Memorial to Glen Franklin, Co-Founder of ARPQ

 Glen with the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop MP 6 August 2013 at the Gold Coast

It is with much sadness that we announce the passing of Glen Franklin, good friend and co-founder of ARPQ (Associated Residential Parks Queensland Inc.). Glen passed away suddenly on Wednesday 9 August 2017. In writing this memorial to Glen I realised that I had only known Glen since 2012 when we met at a function in Brisbane for home owners living in residential parks. Glen had contacted me a couple of days before the function and we agreed to meet because we shared the same concern for residential parks home owners. That said, I now feel that I have known Glen forever.

The result of our meeting set the stage for the founding of ARPQ. It quickly became obvious that Glen had great marketing talents, he just seemed to be everywhere organising meetings with various people of influence. He also made contact with home owners in many of the residential parks in South East Queensland. He was also responsible for organising expos in many parks and seemed to produce sponsors out of thin air although I knew he worked damn hard for ARPQ and its members.

Glen did tell me once that he did have a heart and lung problem but this never slowed him down.

Glen also organised a conference in Sydney for interstate home owner associations. This took place on 9 April 2013 at the Sydney Airport in a QANTAS Conference room at the Sydney Airport.
We had delegates form all States except Tasmania. The connections with the various state delegates still remain today.

During 2013/4 we would meet at central station in Brisbane and meet with executives of the Department of Housing and Public Works. Glen would travel from the Gold Coast and I from Burpengary then we would make our way to our favourite coffee shop in the City before attending our meetings. After the meetings, we would catch a cab to Roma Street Station, have lunch, make further plans then head off home.

In 2015, Glen and his dear wife decide to return to NSW and settled at Yamba. I spoke with Glen by phone just over two months ago and as expected, Glen was back to his bowling and various activities that always drove him. Many were as saddened by Glen’s passing as I but I will never forget him as a close friend and his efforts to work for a better deal for all home owners in residential parks.

David Paton

Rest in peace old mate.

Site fee fixing in residential parks

ARPQ has members throughout the Sunshine Coast and Hervey Bay. One of our members at Hervey Bay sent the writer an email today showing the obvious disparity of the site fee legislation by this State Labor Government. Section 70 (3) (a) of the Manufactured Homes Residential Parks Act informs park operators that all they have to do to get a site fee increase, is to compare what other parks are charging in any undefined area known as the locality. Also, check the index/dictionary at the back of the Act under “market revues” and it will confirm that a market revue (site fee increase) is established by looking at what other residential parks are charging. Its called comparing. Rather quaint really.

According to the government, we live under an open market economy based on competition. However, according to the State Labor Government legislation that applies to residential parks, comparing prices establishes preferred cartel conditions. Park operators are licensed to fix site fees accordingly with their competitors. This is no doubt to reward park operators for allocating their land for housing use. That’s the system.

The following is an example: A home owner living in an older residential park got talking to a resident living in one of the newer up market  parks in the same area. The home owner living in the newer park was explaining all the luxury facilities the home owners in the newer park enjoyed. The home owner in the older park was absolutely amazed at such luxury and enquired about the site fees in the newer park. The home owner from the newer park with all its facilities advised the home owners paid $860.00 per month. The home owner in the older park with very little facilities replied that home owners in his park also paid $860.00 per month. Naturally, the home owner in the older park realised that home owners in his park were being ripped off.

How could this happen? It happened and happens throughout the industry because under the Labour Government Legislation, you know, the party that looks after the little guy, allows park operators to compare site fees free of any justification. Its a bit like comparing the price of a Holden with that of a Rolls Royce based purely on the fact that both vehicles have wheels. Obviously a well thought out system.

The mixed park saga

For the uninitiated, a mixed park is a basically a caravan park which caters for tourists but also allows for long term caravan sites where people choose to live on a permanent basis. Many of these caravans have fixed annexes to allow for a more pleasant lifestyle as a permanent residence. Some mixed parks also have the original “square line” homes which as a point of interest were and remain the original relocatable homes. Square line homes were never caravans although QCAT members have lied about this continuously. The balance of these mixed parks do in fact have the more updated version of relocatable homes where the homes are delivered in two sections and joined on site to make a home. These modified caravans, square lines and relocatable homes serve the occupants well and help remove some of the Government created housing shortage. Home is home whatever the structure. We all need a place to live and call home.

Mixed park operators have the privilege of popping in and out of the Manufactured Homes Residential Parks Act (MHRPA) as it suits them. Basically, long term permanent caravan residents are required to sign an agreement under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act (RTRA). This Act is absolutely deadly for long term caravan residents because all protections for these people have been cunningly removed by government legislation to favour park operators. The residents can be told to remove themselves and their caravans from the park without explanation. Further, park operators can and will get unsuspecting residents living in square line mobile homes and those living in actual manufactured homes to sign an agreement under the RTRA.
This then allows the park operator to apply the same method of giving home owners their marching orders and these homes are more difficult to remove and more costly.

