Updated May 2016
1. The Basics
The static home is a great British tradition from three different perspectives:
- as a bolt hole for that weekend away from it all somewhere you regard as your home-away-from-home;
- offering a low-cost and low-risk holiday environment that you know and like well;
- as a possible income generator in terms of letting out for the summer holidays etc.
In this guide, we’ll be examining a number of aspects of buying and owning a static home but at the outset it’s important to avoid ambiguity.
When we are talking about a static home, we are discussing a static caravan sited somewhere licensed for holiday and recreational use. This is quite different from a park home – that category of dwelling place will not be discussed further in this guide.
Location, location, location
This is one of the oldest pieces of advice handed out to anyone considering buying any type of property or caravan. Sadly, in spite of the frequency of its use, it is still occasionally overlooked or ignored altogether.
In one sense, it’s easy to talk about the positive aspects of why location is important.
In your static home you will want to be close to nice places to visit, shops, restaurants, pubs and perhaps garages etc. Possibly you would also appreciate somewhere that has a nice outlook and an all-round pleasant environment.
Yet the real importance of the subject can only be illustrated by talking about the implications of getting it wrong. These might be severe.
Let’s take it as read that you have identified a caravan you like and generally you are happy with the site.
What you need to consider though is whether, just over that hill in near distance, there is a silage farm or something similarly unpleasant. You’ll know very quickly why that’s important if it’s a warm summer’s evening and you are trying to eat outside but unfortunately the wind is in the wrong direction!
Another issue relates to the natural environment. Significant numbers of sites are located close to the coast, rivers and lakes etc. Many sites might also be in natural flood plains. You may discover that in one of three ways:
- initially when you are selecting your caravan and location;
- when you see just how much it is going to cost to insure your caravan because even if you didn’t know the flood risk your insurance provider certainly will (to read more about insurance, visit our section entitled: Insuring your static caravan);
- waking up one morning to find that the inside of your static home is now effectively a paddling pool.
The moral of the tale here is clear.
Make sure that you think about location in the broadest sense possible and do your research – perhaps covering a radius of around 5 miles. Talk to local estate agents, press, shopkeepers, the council and the environment agency.
Keep in mind that problem locations won’t just prove to be an issue for you but they might seriously or even terminally inhibit your ability to let your caravan out for income purposes.
Size of static
You may like the financial and visual attractions of a small and bijou static caravan.
It might be fine for the first couple of nights but if there are several of you in a family, you might find it stressful if you are trying to live in each other’s laps for one or two weeks.
So, look for a caravan that is going to be sensibly proportioned given the size of your family plus keep in mind that very small caravans may be that bit more difficult to let out if you decide you wish to.
New versus second hand
There isn’t really a huge amount that can be said here other than to make sure you’re applying common sense.
In the case of a new static, you might expect it to have an extensive warranty period and all the reassurance that might bring.
In the case of a second hand static, it is imperative that you don’t end up buying a pup. So, inspect it thoroughly before purchase and if you are not confident that you know what you’re looking for, find someone that does to help you.
For more information, read our guide to buying a static caravan
2. Financing Your Static Home
In an ideal world, you would simply find a static caravan you like and then write a check for the purchase price.
In reality, things may be a little different and many purchasers might have to adopt a rather more structured approach to the financing question.
Here are a few ideas that we at Cover4Caravans hope might be useful for you going forward.
Prepare a budget
Deciding just how much you can afford might seem to be a fairly obvious step but some aspects of it are occasionally overlooked.
Remember that the total cost of your static home to you might comprise both one-off and on-going annual components including:
- your initial purchase price;
- the cost of repayment interest on any funding you may have had to borrow in order to finance your purchase;
- your predictable annual running costs such as energy and site / pitch fees etc;
- unpredictable annual running costs such as those involved in paying for repairs and unforeseeable maintenance;
- any costs associated with making special provisions for winter securing etc.
Almost inevitably it makes sense to work out the budget as to what you can afford and then use that as the basis for the sort of caravan and costing you will be looking for. Falling in love with a particular caravan and a particular location, might prove to be pointless if it proves to be out of your financial reach.
You also won’t wish to find that you have purchased your static home but are unable to afford to run and maintain it.
Sources of funding
Just like when you are contemplating taking out a loan for any purpose, you will need to prove to the potential loan provider that:
- the price you are contemplating for the item concerned is reasonable and a fair reflection of its market value;
- that you are putting some of your own money into the deal by way of a deposit (typical lenders might expect you to be finding anywhere between 15-30% of the total cost yourself);
- you are able to afford comfortably, the repayments associated with the sum you are trying to borrow.
Being realistic, it may be difficult to secure funding for a caravan purchase in a situation where you are unemployed or have a relatively low part-time income. If you are employed, your lender may need to see references and some indication of your salary levels.
