Staycation Nation – How to Combat Misuse on Holiday Parks
Over the years, our nation has fallen back in love with staycations; and it’s no surprise! The UK boasts four countries spanning 93,627 square miles, 7,723 miles of coastline, 69 cities, 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and 15 National Parks – so why on earth would holidaymakers choose to go anywhere else?
Whether it’s the Cornish coastline, quintessential Cotswold cottages or the rugged fells of the Lake District, there are plenty of reasons for customers to leave their passports at home and enjoy what our beautiful isles have to offer.
While this has had the positive effect of increasing Britain’s economy, in particular that of leisure and tourism – British holidaymakers are set to boost the annual spend by £25 billion this year – it does bring with it a new set of problems when it comes to properties sold on Holiday Parks.
Affordable finance options, fantastic on-site facilities and the bonus of no stamp duty or legal fees means that UK-based holiday home sales have become an attractive alternative to ownership overseas and searches for holiday homes for sale in the UK are up by 8% on this time last year. With many Parks offering 10 or 12-month seasons however, the line between holiday and residential can become blurred for your customer: how long can they realistically spend on site?
Frank Finch of the NCC states that within the UK “new buyers need to be aware that a holiday home is for holidays. Holiday parks are licensed by the Local Authority for holiday and recreational use. To live permanently in a holiday caravan/lodge could have serious consequences ... and Holiday Park operators also risk enforcement action and penalties from local authorities." Frank later added that "the problem of holiday caravans being used as a main home is not new and the current high property prices and shortage of affordable housing can be factors that drive misuse. No-one wants to face the challenges of finding somewhere new to live, so the best way to avoid that terrible situation is to make sure it does not happen to begin with.”
The basic fact is, Holiday Parks are not designed for year-round use despite lodges being of a BS3632 specification and there are plenty of Residential Parks for buyers to choose from – the distinction however, isn’t always clear to customers, and they can often buy without fully understanding the restrictions on site.
That’s where having experienced and knowledgeable staff on Park is key. Local Councils are now stringently enforcing the planning permission restrictions in place on Holiday Parks in order to support the district’s tourist industry and to prevent new permanent residences being created in areas that may not be suitable for year-round occupation.
As such, on site staff need to be fully fluent and confident explaining any small print that comes with a customer purchase: paperwork can have all the terms and conditions needed, and you’ll still find some customers who deny being aware they need a main registered residence and that their holiday home is for recreational use only.
We’ve put together a list of top tips to help staff combat misuse on Holiday Parks, particularly those who have a 12-month licence and may be particularly vulnerable to customer misuse:
1. Get your paperwork on point: It’s essential that your Park has a properly-drawn up agreement to use when entering into a sale – it should make clear the times of the year when the holiday home can be used, detail the restrictions in place – including that it’s limited to holiday use only – along with the fact that they need a registered address for their primary residence in order to purchase. Ensure the paperwork is available to your customer well in advance and that they’re given the opportunity to ask any questions before the agreement is to be signed – and then retain copies of all paperwork for every sale.
If you’re struggling, the NCC has developed new Licence Agreements for its members which make this and any other restrictions super clear – there’s also a helpful leaflet for prospective buyers available which explains restrictions in detail online here that you can print and hand out to your customers.
2. Keep watch & stay sharp: It can be difficult to be sure that all holiday homes on Park are being used correctly. So firstly, beware of any potential buyers who are planning to sell their current property in order to buy their holiday home on your site – some Parks will take a home address from buyers and regard it as their main residence, but it may later transpire that the customer has sold their original home and not bought another. Secondly, keep up to date records of your owners’ main address, validated by utility bills or something similar – this will help highlight any suspect owners who can’t supply the necessary paperwork when asked.
Thirdly, keep an eye out for general signs of full-time residency – children on Park during term-time, school uniforms on a washing line, postal delivery or morning routine and commutes – this is almost a sure-fire way of identifying that someone is taking advantage of your Holiday Park.
Simply put, stay sharp – you don’t want to put your business in peril. Holiday homeowners buy at Holiday Parks to experience the escape and freedom from everyday life. When there are signs of residential use, it can change the ambience of your Park to an everyday feel, taking away the magic we all love about the holiday lifestyle.
3. Don’t drag your feet: If you find out an owner is occupying a holiday home on site on a residential basis, tackle the matter as soon as feasibly possible! Remember, your Park could be penalised or fined heavily if found out, so speak to the owner to establish what the situation is and encourage them to comply with the terms of their signed Licence Agreement.
The law is on your side of this, and you don’t want to put your business in peril – it’s always worth seeking legal advice and establishing how the issue can be best resolved quickly and efficiently if the customer isn’t willing to cooperate.
4. Top it off with technology: As mentioned, it can be difficult to keep an eye on all your holiday homeowners, all the time – and you shouldn’t have to either! However, as an added precaution while the staycation trend continues to build, it may be worthwhile for your business to start investing in smart technology that can help remotely monitor holiday home use, meaning that the hard work is done for you.
The invention of cloud-hosted online solutions can be a real lifesaver when it comes to this and can free up the time of your busy staff – don’t discount how convenient the option to log into online portals from the comfort of your office and see an overview of how many holiday homes are currently occupied can be! WiSE products for example, offer motion detection sensors that help to detect movement over a 24hr period, as well as smart energy meters that track electricity, water and gas use so you can spot unusual trends and investigate further.
In conclusion, good management, great sales practice, and addressing problems before they even occur are the best ways to avoid misuse on your Park – you don’t want to end up with what started as one stealth-resident setting up camp spreading to an entire community! Use everything that’s available to you to your own advantage, and you can combat misuse much more effectively than in previous years.
You can check out additional security measures you can put in place that’s been innovatively designed by Ramtech Electronics here.