The balancing act for the park operator in all this is whether to offer a home owner an agreement under the MHRPA which does not allow the park operator the right to order instant removal. This has to be weighed against allowing the park operator to seek a site fee increase on a regular basis as per the MHRPA. This is what is meant by the previous comment of park operators  being able to pop in and out of the MHRPA to suit themselves. Under the MHRPA section 12 defines a residential park as being land that includes: sites, common areas and facilities for the personal comfort and enjoyment for the home owners.

Here’s  the rub. Park operators give all the facilities over to tourists which constitutes a breach of the MHRPA but that’s OK, the government conveniently looks the other way.

Welcome to the double standards awarded to park operators by the Queensland Government.

The site agreement saga (Caveat Lector)

Caveat lector simply means “reader beware” and that is so important before signing a site agreement, even the Government understand this. Some park operators are genuine in their dealings but the majority should be treated with a deal of suspicion so prospective home owners should always consult a contracts lawyer. This may cost a bit more than the usual family lawyer but horses for courses, always consult an expert.

Government site agreements usually carry a warning message on the front page which is about the only decent thing this government has ever done for home owners in residential parks. Please pay attention to this warning. Be aware that the precise description and measurements of your prospective site is a true record showing all the site measurements and any other relevant details. Look at the site and ask questions and ask to have any answers written into the agreement. Do not just accept the spoken word as an answer to any questions, the spoken word can and will be denied should there be a dispute after signing the agreement.

Look for and ask about site fee increases which should be written into the agreement. Ask questions. Confirm that your site fee has not been increased because you are a new home owner, this is an old trick. The park operator will use your increased site fee to claim that because you have agreed to the increase, that this somehow sets the market rate for the whole park which is not so. A market rate is based on what a person is prepared to pay at a given time, it does not set the market rate for the whole park. It is really only what you are prepared to pay at a given time. The market is not a stagnant commodity, it rises and falls according to economic fluctuations. An example of this is the ever increasing number of residential parks being developed all over the place. This in real terms should effect competitive marketing based on competition for customers. This does not apply to residential parks. The government legislates particularly to bypass market forces when it come to residential parks. Park operators need only to apply cartel like conditions which allows park operators to compare site fees based in all probability on who can freely charge the most and get away with it. Competition is out of the equation.

Also be aware of “special terms” in the site agreement, these special terms are only there to screw more money at sometime out of home owners. All that is required is a set of park rules and yes if a resident or visitor causes damage to the park operators property, that damage must be paid for by the offender. That’s reasonable.

So please beware when considering entering a residential park. The concept is great. living along side people of you own age and making new friends. Always be aware that the Government legislates to satisfy park operators as a reward for establishing residential parks. Once in, you are on your own.

Our ARPQ meetings with government

ARPQ has been meeting with the Government through the Department of Housing and Public Works (DHPW) since 2013/4 up to very recent times. Glen Franklin, then president of ARPQ and the writer met with members of the DHPW and we speak as we find, the team that we met with over time were always very professional and gave us a fair hearing which we appreciated. We virtually worked our way through the whole of the Act over time but the main thrust of our discussion always centred around a “fair balance of interest between the parties to the agreements” i.e. park operators and home owners. We have since that time when attending meetings with government pressed that same philosophy, that elusive fair balance of interest. Under the circumstances, is this unreasonable? We think not.

The overview is that a land owner (assuming that a bank does not hold a mortgage over the land) park operator invites the public to erect a home on a site on the land. The park operator, of its own volition, chooses to provide certain amenities for the pleasure of prospective home owners. In return, occupiers of a site (home owners) pay a site fee for the privilege of erecting a home on a site within the land perimeter, the residential park. So who owns what? the land owner/park operator presumably owns the land and any facilities provided within the park. The home owners in the park remain the legal owners of the houses positioned on sites on the land.

In light of the foregoing, there are two parties that claim ownership within the park, i.e. land owner/park operator and home owners. Therefore the terminology within the legislation when it refers to the land owner as the park owner is a deliberate distortion of the truth as explained above. Its not rocket science.

So what we have is a virtual joint venture between the parties and this is why we have always sought, in all fairness, the fair balance of interest between the parties. This is where the park operators and the legislators refuse to acknowledge the ownership rights of the home owners and is a blatant disregard for same. Home owners are treated like renters with no interest in any of the property within the park, to the point that home owners are not really free to sell their own homes unless the park operator reasonably agrees to the sale. So what is reasonable? The writer was once told by a lawyer that whole court cases are fought on the word reasonable. The simple fact is no park operator has the legal right to deny any home owner to sell their home.

