The Covid-19 outbreak has impacted many individuals, businesses and industries internationally. The travel and tourism industry have been one of the worst affected industries due to Government imposed restrictions on travel. In this article we look at the restrictions imposed on the Caravan Industry and Caravan Parks, and what this means for you.

Latest Announcements

Scott Morrison, in his media address on Tuesday, 24 March 2020, indicated that State and Territory Governments will have final say on Caravan Parks.

As at the time of writing, the following provisions have come into effect, as noted by the Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA).

NSW: Caravan parks and camping grounds are to remain closed except for permanent residents, their visitors or people who have no other place of permanent residence.

Northern Territory: Caravan Parks remain open. All campgrounds in national parks and reserves remain closed.

Queensland: Caravan Parks are to remain closed except to people who live permanently in caravan parks or are staying in caravan parks as interim abodes where their primary residence is not available. All non-commercial camping grounds are to close.

Tasmania: Caravan Parks are to remain closed except to serve residents and site tenants as well as those who either do not have a permanent place of residence. All interstate and international tourists must leave Tasmania by Sunday, 29 March 2020.

Victoria : Caravan and Camping Parks are to remain closed except for people living there permanently or if providing a home where the primary residence is not available. All non-commercial caravan parks and camping grounds in national parks and state-owned land are to close.

South Australia and Western Australia: Caravan Parks remain open.

 

Casual Occupants

Can I be refunded on my occupancy fees, reservations or bookings?

The CIAA has provided park staff cancellation flow charts based on their parks in each state. The process is very similar in relation to all states. With reference specifically to NSW and ACT, the following processes are in place for when a reservation and accommodation agreement cannot be honoured:

New South Wales – https://www.caravanindustry.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19-flowchart-NSW.pdf:

  • If the contract signed includes a term or clause that governs refunds due to Covid-19 or similar pandemics, this will be applied.
  • If this clause or term isn’t included, then Park staff will consider the state of disease control measures and whether there were any cases at the park.
  • Generally, if the park cannot provide accommodation then the contract is frustrated. The park is instructed by the CIAA to return customer’s deposits. However, if the park has spent the money or suffered loss from this cancellation (which is generally out of the customer’s control) they may be entitled to recover half the amount. This is calculated upon the entitlements of each party.
  • Due to the calculation of losses by each party, where it is believed that the mechanisms in place by the parks are inadequate, seeking legal advice is an important avenue to help establish entitlements under the contract.

ACT – https://www.caravanindustry.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/COVID-19-flowchart-NT-Tas-ACT-WA-and-QLD.pdf

  • If the contract signed includes a term or clause that governs refunds due to Covid-19 or similar pandemics, this will be applied.
  • If this clause or term isn’t included, then Park staff will consider the state of disease control measures and whether there were any cases at the park.
  • If the park cannot accommodate their customer, the park won’t charge. However, if a deposit is already paid it will be refunded, unless the park has already spent the deposit. If it has been spent, the park will inform the customer that the deposit has been spent as a cost resulting from the reservation.

Permanent Occupants

What refund mechanisms are available?

The CIAA and other caravan parks appear to have less material indicating their stance on reducing or altering occupation fees for permanent occupants.

The issue many of these permanent occupants will face is whether the doctrine of frustration becomes an available avenue. As noted earlier, the NSW State Government announced that as of midnight on 26 March 2020:

“Caravan parks and camping grounds in New South Wales are to remain closed except to permanent residents and their visitors and people who have no other place of permanent residence”.

Where a permanent occupant of a caravan park has another place of permanent residence, they are no longer entitled to access the caravan park. However, notwithstanding this restriction and due to the nature of permanent occupation agreements, permanent occupants may have trouble reaching a resolution as simply as casual occupants.

Depending on the nature of the permanent occupation agreement, permanent occupants may not be able to have fees suspended or refunded due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Generally, permanent occupation agreements allow the occupant to remain in the park for a specified number of days over a 12-month period.

Frustration

For an agreement to be frustrated, there must be an intervening event that is not the fault of either party which makes the agreement impossible to perform or transforms the contractual obligation into a fundamentally different obligation.

However, an agreement will not be frustrated where the fault is due to either of the parties; performance has merely become more expensive or impracticable; or the change is only temporary.

As the current state of affairs in light of Covid-19 is an unprecedented situation, there is minimal case law dealing with this situation.

Conclusion

As the situation regarding Covid-19 continues to evolve, the Federal and State Governments continue to implement additional measures to manage the spread of the virus. If any casual or permanent occupants have any queries or concerns regarding their occupation agreements with a caravan park, we encourage them to seek legal advice regarding their rights.