Leanne Millar is living from the boot of her car after she was given four hours’ notice to leave the unit she owned at a holiday park in Nelson. Photo / Tess Jaine
A woman evicted with four hours’ notice from the campground where she lived in her own portable home is calling for better protection for campground residents.
Leanne Millar (also known as Leanne Read) is now living out of the boot of her car and sleeping at a friend’s house after she was evicted from the Queen Street Holiday Park in Richmond, near Nelson, on August 3 this year.
She has been served with a trespass order telling her not to come back.
The 56-year-old admits she got “lippy” with management at the holiday park, but only because she was tired of having to ask for repairs to the $140,000 unit she bought last year.
NZME has spoken with the holiday park’s director Kelvin Price, who declined to respond to a list of questions after having said earlier “it was probably not in Leanne’s best interests”.
Lawyer Joshua Pietras, who hasn’t been involved in the case but practised in civil litigation, said giving someone four hours’ notice to vacate was “insane”.
“The power imbalance seems gross because a tenant has to be evicted with cause. Then there’s a notice period and there have to be particular reasons why your lease is terminated.
“Even then, you get more than four hours’ notice,” Pietras said.
Millar, a former hairdresser who went dairy farming on the West Coast, opened a barber shop in Westport and then returned to the Nelson region to work as a labourer on the $198 million Waimea Community Dam, is now on a benefit, “stressed to the max” and homeless.
A little over a year ago she sold her two-bedroom unit, which was previously her father’s home, to buy one of the holiday park’s two-bedroom units and be mortgage-free.
“It was somewhere I could park up, retire and be part of the community.”
The units were described on the holiday park’s website as “supersized caravans”, which arrived in slab form and were then erected on site. The price included a kitchen and a bathroom, plus the cost to connect to the council’s services.
Purchasers then paid for their own power and water, plus a weekly site fee. Millar paid $198 weekly for her site.
The builder’s daughter said it was clear upon inspection that there were faults with the unit, but she went ahead with the purchase on the basis the repairs would be done. She also had the existing kitchen removed and installed her own $6000 kitchen that she designed herself.
Soon after Millar moved in she noticed what she claimed were gaps appearing at the top of the wall where it connected to the roof. She said there were no flashings above the windowsills, no downpipes or guttering, but she was told the guttering would be installed – at her cost.
Then she claimed the floor began to sink, during one of the wettest Nelson winters on record.
“The unit was up on bricks as well as steel pole legs, and when one corner of the house began to sink it raised the opposite side and ripped the lino.”
Millar said repairs were done and then covered with grey masking tape.
Then she noticed rust-stained water streaming down the inside of the bathroom/bedroom wall, which she recorded on video seen by NZME.
Millar said management did respond to her requests to have it fixed after she sent what she described as a “demanding” text message.
“I did use some colourful language and I was told they’d get on to it straight away.”
Millar claimed she was then called to a meeting with management, at which she apologised for the language she’d used. She was then stunned to be told she had to sell the house, and that they would do that on her behalf with a 5 per cent commission on the sale.
Price has declined to respond to questions about this, but the holiday park’s website said unit owners could either remove the dwelling and take it to another location or sell on-site, which was the “easiest option”.
Millar said she walked out of the meeting in shock. Then at 9.30am the following Monday, the camp manager and one of the workers knocked on her door, with an eviction notice that gave her four hours to pack up and leave the camp. She was then trespassed off the site and told anything remaining there would be disposed of at her own expense.
“He evicted me from my own home and there’s nothing on the notice to say why. I then had to continue to pay $198 a week for the site, for a house I couldn’t live in.”
Millar believed the eviction was linked to inflammatory text messages she sent Price.
On legal advice, and worried that the park would remove her portable home from the park grounds after she was evicted, Millar transferred ownership of the unit to a relative.
Millar said things were complicated by the fact there was no contract upon purchasing the unit – only a copy of the camp rules and a receipt to prove she had bought the unit.
Pietras said written contracts were necessary for building works worth more than $30,000. He said two separate contracts should apply in a situation where someone owned a dwelling on leased land: an agreement to buy the dwelling and an agreement to occupy the land where the dwelling was placed.
In a situation where there was no agreement, there were implied terms of law.
Pietras said owners of portable homes used as residential accommodation were not especially well protected, the same way that a consumer who bought a phone from a store was covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act.
However, buildings were covered by warranties, and if they didn’t meet standards then the person who built them could be liable for damages.
Millar said her unit came with a two-year warranty.
Pietras said Millar’s situation also raised questions around occupancy rights for people who lived in campgrounds, where relocatable homes were excluded from the Residential Tenancies Act.
He said that meant campground operators could act as residential landlords while circumventing their obligations to permanent residents.
Millar says she’s happy to walk away but would like at least some compensation. She’d love to be able to buy a caravan.
“I just want a place to live for the rest of my life, and I absolutely don’t want others to fall into the same trap.
“I want everyone in that park to have a contract, to know they’re safe and can’t be evicted in four hours.”
Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news, including court and local government for the Nelson Mail.