Example: Where a bank or financial institution holds a mortgage over a property, the mortgagee has every right in law to sell their interest in their property. home owners living in residential parks are denied this right at the behest of the park operator. Hence we ask for a fair balance of interest so that home owners may enjoy the rights of other citizens of this country.

Why does this not happen, why do the legislators deliberately remove the home owners rights? The answer is the quid pro quo system. Because the Government rely upon park operators to establish these residential parks, the park operators call the tune when it comes to the legislation. This is the first sign of week ineffective very biased government who is for sale to the highest bidder. That’s the crux of this legislation and is repeated through out the whole piece.

So when the premier of this State says in the media that home owners in residential parks are to be protected, see it for what it is, a complete fabrication based on securing the home owner vote later this year. We should all challenge the Premier to prove this wrong and use your vote accordingly.

New laws to protect seniors

This was the headlines of an article published in the Sunday Mail dated 9 July 2017 and the Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk put her name to it to authenticate the article. The article went on to assure seniors living in residential parks and retirement villages that the new laws would protect seniors. Those living in retirement villages according to the Premier “just aren’t in line with the expectations of the community”. This must indeed be complete revelation to seniors living in retirement villages seeing that this same Labor Government have been informed of this by residents of retirement villages for years. Its hardly a revelation.

Then we come to those poor souls who have succumbed to the flashy advertising of the residential parks industry. The Premier further stated “we intend to put in place a new ,staged pre-contractual disclosure process, limits on rent increases and minimum behaviour  standards for park owners, staff and home owners”. The Premier further stated “she wanted the new laws to take effect before the end of the year”.

This of course has nothing to do with the coming State election even though all departments of the government have been told to prepare for the election this year. What must be understood by all Queenslanders is that the Government relies completely and absolutely on private enterprise to develop residential parks and retirement villages to lift some of the pressure off of the housing crisis. With such reliance upon private enterprise, do we or should we expect this government to actually curb the profitability of park operators?

The laws governing residential parks have included “fair trading” and “protection” for home owners since its inception in 2004 in the very objects of the legislation. Why has it taken so long for the government to recognise that all is not well? Hell, they have been told enough times over the years even though some home owners have had their lives ruined by the greed of park operators.

Does the Premier agree that under this legislation, home owners cannot even sell their own homes unless the park operator sanctions the sale? Does the Premier realise that all that is required by a park operator to increase the site fees when due under the agreement, is for the park operator to compare its site fees with any other residential parks to arrive at the increase amount? We are supposed to have an open market economy based on competition but no, the old cartel method is so much easier even though it is illegal.

The point being made here is that the government will not seek to stop park operators from ripping off pensioners. The writer was told back in 2010 that “the government will not place any legislative obstacles in the paths of park operators and developers because they (park operators and developers) would stop building these parks”. Nothing has changed and will not change.

A Leak Too Far

This is a true story about water meters being set well to the rear of leased sites in a residential park and the consequences for home owners leasing the sites. In short, under the water regulations, any leaks on the home owners side of the meters is the responsibility of the home owners, that is, any leaks and wasted water from the leaks, remains a cost to the home owners. Perhaps this is reasonable if a leak is discovered immediately but if the leak is concealed under ground and showing no signs on the surface, then this cost to pensioner home owners can prove significant.

This leads us to a problem that has been reported to us which fits well with the above scenario, however, the issue that adds a more serious aspect to this incident is that the water meters at this park are set well back to the rear of the sites. Then the water pipes leading to the homes are set underground. This means two things. One, any leakage that may take place is easily concealed and two, home owners are responsible for the underground services over an extended distance.

Let us now explain a true incident relative to the above. A home owner was informed by management of a park that the meter for the home was showing excess water usage and on inspection, it was discovered that a leak had occurred somewhere underground near the home. This came as a surprise the home owner because no physical signs of the leakage appeared on the surface. This is/was of no consequence to the park management, the home owner was liable for the repairs. However, the local council who we are told supplies the water to the park and not wishing to miss out on a few extra dollars, charged the home owner for the waste water that occurred due to the leak. Hence the home owner is now responsible for a bill of over $2000.00.

Looked at objectively, this problem for the home owner/s would not have occurred if the water meters were positioned close to the house as is the norm. The question then is why would the park management position the meters so far away from the homes? Any reasonable person could speculate as to why but we leave that to the reader. We have written to the park management on behalf the home owner with copies of the letter to the Housing Minister and the Residential Services Unit (RSU) both of which are responsible for the administration of the legislation. We have also sent a copy of the letter to the Minister for Energy and Water. It will be interesting to see what those responsible in government will actually do!

Are Residential Parks Loosing Favour?

Last Friday evening,17/2/2017 channel nine run a piece on the heavenly existence of living in residential parks. This was obviously a paid add by park operators. One can only wonder at this sudden burst of marketing. We can only speculate as to why this sudden burst has become necessary.

