Reforms unique to caravan and residential parks
The definition of caravan park ‘resident’ will be amended to address the problem of holiday-makers becoming ‘accidental’ residents, by ensuring that a person who has a genuine holiday arrangement will not meet the definition of a resident, even if they occupy the site for 60 or more days. The reform will also ensure that park operators will not be able to avoid the operation of the Residential Tenancies Act by putting people genuinely residing in the park on sham ‘holiday’ agreements.
If a park operator is not the freehold owner of the park land, the operator will be required to make appropriate pre-contractual disclosure to prospective park residents of the nature of the operator’s interest in the land, and of the limitations on the operator’s ability to grant interests in the land to prospective park residents.
A park operator who is not the freehold owner of the land must not enter into an agreement with a resident for a fixed term that exceeds the unexpired term of the head lease to the park operator.
The ability of park operators to terminate a Part 4 periodic residency right or a Part 4A periodic site agreement for ‘no specified reason’ will be removed. Park operators will be able to issue a notice to vacate at the end of a specified period of occupancy under a residency right, or end of a fixed term site agreement. There will also be new notices to vacate for closure of the park.
If a park is to be closed, the park operator must give at least 14 days’ notice to local government before giving a notice to vacate to a park resident. Advance notice of the park closure will enable the council to plan early service responses for affected residents.
In the event of a park closure, the park operator will have to pay compensation to site tenants and residents who own fixed dwellings in the park. The park operator will be required to apply to VCAT for a determination of compensation within 14 days of giving notices to vacate. The amount of compensation payable will cover reasonable relocation costs if the resident’s dwelling is being relocated, or compensation for loss of residency if the dwelling is not being relocated.
A park operator will not be liable to pay compensation for park closure if they do not own the land on which the caravan park or Part 4A park is located, and the closure of the park is due to the expiry of a head lease over that land.
Park operators who charge an exit fee will be required to provide prospective site tenants with additional information about the exit fees to help prospective site tenants better understand their future liability. The additional details that must be disclosed will be prescribed in regulations, and will be similar to the enhanced disclosure requirements that exist for exit fees in retirement villages.
A Part 4A site agreement will be able to specify that rent increases will be either by a fixed amount according to a specified method of calculation, or by a non-fixed amount. If a fixed amount is used, a reminder notice will be sent to site tenants ahead of an increase, which cannot be subject to rent review by Consumer Affairs Victoria. Non-fixed rent increases will still be subject to rent review.
A site tenant will be able to use their site for non-residential purposes (such as running a home business), provided they obtain the park operator’s written consent. The park operator must not unreasonably withhold consent, but may specify reasonable conditions relating to the non-residential use of the site.
A fairer and more efficient system will be introduced for providing keys or devices enabling vehicular access to the park to park residents. An initial key/device must be provided free of charge, but the park operator can charge for any additional or replacement keys or devices, and the park resident must return all keys and devices at the end of their residency.
Where a breakdown of communal facilities in a park has been reported to the operator, the operator must ensure the breakdown is repaired as soon as is reasonably practicable.
Urgent and non-urgent repairs processes will be introduced for Part 4A sites, modelled on the repairs processes that exist for other rented premises under the Act. The park operator will be responsible for urgent and non-urgent repairs to the site, including any structures and fixtures on the site owned by the park operator.
The urgent and non-urgent repairs processes that exist in the Residential Tenancies Act for Part 4 caravans will be extended to cover Part 4 caravan sites. The park operator will be responsible for urgent and non-urgent repairs to the site, including any structures and fixtures on the site owned by the park operator.
Park residents who own their dwelling will owe a duty to maintain (subject to fair wear and tear) their dwelling in good repair, and ensure it is safe to live in and does not pose a significant health risk.
Park operators will be prohibited from making park rules that require park residents to undertake significant works on a dwelling other than for reasons of reasonable cleanliness, safety or good repair.
If a dwelling owned by a park resident is being sold on-site and the dwelling is not in a reasonable state of cleanliness or repair, or poses a significant health or safety risk, the operator may require an undertaking that the defect will be rectified within a reasonable timeframe, as a condition of consenting to the transfer of the residency right (or assignment of the site agreement).
A park operator who enters into an agreement to sell a Part 4A dwelling on behalf of a site tenant must not charge a commission for the sale unless the services provided by the operator as the selling agent are the effective cause of the sale, and the purchaser is not the operator or a related party.
Caravan park residents will be able to form and participate in Part 4 residents’ committees, equivalent to the Part 4A site tenants’ committees that site tenants can participate in. In the case of a ‘hybrid’ park containing both Part 4 residents and Part 4A site tenants, only one committee may be formed in respect of the park, and may comprise both residents and site tenants.
An operator will be required to give consult with caravan park residents on any proposed change to the park rules, in the same way that operators are already required to consult with Part 4A site tenants.
A park operator will be required to consult with the residents’ committee (if a committee has been formed in the park) on any proposed change to the park rules, or any proposal to introduce, remove or substantially restrict a facility or service in the park.
Site tenants will be able to request from the park operator that a person residing with them in their dwelling be added to the site agreement and recognised as a site tenant. This reform will protect co-habitants of site tenants (such as partners or relatives) by ensuring they can continue to live in the home in the event of the original site tenant’s death. Park operators must not unreasonably refuse the original site tenant’s request.