b'GUEST VIEWThe COVID-19 Crisis Highlights the Need for Clear Agreementsand RV park owners have seen old prob- staff to campers as they booked their saw campground owners having to de-lems arise in new ways during the pan- reservations. It is hard (and sometimes fendthemselvesagainstthesecom-demic, namely those regarding refunds impossible) to enforce a policy when plaints.SomecampgroundownersChristine and long-term guests. the person was not aware applied to negotiated staying open longer, someAs people have changed their plans them. gave free stays to guests, and some wereTaylor due to the pandemic and restrictions, Next, campground owners had to de- able to continue business as usual withcampground owners have had to take a cide if they have consistently enforced no change or refund given.hard look at their refund policies. First, the policy. This is where things began to Ultimately, it appears that those whothe owners had to identify what policies get a little problematic. If a campground had the best policies were in the bestInadditiontothenewcleaning they had in place. Perhaps they only had owner went against their published pol- position as it boiled down to a breach ofguidelines,restrictionsandrequired a verbal policy but could not guarantee icy for Billy but not for Sally was that contract dispute at that point. I wouldspacing between guests, campground it was being communicated by their an issue? Public relations considerations not be surprised if a seasonal guest at-aside, policies should generally be en- tempts to take a campground to smallforced equally with all guests. If they are claims court over their seasonal fee fornot, campground owners are opening this camping season, but I have yet tothemselves up to possible liability re- have a clients case go that far. If theygarding discrimination issues if the per- did, in fact, get taken to small claimsson treated differently was in a protected court, the biggest defense again wouldclass. be to show that you had signed paper-Next came issues regarding the re- work and policies that were enforcedstrictions imposed by each locality. If equally with all guests.your municipality or state required you Finally, campground owners had toto keep certain amenities closed, could deal with those long-term guests whoseyou charge the same amount for a stay? campers were already on their site, whoTypically, the answer appears to be yes; chose not to pay. Again, the first step inyou dont charge less when something many areas was to look at the paper-is out of order generally, and apartment work. Were you clear about what wouldcomplexesdidnotchargelessrent happen if your camper did not continuewhen their pools and gyms were closed. to make payments? If so, we advisedHowever, there are always public rela- people to give written notice of theirtions issues to consider. Again, if you of- policies, point the camper to the con-fered a discount it is safest to offer a tract, remind them what would happen,discount to everyone. and give a final date to become currentBut the biggest issues came when before enacting your policy. If the camp-discussinglong-termandseasonal ground was in a state that had more spe-guests. These campers mostly prepaid cific statutes regarding the removal offor their season with the campground. guests, the campground was obligated toWhencampgroundswereforcedto follow that statute first, even if their pa-delay opening, the seasonals reacted perwork contained contrary language.negatively,holdingthecampground The biggest concern here was, again,owner responsible for something the some municipalities trying to force thegovernment had put into place. Did the owners into landlord-tenant law. This iscampground owners offer refunds? Dis- a more costly venture for those camp-counts? Were they obligated to do so? As grounds that did not have the proper pa-withmostthings,thecampground perworkorpolicies,astheyhadlessowners first had to look at their seasonal evidence to demonstrate that their prop-license agreements. Hopefully, they had erty was for recreation and not for resi-made it explicitly clear that there would dency. Further, as many campgroundsbe no refunds. Typically, a seasonal site tried to stay open as essential housing,comes with winter storage and a heavy this blurring of lines created complica-discount on the overnight rate. As such, tions when they later attempted to re-seasonal guests are expected to pay in move guests. Campground owners mustadvance and are almost never given a take special care to remove all guests forrefund. But if an owners paperwork was the same infractions. If you choose tonot explicitly clear, they had trouble en- onlyenforceyourpoliciesselectively,forcing these policies. then you are opening yourself up to pos-Some campground owners had to sible discrimination issues.dealwiththeirseasonalsreporting Ultimately, the lessons learned arethem to consumer protection agencies, the same that crop up in other seasons,an attorney generals office or other gov- just this time with more frequency.ernmentalandquasi-governmentalCampground owners should haveagencies regarding no-refund policies. clearpaperworkforlong-termstaysAlthoughdifficulttoimagine,these that reflects the statutes in their state.agencies pursued complaints againstThey should make sure that they arecampgrounds that could not open in ef- only granting a license to these long-forts to force them to give refunds or term guests.discounts to their guests. Many of theseThey should make sure that theagencies had to be educated on the fact long-term guest has had the time to signthatthecampgroundhadprovided the paperwork and understands whatstorage (for free) and such a heavy dis- they are signing.count on the nightly rate, that even withThe policy on refunds and removala delayed opening the seasonal guest should be explicitly clear and should bestill came out ahead. pointed out to the long-term guest.Those campground owners that hadShort-term guests should also beclear paperwork, policies and a history given clear language in regard to the re-of enforcing them had better evidence fund policy for their stay.to support their position when having Mostimportantly,thesepoliciesto defend against these complaints. Al- shouldbeenforcedequallywithallthough you would think the govern- guests. All staff should be trained inmentwouldbesympathetictotheir their enforcement. That way, you canplight,sinceitwasnotthecamp- provide both the paperwork and thegrounds choice to be closed, we still Guest Viewcontinued on page 3212 -September 2020 Woodalls Campground Management'