Caravan owners who have paid thousands of pounds in site fees this year will not receive any refund despite being unable to visit their holiday homes.
Parkdean Resorts, which operates five major holiday parks in Wales, wrote to caravan owners in May informing them they will not be refunded for site fees during lockdown or offered any compensation.
Caravan owners pay fees, sometimes amounting to £5,000 or more a year, for maintenance, security, and utilities at Parkdean’s sites.
The company’s resorts have been closed in compliance with lockdown measures since March, with the company informing caravan owners they will remain closed until at least July 5.
Some owners argue they should receive compensation for the period during which they have been unable to access their holiday home.
Natasha Davies bought her caravan at the Pendine Sands resort with her husband in April 2019.
The couple wanted to use the caravan to go on holidays with their four-year-old son.
The 36-year-old said she paid £4,700 in site fees to cover the 2020 season, but has so far only been able to visit the caravan once before coronavirus lockdown measures were put in place.
“On May 14 this month we had a mass communication to basically say that they are not going to refund any of their owners any of their site fees,” Natasha said.
“Obviously this has caused absolute uproar.
“The way we are looking at it is that they are keeping our money for facilities we can’t access, maintenance that is not being done because their staff are furloughed, and security that hasn’t been stepped up because it has been kept the same.
“We have got together as a big group to raise a complaint.”
Parkdean Resorts manages 67 holiday parks across the UK including five in Wales; Brynowen, Carmarthen Bay, Pendine Sands, Ty Mawr and Trecco Bay.
Thousands of people who own static caravans on Parkdean sites have a contract with the company to keep their static home on their property.
Fees pay for maintenance, security, and supply utilities to their caravans for the entire year.
Like others, Natasha said she lets her caravan out to others to help pay her fees, something she has also been unable to do during lockdown.
“I think the worry we have all got is in December there will be another bill for site fees,” Natasha said.
“A lot of owners rent out their caravans to help pay for those site fees.
“Because we can’t rent it out, once December comes we’ll have difficulty.”
Lanleigh Payne, 37, lives in Penygraig, Rhondda.
She said she has owned a caravan Trecco Bay since 2013 and visits frequently with her two children and partner.
“We pay our ground rent on a monthly basis,” Lanleigh said.
“They haven’t given us any reduction in the ground rent which is roughly around £600 per month and we obviously haven’t been able to use the caravan.
“We use it from March right up until December or January when the park closes.
“The park are saying they are having to keep charging the amount because there’s still maintenance and security on the caravan park.
“But all the facilities are closed so surely they are saving in that respect, so we should be seeing the benefits of that, but we’re not.
“We are riding it out at the moment.
“But we are self-employed so it’s difficult for us.”
The Competition and Markets Authority issued guidance in relation to cases where consumers receive regular services in exchange for regular payments as part of an ongoing contract.
The guidance said: “Consumer protection law will normally require the consumer to be offered a refund for any services they have already paid for but that are not provided by the business or which the consumer is not allowed to use because of government public health measures.”
The guidance appeared to grant caravan owners the right to withhold regular payments or claim a refund for the time the site is inaccessible.
But the director general of the British Holiday and Home Parks Association, Ros Pritchard OBE, said this was not the case.
She said: “We recognise that many customers feel disappointed that they cannot use their caravans at the moment and that a minority have asked that parks should compensate them for this.
“The understandable disappointment felt by all customers has been caused by the current crisis and the government’s legal response to it to protect the health of all concerned.
“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. The consumer is using them because they are keeping their caravan on the pitch and benefiting from the essential maintenance services which the park is required to provide.
“This means the consumer can look forward to returning to their caravan that has been cared for in their absence and remains connected to a functioning park utility system, just as they do each spring when they return to the park after the winter closure.”
A Parkdean Resorts spokesman said: “We understand that this is a frustrating and worrying time for everybody, and this is not the outcome that some owners had wanted.
“We value our relationship with owners and have a number of initiatives to support them at this time, including direct debit support and owner discounts on foods and drinks.
“We are doing all we can to ensure our owners can return to park and look forward to welcoming them back as soon as it is safe to do so.
“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.”