Perhaps too many of these parks are being developed and prospective punters have heeded the much bad advertising relative to long term residents being turfed out of their homes. This practice is used when the big money men buy up old mixed parks with intent to redevelop new residential parks. Existing residents are given their marching orders with little or no compensation enabling them to buy elsewhere. Their only choice is public housing. This is good government strategy for balancing the budget!

However, just perhaps the State Government has heeded our ARPQ  complaints pending the current legislation being reviewed. The true Story is that continuous State Labour Governments have been openly protecting park operators through its legislation. For instance, Residential park operators are not bound by the open market economy based on competition. The legislators have encouraged park operators seeking to increase site fees to just compare with any other parks of their choosing to increase site fees. In other words, anti competition, a cartel. This is remuneration by government for park operators developing residential parks thus removing any responsibility from government. A sort of quid quo pro.

It therefore becomes obvious that any business given such legislative cartel conditions would be fools not to grab the opportunity to prosper, we are all human, “purely speculation on my part”. Now of course this sudden marketing drive by park operators is a little suspicious. Could this State Labour Government actually be considering lifting the awarded cartel conditions come the legislative review and actually exposing park operators to real competition?
Hence, the sudden marketing initiative of last Friday. It all sounds a bit suspicious. I mean, why change a good system that serves both government and park operator and to hell with pensioner home owners. Perhaps the old adage “when your on a good thing, stick to it” is becoming a bit contentious, time will tell.

Battle Lines

Black and White Cartoon Humor Concept Illustration of Fat Cat Saying or Proverb for Coloring Book grandpa-cute-little-vector-illustration-38830822 knight_in_armour_by_dashinvaine-d6fo8c9

Dear reader, visualise the scene if you will and open your minds to the pending battle and while your mind sets upon the coming battle, hear in your heads Richard Wagner’s The ride of the Valkyries.

The scene: Wealthy Residential Park Operator seeks site fee increases from pensioner home owners reportedly to pay for planned new development. The pensioners revolt and challenge the increase as being excessive and unnecessary. Park operator calls in glistening white knight lawyer, fully armed and ready to defend his client and  defend himself against the fearless devilish pensioner representative who claims to know the real truth behind the increase. The plot thickens, this is no ordinary white knight, this the legendary “Little Anthony”. Fearless in battle against any pensioner who dares to challenge him and the good order of site fee increases gifted by government to anyone who will develop a residential park.

Ah, but the plot thickens. The battle will take place in that most noble of institutions, the Tribunal, that fair minded bastion of justice revered by all who appear before it. The participants in this grand battle will soon appear before a great oracle and fellow white night of Little Anthony. This wise and just oracle will, after hearing the details of battle, retreat into  a solemn meditive state and listen to most humble wisdom of fellow oracles in council.

While this deep pondering of wisdom takes place. Hear again the opening of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” and wonder in amazement  where such wisdom and courage are born of such noble knights who dare to take on the wrath of an aged pensioner.

This is not the end but just the beginning. Noble council will issue a decree and set forth the rules of battle. Be patient dear reader, the rules of this joust will be announced soon so that the observers of the battle may take with them the knowledge and amazement of such wise council. Be ye then mindful of the coming battle and be prepared to ride with the Valkyries.

Posted by a lowly commoner.

State ALP Government’s Secret Deals with Park Operators

Back in July 2015 I made a factual comment about park operators ignoring the legislation covering residential parks when wishing to reward themselves handsomely by way of a site increase. I hasten to say that all businesses are entitled to make a profit but fairly and where there exists legislative procedures for such increases, the legislation must be followed.

Not so with residential park operators. In fact, without mentioning a word to home owners, the State Government made increasing site rents easier and without actually changing the legislative requirement. In any legislation there’s always a dictionary that will explain what various words or phrases  mean. In December of 2014 the State Labour Government changed a section of the dictionary pertaining to site fee increases. Without going into great detail (look at our newsletter section for “A very Special Newsletter” for March 2016). What this Labour Government did was to change the meaning for “how site fee increases should be made”, which is totally contrary to what the legislation actually requires, what this alteration did was to bypass the legislative requirements which required a park operator to show home owners the calculations as to how the increase is qualified. Now, all that is required, is for park operators to get together and compare site fees and charge accordingly. It’s called a “cartel” which is illegal under the Fair Trading Act but with friends in Government, anything is possible. It’s called corruption. Remember how the Labour government is for the little guy?The result of this very friendly gesture by government to park operators is not just a generous handout, its an absolute “pig-out” to the cost of pensioner home owners. Who would want to live in a residential park?

The open market economy we supposedly enjoy is based on competition and without the interference of government so when government does intervene to prop-up good friends any element of trust is gone. There all crooks.

David Paton