Pictured: Ken Beilby (Principal Solicitor, Northern Rivers Community Legal Centre) and Margaret Reckless
On 9 January 2019 the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) handed down the decision regarding electricity usage charges in Reckless v Silva Portfolios Pty Ltd t/as Ballina Waterfront Village and Tourist Park (No. 2)  NSWCATCD 59.
Many operators and commentators have cited the latest ‘Reckless’ decision as being a defining and binding decision. As we have stated previously, that view is mistaken. It is possible that some of the confusion has arisen because of the history of ‘Reckless’, which is long and complex.
In this issue of Outasite Lite we look at the history of the ‘Reckless’ dispute, the latest decision (‘Reckless No. 2’) and the expert witness report that was provided in evidence by the operator.Read More
Pictured: Members of the Residential Parks Forum (left to right) Charles Dalgleish, Don Rose, Julie Lee, Mary Preston, Sandy Gilbert, Jean MacLean, Di Evans, Ian Finlayson, Jock Plimmer, Graham Byrne, Peter Reberger – see story 'Forum turns 20!' below.
We are approaching the end of another year and have reached the third anniversary of the commencement of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 (the Act). Looking back over 2018 it is difficult to see past electricity usage charges because without doubt that has been the biggest issue of the year.
When we entered 2018 the Tenants’ Union of NSW (TU) had been working on electricity usage charges for 18 months however this year we saw the biggest developments. Electricity usage charges are not fully settled but as we approach 2019 we are hopeful that home owners on embedded networks are in for a brighter future.
When we published ‘Outasite’ in July 2018 the decision of the NCAT Appeal Panel in Reckless v Silva Portfolios Pty Ltd (Reckless) had been appealed to the Supreme Court of NSW. The case was heard on 17 August and the decision handed down on 4 September. Justice Davies dismissed the operator’s appeal and agreed with the Appeal Panel that section 77(3) of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act means an operator cannot charge more for the use of electricity than their supplier charges them.
This time the operator did not appeal and the meaning of section 77(3) is therefore settled. What is not settled is how a home owner’s usage charges should be calculated.Read More
With the commencement of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 (the Act) the method of calculating consumption charges for electricity, gas and water changed. The Tenant’s Union has highlighted the change through articles and a report. We have also held discussions with home owners, Tenant Advocates, the NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman (EWON) and NSW Fair Trading to explain that operators should not and cannot charge more than they are charged by their utility providers.
The majority of operators buy electricity at significantly reduced prices yet they charge home owners at the highest rate – the standing offer price published by the local area retailer. If home owners are charged correctly many would see considerable reductions in their power bills.
On the whole, since the Act commenced, operators have failed to change the way they calculate utility usage charges. Through Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services the Tenants’ Union has been advising and assisting home owners to take up the issue of electricity charges with operators. When negotiations failed to bring change, some home owners made applications to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). Margaret Reckless was one of those home owners and when she received an adverse decision, she appealed.Read More
When it comes to agreements, promises and contracts the advice is always the same – get it in writing. Why? Because if a dispute arises the terms, or even the existence, of a verbal agreement can be difficult to prove. In this edition of Outasite Lite we look at a recent case about whether a statement made by an agent amounted to a verbal agreement.
In 2015 a prospective home owner purchased a home in a land lease community partly based on a verbal statement made by the sales assistant. In 2017 this home owner was in dispute with the operator because of the statement. At the heart of the dispute was whether what the real estate agent had said amounted to a binding promise or contract. The home owner believed it did but the operator claimed the agent had merely outlined a possibility.Read More
With Christmas fast-approaching 2017 is coming to an end. The Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act has been operating for two years and continues to throw up familiar disputes and surprises.
The review of the Local Government (Manufactured Home Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings) Regulation 2005 is still on hold. The regulation is now scheduled for automatic repeal on 1 September 2018.
In this issue of Outasite Lite we look back over the year and report on the emerging and continuing issues for home owners in land lease communities.Read More
People who live in residential land lease communities do so under an agreement or contract. The Tenants’ Union and Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services are frequently asked questions about agreements. Since the laws changed in 2015 the number and variety of questions have increased. In this article we discuss the types of agreements used in land lease communities and how the laws apply to those agreements.Read More
The Tenants’ Union regularly hears complaints from land lease community residents about the behavior of operators. During the review of the Residential Parks Act 1998 the behavior of park managers and owners was also a common theme. Many residents told stories of interference in sales, harassment, intimidation and bullying.
