Please note: the advice in this blog is generic, and the template letters are also generic. I am therefore unable to anticipate every scenario that each person claiming a refund has experienced.
Over the past few weeks I have been inundated with tweets and emails from Parkdean customers, asking for advice about pitch fees during the lockdown. Those that have contacted me have explained that they have asked Parkdean for a reduction in the pitch fee (some have asked for a full refund) to take account of the park being closed during the lockdown.
What is Parkdean saying?
Many tell me their request for a refund has simply been met with silence, and those who have received a response have been told that there will be no refunds. In this respect, Parkdean states that the pitch fee pays “only for safe upkeep of the home and keeping the site in good order”.
Parkdean has also been telling its customers that as it is the Government that has instructed their sites to close, they have not broken any contracts. One customer shared the following on twitter:
A spokesperson for Parkdean Resorts made the following statement:
“We understand that this is a frustrating and worrying time for everybody, and this is not the outcome that some owners had wanted.
“The pitch licence agreement allows owners to keep their holiday home on the park, in exchange for paying the pitch fee.
“It does not guarantee that the park will remain open or that owners will be able to use their holiday home at any particular time, especially in the event of a public health emergency such as this where the government has ordered entire industries to shut down.”
The British Holiday & Home Parks Association has also waded in with the following statement which is far from helpful for consumers (although this is not surprising given the fact that they will obviously be pro-Parkdean):
“The holiday caravan agreement is not an agreement to rent the holiday to them.
“Rather, it is a licence for the provision of the pitch to site that caravan – which the consumer owns – and for the maintenance of the park and its utilities infrastructure to supply the caravan.
“These services continue to be provided for the consumer’s caravan despite the lockdown.”
I need to deal with this subject first, as it is a constant irritation and great cause of concern for me. There is a great deal of BAD ADVICE available online, written by people who are not ‘true’ experts on consumer law, and certainly not qualified to dispense advice on the subject. I have heard from some people who have followed such bad advice and been bitten by it.
I have also seen some people (including lawyers) saying that the agreements which caravan owners have with the likes of Parkdean have been ‘frustrated’ (this means that the contract has become void because the park owner cannot perform its obligations under the contract – although it is far more complicated than this in practice). Such statements like this are unhelpful to consumers unless the author: i) has carried out a detailed analysis and review of the trader’s agreement/terms (I have not seen anyone do this to date); and ii) provides a detailed explanation of how the doctrine of frustration actually works, and what you should do next.
If you claim that your contract has been frustrated in law, it means that the contract has come to an end. Whilst this would mean no more pitch fees, it would also mean picking your caravan up and removing it from the park and I am sure that most people do not want to do this. In any event, I am not convinced that such an argument would be successful in court in relation to Parkdean.
Frustration of contract arguments are appropriate for cancelled holiday refunds but, in my view, not here.
Three points need to be considered:
- What representations did Parkdean make when the pitch was sold (i.e. what did Parkdean say would be included in the pitch fee)?
- What does the pitch fee licence agreement/terms and conditions say?
- What services are you not receiving during the lockdown, and are these part of the pitch fee?
Parkdean is now telling customers that pitch fees are only for keeping the site safe and in good order. If this is correct, you will have no entitlement to any form of refund as presumably Parkdean is still doing what it needs to do to achieve this. However, this statement appears to be contrary to: i) the ‘Buyers Guide’ on Parkdean’s website which states that pitch fees cover “all grounds maintenance, security and access to park facilities”:
and ii) what many people tell me they were told by the salesperson who sold them the pitch. Parkdean also has a video on YouTube which is effectively a ‘buyers guide’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHRPrEqK2AM . Within the video there is an explanation as to what pitch fees include, and the following clear statement is made: “… pitch fees include unlimited use of the park’s facilities and entertainment…”
I am told that pitch fees typically range between £2,000 to £10,000 per annum, depending upon: i) the actual pitch; and ii) the site’s facilities. Given the Parkdean pre-sales marketing materials and sales pitch (as explained above), I am of the firm opinion that those who have entered into a pitch licence agreement with Parkdean, have done so with the clear belief and understanding that the fees they agreed to pay were calculated taking account of the facilities and entertainment available, and therefore that such items were ‘included’ in the fee.
