Upset mobile home owners at Margate’s Bradgate Park say they are no longer allowed to pay site fees monthly and are facing unmanageable six-month or yearly bills.
The site, which is open all year around but is not listed as residential, is owned by Wyldecrest Holiday Parks headed by owner Alfie Best.
Wyldecrest was founded in 2001 and is one of the UK’s largest holiday park providers with 95 residential mobile home parks and seven holiday mobile home parks. It bought Bradgate in Manston Court Road, which comprises around 220 pitches, in 2014.
But some mobile home owners at the site say they now fear termination of their site agreements because they need to continue paying fees monthly.
Doug Tivers is among those who pay site fees monthly and says the demand for one or two yearly payments is distressing.
He said: “There are a lot of elderly people here that are very upset and in tears. Most of them have always paid monthly but we have been told we now have to pay 6 months or the whole year. If we don’t we are looking at a 28 day notice of eviction. They are saying they will lend money through a finance company.
“There are elderly ladies here in bits, I don’t know what to say to them and just give them a hug.”
Doug says although the park is not listed as residential it is open 365 days a year and some people do not move off site but they are not covered by any residential rights.
Doug and his wife have now received a letter to say they have £6,400 in fees outstanding, which is the amount for the year.
Wyldecrest owner Alfie Best, who has been featured widely in the media talking about his Romany Gypsy roots and becoming a self-made millionaire, said no termination notices had been served but that it could happen if fees were not paid.
The 52-year-old said monthly payments had always been a temporary measure and the change to half yearly or yearly payments was a necessary business decision.
He said: “Our main concern is for our holiday home owners. We do not operate our parks to upset people but we also have to run the business diligently.
“When we originally brought monthly payments in when we took the park over it was only to be for a short time, it was meant to be for a couple of years but we extended that and then extended it again.
“But we found some people were then not paying and taking their caravans off after 6 months, that has a detrimental effect on the business and on the park.
“It was abused, people were not paying and then it became a burden on administration having to constantly check and police owners on a monthly basis.
“We have a lot of fantastic home owners but unfortunately there are some that think it is a cheap way of housing. This is a holiday park not a residential park and as a company we have a duty of care. It is a criminal offence to rent holiday homes as residential.”
Wyldecrest does run residential parks but Bradgate does not have that designation.
Termination of agreements
Mr Best said no eviction notices had been served but added: “That will happen, termination of agreements, if people do not pay their fees. We have had meetings, gone through it and told everyone that this was coming into play.”
It is understood that between 10 and 20 holiday home owners on site have not paid the bi-yearly or yearly amount.
‘Cost of living crisis’
Another Bradgate unit owner, who asked not to be named, said: “In this year’s annual pitch fee review, Wyldecrest informed us that they would no longer accept monthly payments for our licence fees: six monthly or annual.
“Most residents are elderly, retired, disabled and the like. Wyldecrest has referred us to (a) credit finance company. Amid a cost of living crisis, high inflation, and increasing interest rates: get a loan! As if someone with limited income can get a loan; even if you were eligible, would a bank give one for what is effectively your rent?
“Assuming you overcome those hurdles, the monthly payments would be higher because of the interest on top, and you will be in perpetual debt because, in the following years, you would need another loan.
“Some folks have started to leave, but many of us can’t. While, as a holiday park, we have to give a residential address, as in our case, folks give a family address, and we can move there. Renting a place is beyond us, especially with the need to get deposits, furniture, white goods, etc. Again, assuming (as with loans) we would get a rental property with our low income.
“The option we seem to have is to cancel our direct debits and continue to pay monthly by standing order or bank transfer. But this is fraught with danger as we may get evicted.”
‘Done everything we possibly can’
Mr Best said the monthly payment is just no longer an option but 6 monthly has been offered despite all his other parks requiring yearly payments. He said: “I love what I do, I eat it with a spoon. I believe we are changing people’s lives and I do not like instances like this with people being upset but we have done everything we possibly can.”
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