If you are self-employed, you may need to show evidence of your books of account and the income you have been taking over recent years.
You may find that lenders may require some form of security over the loan – perhaps typically looking to secure it against your home.
There is no reason why you should not seek a conventional bank loan for this type of purchase. Given the uncertainty in financial markets over recent years though, it is difficult to predict the outcome of such an approach.
By contrast, there are specialist finance companies that target products specifically at caravan purchases. It may be worth researching that option further and comparing one quotation against another.
If you are purchasing a new static, you may find that the distributor or dealer may have their own financing options. Be sure to compare things such as the interest rates closely against other sources of borrowing.
Financing – be realistic not optimistic
Many of us might be vulnerable to perhaps deluding ourselves a little as to how much we can afford to pay for something we really want.
Try to remember that if you struggle to meet repayments on a loan, then your caravan may be seized or any other asset that you secure the loan against.
So, estimate conservatively and budget accordingly before starting to look around for your static caravan.
3. Insuring Your Static Caravan
Even the humblest static caravan is unlikely to be something that can be described as being cheap.
In all probability you have paid a lot of money for your static and it may be worth a lot to you both financially and emotionally. As such, you will probably want to be making sure that you have it insured to one extent or another.
So, what are your options?
Static caravan insurance
The good news is that putting into place a policy that will offer you a substantial degree of protection is something that is relatively straightforward. As you would expect, here at Cover4Caravans we are experts in this domain and would be only too pleased to offer our help.
The risks you might be typically trying to cover would come under certain generic categories:
- acts of nature, perhaps including things such as winter, storms and flooding – though be sure with flooding that you understand exactly what your policy is covering and what it might not be covering, given the increasing national concern over flood risk;
- acts of man – this might include unpleasant subjects such as burglary, vandalism, theft and so on;
- acts of law – in this category you might find things relating to your legal exposures, for example the provision of liability insurance covering third party claims.
These categories are somewhat arbitrary and it is important to look at each individual risk covered by a policy before deciding whether or not the policy overall is suitable for you.
What is liability insurance?
You may have personal legal liability arising from your static caravan in circumstances where:
- someone was injured as a result of your caravan, particularly in situations where you were deemed to be held culpable due to your failure to maintain it in an appropriately safe condition;
- where the property of someone else was damaged as a result of your caravan with the same sort of conditions as above.
Space does not permit a full discussion of the legal issues associated with this type of cover but it is important to understand that court awards in circumstances where someone has been seriously injured may be staggeringly high and potentially way beyond the financial means of most people to pay. The results on your overall financial position may be catastrophic unless you have appropriate cover in place to help.
Circumstances and putting your cover at risk
Any policy of this type will typically specify exactly the situations it is designed to cover and those it will not.
However, you may need to be careful that you accurately make clear to your insurance provider, exactly what you are planning to do with your static. Depending upon the exact nature of your policy, some of the circumstances below might need to be discussed clearly in advance with your policy provider:
- moving from a situation where only you use your caravan to one where you were planning to let it out for rental income (you may also need the site owner’s permission for this);
- where you have refurbished of refitted your caravan and this has resulted in a significant increase in its value;
- situations where you have started to keep higher value items in your caravan on a permanent basis – examples might include electronic devices or antiques etc. (in fact, some policies may specifically prohibit this).
It is also imperative to know that your insurance policy and indeed local authority regulations may specifically prohibit you occupying your static home on a permanent or even extended basis throughout the year. By nature, these types of policies cover recreational use not permanent habitation.
If you are in any doubt as to any occupancy issue whatsoever, you should have a discussion with your insurance provider at the earliest opportunity.
4. Your Obligations And Caravan Safety
There may come a time when you decide to start using your static caravan as a way of generating a little income.
There is nothing wrong with that and it might prove to be relatively lucrative providing your caravan is well equipped and is in a location that other people might find to be desirable.
To avoid any risk of confusion here, note that this relates to holiday time lettings of a few weeks duration each year. Trying to let out your static for permanent or semi-permanent occupation would be a much more serious and complex endeavour and one you would need to discuss extensively with the site owners, your local council and your insurance provider. It might be advisable to consider it to be unachievable in most situations.
As someone letting out your caravan for recreational purposes, you will be under obligations to a number of parties:
- your customers – in other words your caravan will need to be attractively presented and well maintained. The way you conduct your business will also need to be highly professional and ethical;
- the site owners – in many cases your pitch agreement will oblige you to consult the site owners in a number of circumstances, typically including situations where you plan to let your caravan out. Do take note that some site agreements may prohibit this altogether and you should be looking at that carefully before deciding on the purchase of a caravan;
- the law – the legal and local authority regulations relating to things such as caravan safety are complex and subject to relatively frequent change as society demands ever more accountability on the part of owners. You should research this thoroughly on a number of sites before deciding to go forward;
- your insurance provider – your policy must cover you for the circumstances surrounding your use of your caravan. Discuss any letting of it well in advance with your policy provider;
- HMRC – you must declare any income so obtained.
