Setting up and running a caravan site
If you are setting up or running a caravan site in Northern Ireland, there are a number of mandatory legal requirements you must meet.
Legal requirements for caravan sites
Unless an exception applies, you must have a caravan site licence issued by your local council. You must also provide certain caravan occupants with written statements detailing the agreement between you.
This guide explains the caravan site licensing process and what licensing requirements you must comply with. It explains how to apply for a caravan site licence, and when you may be exempt. It also explains the need for written statements and residential occupiers' protection from unlawful eviction and harassment.
Caravan site licensing
If you use any of your land as a caravan site, either for residential or holiday use, you must apply for a caravan site licence from the local council where the land is located.
How to apply for a caravan site licence
In order to obtain a caravan site licence, you must:
- apply in writing to your local council
- specify the land you intend to use as a caravan site
- send the district council any information they require - eg scaled plans of the site layout
- pay the relevant fee
- have planning permission to operate a caravan site on the land
- not have had a licence revoked within the previous three years
To apply for a caravan site licence, you should contact your local council.
Caravan site licence conditions
Once you have obtained a licence, you should be aware of the caravan site licence conditions and exemptions that you must comply with. These may change depending on the land and the local council's requirements. There are also some cases where you may be exempt from the requirement to have a licence for your caravan site, though you should check this with your local council.
Caravan site licence conditions and exemptions
If you are successful in your application for a caravan site licence, you must display the licence in a prominent position on the site.
Caravan site licence conditions
You must comply with any conditions to your caravan site licence. These conditions will be determined by the council and could include:
- restrictions on when caravans can be placed on the site
- restrictions on the total number of caravans on the site at any one time
- controls on the types of caravans allowed on the site
- positioning of caravans, structures, vehicles or tents
- preservation and enhancement of the land, including bushes and trees
- a requirement that fire safety and firefighting systems are provided and maintained - see fire safety and risk assessment
- provision of sanitary and other facilities and their maintenance
- a requirement for work to be carried out to the land
The council may also change these conditions at any time, and require you to return the licence to them to do so. If you receive such a request, you must comply within seven days.
You must also allow a council officer to enter your site in order to decide what conditions or required actions or work should be attached to your licence and whether you are complying with them. Your council will give you 24 hours' notice of such a visit.
Caravan site licence exemptions
There are certain circumstances when a caravan site licence is not required. This includes when the caravan site:
- is on land where your home is, and it's use as a caravan site is incidental
- is used by a person who brings their own caravan onto the site and stays no more than two nights, where theirs is the only caravan present, and where caravans are present on your land no more than 28 days in a 12-month period
- exists no more than 28 days in a 12-month period, and no more than three caravans are stationed there at any one time
- is on horticultural land, forestry or land where engineering or building operations are being carried out, and is being used for accommodation for seasonal workers
- is owned, occupied, supervised or approved by an organisation who encourage or promote recreational activities, and who has been certified as an exempted organisation
If you are unsure whether you could be exempt from needing a caravan site licence for your site, you should contact your local council.
Protected caravan site written statement agreements
If you own a protected caravan site, you must provide resident caravan occupiers with a written statement agreement setting out the basis of the agreement between you.
What is a protected caravan site?
A protected caravan site is one which allows caravan owners to place their caravan on the site and occupy it as a main residence for a period of more than 12 months.
What should a written statement contain?
The written statement or agreement must contain:
- the names and address of both parties
- details of the location on the land on which the caravan can be stationed
- the implied terms of the agreement
- the express terms contained in the agreement
Legal requirements for a written statement
The Caravan Act (NI) 2011 came into force on the 16 September 2011. The law states all caravan owners living in a caravan as their main home before that date must have in place a written statement supplied by the site owner. This statement must be agreed between themselves and the site owner. For new occupiers, the written statement must be provided within 28 days from the date of agreement for the sale of the caravan.
It is important for both parties to get together to discuss and agree the terms of the agreement before completion and signing of the written statement. This will ensure that both the site owner and the occupier are aware of and accept their responsibilities and keep disputes to a minimum.
