If a Trailer Park Is Closed Because of Coronavirus, Is a Refund of Prepaid Fees Required?
The Law Likely Requires At Least a Partial Refund of Prepaid Fees Due to Closure of Trailer Parks; However, How Hard a Trailer Park Pushes the Issue Should be Carefully Considered Lest the Trailer Park User Offend the Trailer Park Owner and Lose the Opportunity to Return in the Future.
A Helpful Guide On How to Evalute Legal Positions Regarding Prepaid Trailer Park Fees Involving Seasonal Camping Contracts
With springtime now here many people would usually enjoy the excitement in knowing that summertime fun of making special memories with family and friends at favoured campgrounds and trailer parks is just around the corner. Unfortunately, with the Covid19 Crisis, campgrounds and trailer parks, as non-essential services are ordered closed in accordance to mandates prescribed in O. Reg. 82/20 to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.9, as became effective on March 24 2020. As an unfortunate result, many seasonal campers and trailer park users are now quite concerned for the potential disappointment for both a lost season of memories as well as prepaid fees.
Rights and Duties
Users of private trailer park facilities, especially users who enjoy a long history at a specific trailer park facility and thus have established relations with other users as well as fond familiarity with the area including the good fishing spots and a history of cherished memories, will often prefer to maintain positive relations with the owners and operators of private trailer parks. This desire to maintain positive relations is often foremost in mind and may result in a preference to forgo legally valid positions and potentially the enforcement of certain rights. Accordingly, the information herein, while focused on legal implications, will need an evaluative approach in consideration for the practical application of certain rights. More simply said, people will need to carefully choose how far to make use of, and how far to push, the law.
Privately Owned Property
Trailer park campgrounds are, generally, privately owned and typically operated by the owner who lives on, or adjacent to, the trailer park. Many trailer parks are family businesses handed down through the generations. Accordingly, both due to strong ties to the land and the business as well as rights prescribed within the Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. T.21, the decision who to rent trailer park access to is a fully discretionary business decision. As suggested above, whereas trailer park owners have almost full discretionary rights to decide who to rent park access to (reasons that would pose as human rights violations being an exception), trailer park users may want to use caution when deciding how far to 'rock the boat' when pushing certain legal rights.
Typically, seasonal campers register in advance, often at conclusion of the prior summer season, and prepay for privileges to locate a holiday trailer within a privately owned trailer park. By doing so, the trailer park owner, generally, grants a fresh lease as a contract providing for the winter storage of the trailer owned or used by the seasonal camper and the promise of access to, and use of, the trailer park facilities during the next camping season. With this arrangement, trailer park owners can plan the trailer park capacity and operational budgets in advance.
As the seasonal lease is a contract wherein trailer park operators agree to make certain land and facilities usage available in exchange for a fee (and usually various good conduct conditions), the trailer park operator is legally obligated to make the land and facilities available or may otherwise be subjected to the risk of breach of contract litigation, among other legal issues. However, in the current situation, being the Covid19 Crisis, the inability of a trailer park operator to provide access and use of the trailer park facilities arises due a lawful Order by the government in response to a public health emergency. Accordingly, any inaccess to trailer park facilities results as a trailer park operator abiding by a legal mandate rather than as a result of any failure to perform as contractually agreed by the trailer park owner. Essentially, the hands of the trailer park owner are tied. The trailer park owner is forbidden from delivering, at least temporarily, what was promised within a contract.
When a contract becomes impossible to perform due to an outside force beyond the control of the parties to the contract, such as where a trailer park owner is unable to provide park access due to a government mandated closure, the park owner is without fault and therefore without a breach of the contract. Instead, the contract may be deemed frustrated as opposed to breached. Accordingly, the park user, having prepaid for the benefits promised within the contract will be unable to successfully sue the trailer park owner for a breach of the contract.
Where a contract becomes frustrated due to unexpected and unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the parties to the contract, the law may deem the contract as a nullity and the parties to the contract are relieved of obligations within the contract. This is stated within section 3 of the Frustrated Contracts Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.34 where it is said:
3 (1) The sums paid or payable to a party in pursuance of a contract before the parties were discharged,
(a) in the case of sums paid, are recoverable from the party as money received for the use of the party by whom the sums were paid; and
(b) in the case of sums payable, cease to be payable.
With the above said, rarely with a seasonal trailer park lease is the entire contract an impossibility whereas parts of the agreement involve the year-round parking of the users trailer upon the trailer park lands; and accordingly, some storage and security benefits are received from the trailer park owner. This concern for partially received benefits is addressed by sections 3(2),(3) of the Frustrated Contract Act wherein the party, such as a trailer park owner, having partially performed services, including incurring the expenses associated with those partially performed services, receives some protection against providing a complete refund for what may now be, or may become, a nullified contract. In other words, the trailer park user, having received partial benefit of security and storage of a trailer over the winter season, and perhaps other benefits, would still owe the trailer park owner for the value of that partial benefit regardless of whether the law considers the contract a nullity.
A trailer park user who prepaid a seasonal lease may want a refund, or partial refund, for a lease contract which is now lacking of the expected benefits, or as may become so while the Covid19 Crisis continues. As above, the trailer park user may hold legal rights that would warrant, and result in, a refund or partial refund if the issues were pushed forward; however, the trailer park owner ultimately holds the right to decide whether to enter into a future contract. Accordingly, a trailer park user with long-term memories and fondness of a particular trailer park may wish to tread carefully so to avoid damaging the relationship and thereby avoid the risk of needing to relocate to another, unfamiliar, trailer park.
Mandated Closure Exception
Recreational Vehicle Seasonal Traveler Residencies
Some people enjoy a lifestyle without a permanent residential premise such as those who live year-round on wheels as a mobile residence. This traveling lifestyle sometimes involves living in the south during the winter and then returning 'home' to Ontario for the warmer months by parking, and living at, a trailer park or seasonal campground. For those Canadians without a permanent residence in Canada, who live in a 'mobile residence' and are seasonally living at a trailer park or seasonal campground, such is an exception to the trailer park closure mandate within the current orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. Accordingly, it appears that this type of arrangement within trailer park facilities is currently permitted.
The Covid19 Crisis is unprecedented and unprecedented legal issues are occuring. Exactly how the law will address these legal issues remains unclear. When disputes arise, by being proactive, maintaining respectful communication and compassionately appreciating that everyone is experiencing unexpected difficulties, the parties to contracts, such as seasonal trailer park leases, can best ensure that legal issues are avoided or minimized and that quality ongoing future focused relationships are maintained.