Nowhere have I seen on Parkdean’s website any mention that the facilities are FREE. Clearly because they are not; they are part of the pitch fee.
Over the years, Parkdean would naturally have updated and amended their licence agreement. I have seen a few versions which are, on the whole, the same. The key terms from these are as follows:
Another piece of evidence which potentially contradicts the Parkdean statement is that it states the pitch fee also includes water, sewerage, refuse and waste collection:
Clause 8.6 of the licence:
This also appears to contradict the Parkdean statement, as it clearly makes reference to additional services being included in the Pitch fee:
Clause 9 of the licence:
This also appears to contradict the Parkdean statement as here it is acknowledged that: i) monies spent on the site; and ii) operating costs, both influence the amount of the pitch fee.
Services not being provided
The only services that are being provided during the lockdown are: i) the use of the pitch (at present simply to store your holiday home); ii) park security (I assume); and iii) upkeep of the sites – such as grass cutting (again, I assume).
As a consequence of the lockdown, Parkdean is not having to provide:
- waste and refuse collections;
- water and sewerage (although there may still be standing charges for this);
- entertainment; or
- any other facilities.
Parkdean has also had the benefit of the following:
- Reduction in operating costs, including staff costs for those who have been furloughed;
- No business rates for 2020/21 – I am assuming that Parkdean has taken advantage of this, but I do not know for sure; and
- I have seen reports of it receiving a Government Covid-19 grant (although I have not seen proof of this).
MY VIEW AND ADVICE
- Pitch fees clearly include (and are calculated to take account of) the use of the site’s facilities and access to entertainment, water and sewerage, waste and refuse collections (I will define these as “the Additional Services”).
- Pitch fees are also clearly calculated taking account of operational costs.
- I have reached the above view on the basis of representations made to customers before they entered into a licence with Parkdean (information on its website, youtube etc.) and contents of the licence agreements I have seen.
As a consequence of the above, my view is that Parkdean’s customers are entitled to a ‘reduction’ in the pitch fees (Note: not a full refund).
The amount of the reduction is a tricky question, as Parkdean does not publicly state the specific breakdown of how the pitch fees are arrived at. The figures will also differ per park.
- Send the template letter below to the park manager.
- If your request for a reduction is refused, contact the NCC as per clause 24 of the licence (may be a different clause number in your licence), see below:
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not stop paying your pitch fees if you pay by direct debit, this will make matters worse. Instead, follow steps 1 and 2 above.
You will see that there are square brackets in certain places in the template. This indicates that you need to add information specific to your case (such as a date).
You simply need to cut and paste the template text below into a Word document.
Once you have completed the relevant template letter, you should email it to the Park manager, as per Parkdean’s complaints procedure.
To the Park manager
[address and email]
Re: Pitch licence agreement dated [insert date] (“the Licence”)
I have been a Parkdean customer since [date]. In this respect, I occupy a pitch at your [name] park.
Prior to entering into the Licence, I was led to believe, via representations made on your website, on YouTube, and via your sales agent, that the amount of the pitch fee I would have to pay would be calculated taking account of: i) the size and location of the pitch; ii) security and maintenance costs and iii):
- facilities and entertainment available at the park;
- water and sewerage costs;
- waste and refuge collection costs;
- Parkdean’s operational costs at the park; and
- Monies invested into the park. (“the Additional Items”)
This is also apparent from the Licence (which references each of the Additional Items, and operational costs as being relevant to the pitch fee) .
I note that the pitch fee for 2020/21 would have been set prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and, at this time, I had no complaint with the amount set. However, the landscape has now changed considerably and, as a consequence, it is now clear that the level of the pitch fee should be reduced to take account of the months when the Additional Items have not been supplied by you and I have not had the ability to benefit from them. A reduction should also be made to take account of your reduced operational costs during the lockdown.
Please can you confirm what the amount of the reduction will be. Should Parkdean maintain its stance that there will be no reduction in pitch fees, I put you on notice that I shall be referring the matter to the NCC and then to the NCC Independent Case Examiner if the matter continues to remain unresolved.
I look forward to hearing from you.