- Host: Belinda Heit, Communication and Education
- Guest: Blair Lawson, Customer Experience=
Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast. Brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority. I'm your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone.
The Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, otherwise known as the Act, applies to renting a place to live in Queensland, including tenancy agreements for caravans, caravan sites, houseboats, rented-manufactured homes and movable dwellings for residential purposes. A movable dwelling tenancy agreement, otherwise known as a Form 18B, is used when renting a caravan or site and to understand the obligations under the agreement, full details can be found in the pocket guide for tenants for caravan parks, known as a Form 17B. Today's expert from the RTA is Blair Lawson, welcome Blair.
Guest: Thank you Belinda. Great to be here today.
Host: Thank you for joining us. Can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: Sure, I'm a team leader in the Customer Experience division. I look after a team of 20 customer experience officers who take customer calls and provide helpful tenancy and bond information. I've been in my role with the RTA for about 19 years. I'm one of three team leaders who look after our contact centre.
Host: Yes, you're one of our long-term stars here at the RTA, so we're very lucky to have you with us today. Now, today we're talking about our caravans and movable dwellings, which we don't talk about very often on the podcast, but it's one that does come under the Act. So, when starting a tenancy in a caravan or mobile dwelling, what are the key differences to starting a general tenancy?
Guest: Well, before we go any further, I'd like to point out that the RTRA Act, which is the legislation the RTA administers, doesn't cover holiday letting. So, in this episode we'll be talking about occupying a movable dwelling for residential purposes only. Now there are three main points of difference between movable dwelling agreements and general tenancy agreements you should look out for when starting a tenancy.
First of all, the movable dwelling agreement can be short-term or long-term. Under the legislation, a short-term agreement refers to tenancies in a park that are no longer than 42 days, whereas a long-term movable dwelling agreement will outline terms for tenancies that are more than 42 days.
Secondly, when you receive a movable dwelling agreement, you should also be provided with a copy of the park rules which form part of your agreement. This goes for both long-term and short-term agreements. If you're entering into a short-term agreement, you and the park manager may not need to sign the full tenancy agreement. Instead, you can have a short tenancy statement to confirm that both parties are entering into the short tenancy. Both parties must agree to the short tenancy before the agreement is signed or the statement is drafted.
And thirdly, the maximum bond amount that can be taken also differs from that in a general tenancy. For a short-term tenancy, the maximum bond amount is 2 weeks rent. For a long-term tenancy, the maximum bond amount is also two weeks rent, however, if electricity to the dwelling is separately metered and provided in the owner or manager’s name, then the maximum bond amount is 3 weeks rent.
Host: Good to know. Now, there's also park rules to consider when staying in a caravan park. Can you take us through some of those?
Guest: Absolutely I can. As I mentioned before, park rules form part of your movable dwelling agreement. As some examples, they usually outline how much noise people can make and at what times, how the common areas or shared facilities can be used, speed limits for cars and other vehicles, and if tenants can keep pets. It's important to remember that park rules are part of your agreement, so if you break a rule, you'll also breach your movable dwelling agreement.
Park rules can also change, and there's a strict process as to how this can happen. Changes in the park rules, as you can imagine, tend to impact long-term tenants more than short-term tenants. Tenants must be provided with one month’s written notice of the change, which should include details of the change. Importantly, the written notice should explain how tenants can object to the change and what date their objections have to be lodged by, which must be at least one month after the notice is issued. There are processes to follow for the rule change to come into effect and for when the majority of tenants object to the rule change. You may be able to apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for a decision regarding the rule change if an agreement cannot be reached.
It's a good reminder here that with caravan parks providing cabin-style accommodation as well as just caravan sites these days, whatever agreement is used for your tenancy here, park rules will still apply. It's like living in a townhouse complex where body corporate rules form part of a tenancy agreement – if your accommodation is in a park, you'd be subject to the park rules, so don't forget that. If you're a tenant occupying, or who will occupy, cabin-style accommodation in a park and you haven't been provided with a copy of the park rules, definitely ask the manager or operator for a copy.
Host: Yeah, it can be easy to forget that the park rules apply to you when you're in a cabin, because you think it's only for the caravans but it’s for everyone. Now, special terms can also apply to a tenancy within a caravan park. Right?
Guest: Yeah, special terms most definitely apply. This is where a movable dwelling tenancy has similarities to a general tenancy. As with the special terms in a general tenancy, they're all negotiable. We encourage tenants to look at these closely and discuss and raise any concerns about them with the manager before signing the agreement. Once you sign the agreement, it means you're also agreeing to the special terms and the park rules, both of which are part of that agreement.
Host: Right. So, what are a tenant's general obligations when it comes to repairs and maintenance?
Guest: Well, if you own your own caravan but rent the site, then you'd be responsible for maintaining your own caravan. However, both you and the owner or manager are responsible for maintaining this site, including preservation and landscaping of the area around the caravan, and also the common areas and facilities.