Please note that what follows is not qualified legal advice. Due to the frequency of regulations changing, you must research this yourself through government websites and qualified solicitors.
However, as an introductory overview:
- all gas and electrical appliances within your caravan must have been installed in accordance with safety regulations. DIY and best-guess jobs are strictly prohibited;
- overall annual environmental safety checks, at the present time, do not appear to apply to static caravans being let out for occasional holiday use. However, you may be legally obliged to get an annual gas safety check from a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer plus a PAT (Portable Appliance Test) annually;
- the law does oblige you, however, to provide an overall safe environment for people renting your caravan. This means that it might be highly advisable to get a qualified caravan safety engineer to review your static every year. Remember that you may be legally liable for any injuries your customers suffer or damage to their property, as a result of your caravan;
- all caravans should have a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors are required and mandatory for let caravans. You should make absolutely certain that both devices are installed and are fully operational with batteries in place. Carbon monoxide and caravan fires are major killers that can be defeated with the expenditure of just a few tens of pounds and the installation of these devices;
- make sure your soft furnishings comply with modern fire-retardation standards.
While, at the time of writing, a fire extinguisher is not compulsory, it may make sense and give further peace of mind to install one.
Neither you nor your customers will want to start a new holiday rental with an undignified squabble upon their arrival when they start to dispute whether your caravan is exactly as described in the advertisement.
So, make sure that everything exactly matches how you have described it and that your caravan is in great condition.
Don’t forget that your description should also include something relating to the site but linking that to your caravan. For example, stating that the site has great river views but neglecting to mention that your individual caravan does not, is an example of something you will want to avoid!
5. Kitting Out Your Static Caravan
There are two separate considerations you may come across in terms of kitting out your static caravan:
- what you will need for your own comfort and that of your family when using your static;
- what you might need to include both to attract potential renters and to protect your interests when doing so – assuming of course that is something of interest to you.
It’s very difficult here to say what you and your family need to make you feel comfortable in your caravan.
Some people regard caravanning as something of a slightly more comfortable form of camping and therefore are fairly minimalist in the equipping. By contrast some other owners really do like to turn their caravan into a home-away-from-home with all the associated conveniences.
There are though, a few things you may wish to think about when deciding what sort of equipment you will need and how much you are planning to spend on it:
- are you planning to leave it in place when you are not in residence? If the answer is no, you may need to think about size, weight and portability, as your car probably has only so much carrying capacity. If you are planning to leave equipment in your caravan, you may need to carefully consider values and the risk of theft. You may need to consult your insurance policy for any special conditions relating to what may or may not be left in the caravan when you are away;
- how long will you be staying when visiting? Deciding to rough it and cope might be fine for a long weekend it but might become much more tiresome when talking of a week or longer;
- the weather. The British summer can be called many things but reliable may not be one of them. Therefore, there is a fair chance that at times your caravan is going to be full of people who have got wet and muddy and have brought some of that inside. So, you might not wish to stint too much on things such as heating, drying, washing and possibly cleaning equipment;
- in passing, don’t forget security. Good quality locks and bolts plus a burglar alarm might be a sensible investment.
Check out our list of caravan basics here: http://www.cover4caravans.co.uk/articles/quick-guides/caravan-safety/caravanning-checklist. Although it is aimed at tourer owners, there is a lot of crossover as to what you will need.
6. Letting Your Caravan Out
Here, there is a clear balance to be struck.
On the one hand, if your caravan is equipped like a Spartan mess hall, then there’s a fair chance you won’t be seeing too many takers!
On the other hand, however careful you are with who you let to, it is a fact of life that when people and children are using your caravan then damages and breakages may need to be accepted as being an ever-present reality.
However much you try to manage this with inventories and deposits, it might be pragmatic to think about using utility furnishings and equipment rather than high-quality and expensive items.
Another good idea when letting is to make sure that your mattresses are lined in order to protect them against a variety of risks. The same may be true of your seating areas and soft furnishings where it might be sensible to protect internal cushions and foam with liquid-proof and easily washable fabrics.
Above all though, try to achieve a sensible protection of your asset whilst at the same time maintaining an attractive and homely interior. Sometimes holiday renters communicate with each other and referrals and recommendations might be extremely valuable to you in future.
If you are going to let your static caravan out, then make sure you have the most appropriate liability insurance to read more at our section entitled: Insuring your static caravan); and that you understand your obligations visit our section entitled: Your obligations and caravan safety);