Many operators do the right thing but when an operator behaves badly residents can take action. The Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 (the Act) contains a number of provisions around operator behaviour, including Rules of Conduct. In this issue of Outasite Lite we will take a closer look at these provisions.Read More
Electricity charges in land lease communities are a hot issue for home owners. Prices continue to rise and, when home owners purchase electricity from the operator, the charges are complex and difficult to understand. In this article we will explore the laws, regulations and the charges.Read More
Home owners in land lease communities understand that their site fees can increase and most are used to having an increase every year. Receiving a site fee increase might not come as surprise, but big or small, home owners want to know the basis for the increase. And for many homeowners it is now their right to receive an explanation from the operator.
When the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 (the Act) came into force at the end of 2015 it introduced a number of changes to site fee increases. One of the positive changes for home owners is that operators are now required to provide an explanation for a site fee increase ‘by notice'.Read More
Residential park resident advocate Christina Steel was recently announced as Port Stephens ‘Local Woman of the Year’ by the Port Stephens MP Kate Washington.
Christina is the president of the Port Stephens Park Residents Association and a long term and valued member of the Tenants’ Union Residential Parks Forum.Read More
Since the commencement of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 on 1 November 2015 we have been keeping an eye on decisions coming out of NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to see how the various provisions are being interpreted. In this issue of Outasite Lite we report on an unpublished decision concerning assignment.Read More
Julie Lee, Tenants' Union Residential Parks Officer
I was recently delivering an information session to park residents about the new Act when I was asked a question about a term of the site agreement restricting the sale of homes to people over a certain age.Read More
Two permanent residents of Homestead Holiday Park (Gennacker Pty Ltd) on the Tweed River have finally won a lengthy court battle against their park owner.
We talked with six women who are active within their own communities and in residential parks more broadly.
None of the women moved into a residential park with the intention of becoming a resident representative or advocate but a particular event or situation triggered something in each of them that led to them becoming leaders in their communities.Read More
Following the introduction of the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 on 1 November 2015, NSW Fair Trading has provided a small grant to five Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services.
Northern Rivers, Mid Coast, Hunter, Illawarra and South Coast and South West NSW Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services all received funding for a part time worker to focus on residential parks in 2016.Read More
Following the Christmas break we are back on the road visiting parks and providing free information sessions for residents.
We have just been out and about with Tenant Advocates in South and South West Sydney, the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and on the far South Coast.Read More
In Victoria a number of advocacy groups are campaigning for a special Ombudsman to administer complaints against the retirement housing sector, including residential parks.
The Consumer Law Action Centre (Victoria) has reported older people routinely calling for advice about unfair fees, complex contracts, bullying and intimidation. Sound familiar? Some of these issues are what we regularly hear about from park residents.Read More
Along with local tenant advocates we got out and about visiting parks and delivering education sessions in early November.
First stop: Western Sydney
We kicked off our community education project in Western Sydney. Julie Lee, Residential Parks Officer at the Tenants’ Union, and Franya Repolusk from the Western Sydney Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service started the week by visiting residential parks across Western Sydney.Read More
Paul, Jemima and Julie from the parks team at the Tenant’s Union of NSW wish you - our Outasite Lite readers - a very Merry Christmas and Happy New year.
We enjoyed sharing residential parks news with you in 2015 and hearing back from you about the stories and updates we send through. Thank you for the positive feedback you kindly send us.Read More
On 1 November 2015 the laws governing the relationship between park owners and park residents changed. In fact, parks are not even called parks any more - the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 renames them “residential communities”. So, what does this mean for residents of these communities?
The first big change, as we have already highlighted, is the terminology. Park owners are now operators; people who own their dwellings are home owners; rent is now site fees; and electricity and water are generically known as utilities.
In our new feature ‘This is my park’ Janice Edstein of Sea Winds Village shares her experiences of park living.
What keeps you busy throughout the week?
Up until the end of June 2015 when I retired from Port Stephens Park Residents Association I spent most of my time either at meetings, forums or Tribunal hearings, as well as attending to the various Secretary/Treasurer matters needing attention. A lot has happened regarding residential parks during this time, including the Residential Parks Act 1998 and the review in 2006.Read More
You may remember we reported on emergency access issues at Wallacia Caravan Park in our May issue of Outasite Lite. Residents considered the emergency access arrangements in the park to be complicated and inadequate – putting them at risk. Tom Mortimer, a Tenant Advocate from the Western Sydney Tenants’ Service who assisted residents, tells us more about how a great outcome was achieved…
On 7 August the final regulation for the Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act 2013 was released by Minister Dominello, the Minister responsible for Fair Trading. Mr Dominello announced that the new Act will commence on 1 November 2015.Read More