Implied terms for protected caravan site written statements
Implied terms are those that must be included in a written statement. These are determined by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and cannot be amended by anyone other than DfE.
The following implied terms must be included in the written statement:
- the duration of the agreement
- the conditions which apply to the termination of the agreement by the occupier
- the conditions which apply to the termination of the agreement by the site owner
- arrangements for recovery of overpayments should the agreement terminate
- requirements should the occupier wish to sell, re-site or gift the caravan
- occupier's right to quiet enjoyment of the caravan
- site owners right of entry to the pitch
- pitch fee and procedures to be followed if fee is to be changed
- occupiers obligations
- site owners obligations
- site owners name and address
- details of any resident's association operating on the site
Express terms for protected caravan site written statements
Express terms are those which deal with any other matters that you as the caravan site owner consider relevant - eg car parking or the keeping of pets. You should note that any express term not included in the written statement is unenforceable. An express term cannot override an implied term.
You must also comply with rules on unfair terms when using express terms in your written statement. You can get advice on the fairness of terms from Consumerline on Tel: 0300 123 6262 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caravan site written agreements for seasonal occupiers
If you own a caravan site or holiday park in Northern Ireland that allows caravan owners to station their caravans for more than 28 days, you must give the proposed occupier a written agreement.
This requirement applies to both static and touring caravan owners provided they enter an agreement to occupy their caravan on your site for more than 28 days.
What must the written statement include?
The written statement must contain:
- the names and address of the parties
- details of the location of the land on which the caravan can be stationed
- the implied terms regarding consultation with occupiers' associations
- the express terms contained in the agreement
The Caravan Act (NI) 2011 came into force on the 16 September 2011. The law states existing seasonal caravan occupiers who were occupying a caravan before that date must have in place a written statement supplied by the site owner. For new occupants, the written statement must be provided no later than 28 days before the agreed date of sale of the caravan or, if earlier, the date on which the seasonal agreement is made. This applies unless you agree a shorter period in writing.
You can either provide the written statement to seasonal occupiers personally or by post.
Implied terms for seasonal caravan site written statements
In any seasonal agreement for caravan sites, there is an implied term that you (as the site owner) will consult with any qualifying occupiers' association on the site on all matters relating to the operation, management and improvement of the site. You must include this term in any written statement for seasonal occupiers.
A qualifying occupiers' association must:
- have at least 50 per cent of the seasonal occupants as members (each caravan is taken as having one occupant)
- be independent from the site owner, who is excluded from membership along with all employees and site agents
- allow membership to be open to all occupiers who own a caravan on the site
- maintain a list of members and have rules and a constitution open to public inspection
- have a chairman, secretary and treasurer elected by and from it's members
- make decisions by voting with one vote per caravan (though administrative decisions can be taken by the chairman, secretary and treasurer acting in their official capacity)
- have been acknowledged by the site owner in writing or been ordered so by a county court
Express terms for seasonal caravan site written statements
Express terms may cover anything that you (as the site owner) and the caravan occupiers consider relevant - for example:
- the duration of the agreement
- any pitch fees and their review procedure
- park rules
- rules for termination of the agreement
- procedures for resolving disputes
- the rights and obligations of the parties
You should note that any express term not included in the written statement is unenforceable.
You must also comply with rules on unfair terms when using express terms in your written statement. You can get advice on the fairness of terms from Consumerline on Tel 0300 123 6262 or email email@example.com.
Residential caravan site occupiers: protection from eviction or harassment
It is an offence to unlawfully evict or harass residential occupiers on your caravan site, or allow others to do so.
This applies to both owner occupiers and occupiers renting caravans from your site and applies both during and after the expiration of the residential agreement.
If a residential agreement has expired and you wish to make an occupier leave your site, you will require a court order forcing them to do so.
You must not interfere with the occupiers' right to quiet enjoyment of the site. You may not withdraw or withhold services to the site - eg water or electricity - with the intention of getting them to leave the site.