When Good Parks Go Bad
by Dyana Kelley, CampCalNOW CEO & President
As RV parks and campgrounds began to close their doors to tourism in 2020, many parks relied on the COVID rules of “essential” and opened their sites to more extended stay guests. There seemed to be no shortage of people interested in sheltering or living permanently in our RV parks, and this new wave of semi-permanent residents has created new challenges for park owners.
The CampCalNOW office regularly receives calls regarding removals and evictions, but recently the calls have become more serious in nature with the first question being, “How do I get them out of my park? Can you help?” That depends – “Why did you let them stay in the first place, or stay past 30 days?”
It happens all too often – a beautiful tourist park starts taking in a few residents for some additional winter revenue, and suddenly the park goes from pristine to disheveled with a confused and frustrated owner/operator. It starts with a few plants, maybe a storage bin or two, then a freezer, and a shoe rack. Soon a dog pen is added, and before you know it your “guest” has taken possession of your property. Yes, your property. That site belongs to the park, not the guest, and it should be an expectation that your site is treated as such.
So, why are parks so willing to overlook bad behavior, rule violations, general discord, and ultimately give away their property rights?
In most cases, it is simply good intentions gone wrong. Recently, a member shared a situation wherein a resident added a management-approved tarp to the top of their rig while waiting six weeks for a roof repair appointment. Other residents took note and tarps started popping up all over the property, creating the look of a homeless encampment rather than the beautiful RV park that it once was. It only took a few weeks for the park to start heading south when the owner had to step in and put an end to it.
RV park owners have a soft spot for the underdog and often overlook good rules to “help someone out.” Unfortunately, negating to follow your own rules can be seen as a negligent business practice by a good defense attorney and the judge. Developing and following good rules are essential to maintaining order and cleanliness in your park.
How many parks require incoming RVs and vehicles to be licensed and registered? Not many! These are simple California laws that everyone must follow, and you want guests that follow rules and respect order. Requiring these initial basics will immediately tell you what type of guest they will be in your park.
Do you request proof of insurance? If not, what if an uninsured resident starts a fire in their rig and it spreads to other vehicles that are also not insured? All of the damages and liability would fall to the park owner. Most parks self-insure the pedestals and equipment at each site, and would therefore be on their own for the debris removal and clean-up costs. If it is known among residents that you do not enforce the park rules and some element of negligence falls to the park, the claim could fall to the park’s liability or be denied altogether.
Considering your lease: is the owner of the RV or vehicle on the lease? Are they occupying the space? Are all residents on the lease? If not, ask yourself why – you have every right to know who is on your property.
Owners/operators frequently give up their rights because they are afraid someone will leave, and then they are left with an open space and one less monthly rent. Consider this as an option: change the overall culture in your park, and you will find yourself with an elevated quality of residents who are respectful and willing to pay more to live in a safe and well-maintained park where all rules are respected.
Our featured member in Vol. 47, Iss. 4 of The Spotlight is Green Acres RV Park in Redding. The park manager, Donita Kocourek provides every guest with a list of rules and what is allowed on each site. Any rule violations are pleasantly and firmly handed out by the park manager; if a third violation arises, the guest is provided the 30-day notice with no further discussion. Green Acres sees no loss in business and has a lengthy waiting list to get into their park. It can be done!
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