan Occupiers

  • Posted

Updated 25 March 2020

  • The owner of my holiday park has just told me the park is closing and I must leave – can they do this?

On 23 March 2020 the Government directed that all “non-essential premises” must close with immediate effect. This definition includes “Caravan parks/sites for commercial uses”, which covers holiday and touring caravan parks.

However, even though the Government has directed that holiday and touring caravan parks should close, this does not necessarily mean that all caravan holiday homeowners and/or occupiers who are already staying on those parks must leave. The guidance says: “Where people live permanently in caravan parks or are staying in caravan parks as interim abodes where their primary residence is not available, they may continue to do so”. What this means in practice is, as yet unclear and every situation will be different.

If you are occupying a holiday caravan and believe that you have a genuine reason why you are unable to go back to your main residence, you should notify the park owner in writing at once and explain your situation.

  • Are residential parks required to close?

No – the definition of “non-essential premises” specifically excludes residential parks, or where people are “staying in caravan parks as interim abodes where their primary residence is not available”. This would, for example, allow someone who owns a holiday caravan in the UK, but whose main residence is abroad in a country they are currently unable to visit, to continue to occupy their holiday caravan.

Updated guidance from the Government now states that “If a holiday park or caravan park is your primary residence you can remain on site”.

  • Can I claim a refund on my pitch/licence fees while the park is closed?

The situation in relation to pitch/licence fees is unfortunately very unclear at present. The Government imposed restrictions do not change the contractual terms of your licence agreement with the park owner, so if you wanted to claim a refund of pitch fees you would have to argue that the park was in breach of the agreement by failing to to perform its part of the agreement by closing.

It is also unclear whether a closure of the park as a direct result of Government action, rather than the fault of the park owner, would give you valid grounds to terminate your licence agreement and to seek a refund of any pitch or licence fees.

If you were to give notice to the Park owner to terminate your licence agreement, this would mean that you would lose your entitlement to keep your caravan on the park.

It is impossible at this stage to give any meaningful guidance as to how the courts may approach such claims.

  • Can I claim for the loss of use of my holiday caravan?

As the Government imposed restrictions do not change the terms of your licence agreement with the park owner, the park may technically be in breach of its licence agreement with you by closing the park, even though they are following the Government’s directive. The normal effect of a breach of contract is that the innocent party may claim damages to put them in the position they would have been in had the breach not happened (e.g. the additional cost of booking a replacement holiday).

However, in light of the Government restrictions and social distancing measures it is likely to be very difficult (if not impossible) for occupiers to claim such damages from a park owner, because it is not likely that you will be able to book an alternative holiday at the moment.

  • I live in my main residence, but another household member is unwell, and I am considering going to stay in my holiday caravan home for their safety and mine. Is this allowed under the government guidance?

No.  Unless you work in a critical sector such as medicine or food supply, you must stay at home, subject to a very few exceptions. If you or a member of your household has Covid-19 symptoms, you must self-isolate, which means staying where you are and not going out.

  • What happens if there is a power cut or I run out of liquid petroleum gas?

Ofgem has stated that they do not expect energy supply to be disrupted as a result of Covid-19 and that energy suppliers and network companies are implementing emergency response measures to deal with safety-critical home visits where needed. If you experience a power cut Ofgem’s advice is to dial 105 (a free phone number) or visit powercut105.com.  Let them know if you are unwell or self-isolating. If you or a member of your household needs additional assistance ask to be added to the Priority Services Register which is maintained by each energy supplier.

  • I have booked to stay in a caravan holiday home – what are my rights?

Your contract with the park owner should set out the terms and conditions which apply to your booking. You should check these to see what cancellation rights there are. Some parks may have a term which means that they are not liable for any failure to perform their part of the contract if this is caused by unforeseen circumstances outside their control (known as “force majeure”). It is likely that the forced closure of the park due to coronavirus would be considered such an event.

However, most holiday bookings are likely to be covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which prevents the park from failing to offer the service bought by the customer (i.e. a holiday); in such a case, any “force majeure” exclusions may not apply. The actual wording of the contract will be critical.

  • What if I have booked a caravan holiday through an online travel agent?

Where a park closes, and as a result you are unable to take up your holiday, the travel agent is likely to offer you a full refund. You should speak directly to your travel agent in this case.

  • The park has closed – who is responsible for looking after my holiday caravan?

Because the licence agreement remains in place, each party should continue to comply with their obligations. This means that the park will need to maintain the park and their own property (including the base on which the caravan sits), and you will be responsible for keeping the caravan and its contents insured.

Contact our expert Lawyers today

IBB’s specialist parks team is on hand to discuss any questions or concerns which holiday caravan owners may have at this challenging time – for more information, please call 03456 381381 or email parks@ibblaw.co.uk.