The park rules may also contain some requirements for maintaining the site, so remember to check those. In terms of repairs, you should notify the park manager of any damage or necessary repairs and the park manager should organise to fix this within a reasonable time. Pretty much follows the breach process in a general tenancy where a breach notice can be issued for the matter to be rectified. If the matter is not resolved, there's an option to request free dispute resolution from the RTA. The RTA’s dispute resolution service is free and can be requested online through the tenancy dispute resolution web service, or by completing the dispute resolution request paper form.
Host: So sometimes a tenant may need to be relocated from one site to another. So what's the process here?
Guest: Well, first and foremost, the manager or owner must have a good reason to move a caravan to another site. Some of the reasons may include to carry out necessary work (like fixing drain pipes or to carry out desirable work, like installing a new playground) or in an emergency, or for health and safety reasons. And whatever the case, the new site must be, as much as possible, comparable to the tenant's old site and the tenant must be given at least one month’s notice.
If a tenant is being moved due to an emergency or for health and safety reasons, they must be given reasonable notice. The tenant may ask the property manager or owner to pay reasonable costs for moving. If the tenant doesn't relocate within the time given on the notice, then the manager or owner can issue a notice to leave or apply to QCAT for an order about the relocation.
If the tenant doesn't want to move or an agreement cannot be reached on an issue relating to the relocation, the tenant can request dispute resolution assistance. If the tenant believes the request to move is unreasonable, they may have the option to apply to QCAT for a decision. The manager or owner cannot force a tenant to move until a decision has been made.
Host: Right, so, you know, it comes in every tenancy, sometimes it’s got to end. So when it comes to ending a tenancy in a caravan park, what are the key differences here?
Guest: This is an interesting one. Whether you're in a caravan park or not, you can only end a tenancy in ways as set out in the legislation and this applies to general tenancies as well as long-term and short-term movable dwellings. The key difference here is mainly the minimum notice periods associated with ending a tenancy. Here, the minimum notice periods relating to ending a long-term movable dwelling agreement work in a similar fashion to a general tenancy agreement, but short-term movable dwelling agreements generally have shorter minimum notice periods. There are a lot of details involved here as the notice periods change depending on the reason the tenancy is ending, so we won't dive too deep into all of that here.
We do have very handy notice periods tables on the RTA website for all types of tenancies which I definitely encourage everyone to take a look at. You'll find it by searching ‘notice periods’ on the RTA website. These tables will help you make sure that you give correct notice periods if you want to leave or that you have been given the correct notice period if you're being asked to leave by the manager. Remember that these notice periods are the minimum. There's nothing stopping you from giving your manager more notice than what is outlined when you decide to end your tenancy. It's always a good idea to start these conversations as early as possible.
Host: Yes, and the theme continues through the podcast that communication is the key to any tenancy. Disputes sometimes happen and we always recommend self-resolution where possible, but if this does occur, what can tenants do?
Guest: There are a few actions you can take in this situation. Attempting self-resolution is an important first step. We should discuss the issue with the other person that's involved and try to share information and perspectives. Talk with them and work together to see if the issue can be resolved. Most of the times, disputes occur and then escalate due to misunderstandings or miscommunication. It's very commonplace. Talking to the other person is actually one of the fastest and easiest ways to resolve an issue or dispute. Remember to document any action items, timeframes, outcomes that is agreed to by both parties to hold everyone accountable and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
If the issue remains unresolved after talking to the other person, either party can request free dispute resolution from the RTA. The RTA’s dispute resolution service, of course, is free and helps parties resolve disputes without the need for legal action, saving customers time and money. You can request this service online through the tenancy dispute resolution web service or by completing the dispute resolution request paper form. Participation in the conciliation session is voluntary.
It's important to note in dispute resolution our conciliators are impartial. They don't determine who is right or wrong and cannot make decisions. They are there to help both parties understand their rights and obligations and help them make informed decisions and to reach an agreement that's acceptable to both parties. At the RTA, we've generally been able to resolve over 70% of all conciliated disputes every year, which is a great outcome for many of our customers.
Host: Those are pretty good stats there Blair and we do have another episode on dispute resolution if you want to find out more about that one. Now, where can tenants go to get more information on tenancies in caravans or mobile dwellings?
Guest: So for further information about movable dwelling tenancies or residing in a caravan park, you can head on over to the RTA website. We have a range of resources like factsheets and webinars to help you understand your rights and responsibilities in a park. Things you should look out for and the time frames involved in the different processes. If you can't find what you're looking for or you want something that's specific to your situation, then always give us a call and we can help.
Host: And yeah, they might get you on the phone Blair, which is lovely. So if you do, say hi, if you've listened to the podcast. But thank you Blair, for helping us to get a greater understanding of the key differences in caravan and mobile dwelling tenancies.
Guest: My pleasure.
Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.