If you’rethinking about moving into a residential park, you need to get up to speed on what you’re signing up for, before making this important financial and lifestyle commitment. We’ve put together five questions you need to know the answers to before signing up to live in a residential park.
What are residential parks and how are they different to caravan parks and retirement villages?
Residential parks, sometimes known as lifestyle villages, are communities of moveable dwellings typically marketed to people over 55 as an affordable housing option. People who live in residential parks rent an individual site (land) but own the moveable dwelling located on the site, and have use of the shared facilities and common areas of the park.
Moveable dwellings are also found in some caravan parks, which can also contain caravans, mobile homes and fixed cabins. Some caravan park residents own their dwelling and rent just the underlying site, while other residents rent both the dwelling and the site.
Another similar housing option that can sometimes resemble a residential park is a retirement village. The key difference with a retirement village is that residents are required to pay a separate ingoing contribution (that is not rent) in order to be able to live there. Retirement villages are also regulated under different laws to parks. The information included in this article specifically covers residential parks.
What exactly is a moveable dwelling and where is it moving?
Moveable dwellings are homes designed, built or manufactured to be transported from one place to another for use as a residence, but they are different to dwellings that can be registered with VicRoads (such as mobile homes and caravans). Colloquially, moveable dwellings are sometimes known as granny flats, demountables or transportables. While they are technically moveable because they are constructed on a metal chassis, they are often substantial manufactured homes – and if you buy one, you should be aware that moving it can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
What happens to my home if my agreement to live in the residential park ends?
Unlike most homeowners, people who own moveable dwellings in a residential park do not own the underlying land, and agreements to rent the site can sometimes end for a variety of reasons (including the residential park closing). It is important to understand that this is a possibility before signing an agreement to live in the park, and to understand that if the agreement ends you will generally be obliged to remove your moveable dwelling from the site.
As noted above, despite their name, moveable dwellings can be difficult and expensive to move. One Victorian business dedicated to moving properties estimates that the cost can be up to $30,000 to relocate a dwelling. These costs include labour to dismantle and then reconstruct the home. Relocation can take up to four weeks, and you would need to find a place to stay while the process is taking place and somewhere to relocate the home.
What should I do before signing a site agreement?
Never sign a blank or incomplete agreement – no matter how good the offer looks or what is promised. An agreement to rent a site in a residential park must be in writing, and you need to make sure you fully understand all the terms of the agreement before entering in to it. The site agreement should include details of all rent and fees, and how those fees are calculated and reviewed.
Make sure the owner of the park has also provided you with a plan of the park showing where your site is located, as well as a summary guide of your legal rights and a copy of the park rules. The park rules are set by the owner and may cover things such as noise levels, pets or car parking. Also note that park rules vary from park to park. You want to understand these rules before making a commitment, in case there’s something included in there that you aren’t expecting.
I’ve received the site agreement, but I’m still unsure if I want to commit. What rights do I have?
It’s handy to note that you have 20 days to consider the site agreement before you sign it. Don’t give in to any high-pressure sales techniques – the ball is firmly in your court to decide whether or not you sign on. You also have a ‘cooling off’ period of five business days to change your mind after signing a site agreement, by informing the park of your decision in writing. In such cases, you are allowed to get back any money you paid under the agreement, minus $100.
The above timeframes only apply to the site agreement, not to any separate agreement to purchase a moveable dwelling that is already on the site or will be moved there later. If you intend to buy a moveable dwelling, it is important you are satisfied with the site agreement before you sign a separate purchase agreement.
I’m not familiar with contracts. Who can help?
You should consider getting legal or financial advice, to ensure you fully understand the proposed arrangement and can make an informed decision on whether it is the right option for you. It may be an extra cost to do so, but it can save you money in the long run and ensure you avoid signing anything that is not in your best interests.
Consumer Affairs Victoria has a range of information on residential parks and guidebooks available on its website www.consumer.vic.gov.au/residentialparks
It’s wise to take your time, do your research and make sure you understand the financial commitment you’re about to make, before entering into any type of agreement. Investigate for yourself and avoid any unwelcome surprises.