Tenants out in the cold over fees

HOLIDAYMAKERS at a tornado-ravaged Mulwala caravan park have lodged complaints with a NSW tenancy tribunal over hundreds of dollars in site fees.

Five former tenants at the Denison County Caravan Park want the NSW Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal to investigate why they have not been refunded the $400 to $600 they were charged in pre-paid fees for the 10 weeks they could not access the site.

Denison co-owner Craig O’Callaghan has said he was confident the park had done the right thing by its tenants.

But the former tenants say their request for refunds have been ignored. They hit out at the park owners for a lack of communication.

Deanne Sweetland, from Albury, had her $23,000 caravan wiped out. It was not insured.

“I could easily walk away from this because that was my fault, but it’s the principal and it’s what has happened to everybody,” she said.

“I want to support every– one else who has gone through hell.”

Donna Fisher, from Sunbury, enjoyed holidays at the park for 30 years.

“We’ve sent emails, we’ve sent letters, we haven’t heard anything back from them at all,” she said.

“They’re not forthcoming with any information — it’s not good enough.

“It wouldn’t be so been bitter if they kept us informed — we just want to be heard.”

Shepparton-based grandmother Dee McCrindle said the owners had told her fees were being withheld to lift the concrete slab where her caravan stood.

“No where is it in the contract that we have to lift the slabs,” she said.

“It might only be $500, but I believe in the truth.

“Look at the big picture, and it’s not just $500.

“We’re the people who have been left behind. We’ve been tossed aside We’re irrelevant.

“There’s no closure and it’s been a huge part of our lives.”

Corowa’s Don Burrowes was a tenant who escaped damage.

After receiving a notice from the owners that they wanted to transform to park by building cabins — reportedly with a starting price of $50,000 — Mr Burrowes was one of several tenants who decided not to stay.

“We wouldn’t go back there. We certainly didn’t get value for what we invested down there,” he said.

“A lot of people are feeling hurt because they weren’t consulted. It’s left a big sting.

The cabin of Melbourne-based Matthew Landham was destroyed.

“I could’ve kept my site, but the simple fact is every family and friend I’ve made up there have been excluded,” he said.

“It’s not the sort of money normal, hard-working people can afford.”

Mr Landham said he was owed almost $600.

“I don’t have a concrete slab so, by right, they don’t have any reason to withhold the fees I’ve paid in advance,” he said.

“It’s extremely disappointing they’ve handled it this way.”

Mr O’Callaghan said site fees had been withheld to tear up concrete slabs that were tenant’s responsibility to clear.

“It’s like a block of land really — you don’t buy it with a concrete slab,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

He said that in some cases, site fees had been withheld to cover unpaid bills and overdue site fees.

Mr O’Callaghan admitted the communication with tenants could have been improved.

“Maybe there was lack of communication early in the piece,” he said.

In the first three months that Zauner took over the place, we weren’t allowed on the place,” he said.

He said it had been a difficult year.

“We’re trying to do our best,” he said.

A NSW Fair Trading spokeswoman said when a site agreement ended, the occupant was required to leave the site as near as possible in the same condition as when the agreement started.

This meant where slabs were provided before the agreement, there would be no responsibility on the occupant to remove the slab.

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