Companies operating a caravan park in the Tweed River area of NSW have lost an appeal in the High Court after being ordered to pay more than $2.3-million in compensation, plus interest, to consumers.
This relates to the sale several years ago of waterfront villas as ‘permanent residences’ despite the sites not having development consent for permanent accommodation.
In 2019, the Supreme Court found in favour of NSW Fair Trading and ordered Jonval Builders Pty Ltd, Hacienda Caravan Park Pty Ltd and John Allan Willmott to pay compensation, interest and costs after the court found that the defendant companies had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and that all three defendants had engaged in unconscionable conduct.
NSW Court of Appeal upheld Supreme Court decision
In 2020, the NSW Court of Appeal upheld the Supreme Court’s decision, including an order that the three parties pay $2,354-million in compensation plus interest, arising from the sale of movable dwellings, called villas, located on waterfront sites along the Tweed River.
The villas were marketed to consumers under the pretence that they were suitable for permanent residents, even though the sites on which they were located did not have planning consent for permanent accommodation.
NSW Fair Trading brought proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW after a series of complaints from consumers who purchased villas believing they would be able to live there permanently.
Acting to protect interests of consumers who were misled
Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, said this was a great example of NSW Fair Trading acting to protect the interests of consumers that have been misled.
“This is consumer regulation working exactly as it’s meant to – government going into bat for consumers that were victims of unscrupulous players in the market,” Anderson stated.
“These operators acted unconscionably, leading to consumers – including retirees – paying a premium for what they believed were permanent waterfront residences. I’m glad that the consumers will be properly compensated.”
According to the minister, anyone looking at buying a dwelling located inside a caravan park should ensure they check with the local council to confirm what they’re being offered is above board. They should also seek independent legal advice on the sale.