One of the key advantages of a folding camper is that it can be stored far more easily than an equivalent caravan, as it will fit, comfortably, into most domestic garages. If a garage is not available, then it is far less obtrusive, when located on a driveway, or front garden.
That said, there are no, automatic, guarantees that we will be able to store it at home, and there may be legislation in place preventing this.
There are no actual national laws preventing us from storing our campers, caravans, trailers etc either on our own properties, or on the road / curtilage outside of it, however, that does not mean we will be able to, in all cases, as there may be restrictions imposed, at a local level, either by local councils, or, potentially, by restrictive covenants in the original property deeds.
Storing On Our Own Property
Covenants tend to be a lot less common, on older properties, although there will, occasionally, be exceptions, particularly if a house is located on land close to, or formerly owned by, the local church or parish. Newer properties, especially those on housing estates, are far more likely to contain restrictive covenants. Examples of these include not building a fence or other boundary above a certain height, not operating a business from the property, and, more crucially, not storing a caravan, trailer, horse box, motor home or sign written van on the property. These covenants were supposed to ensure a uniform outlook and maintain the ‘quality’ of the area, and the rights to them are, usually, owned, in the early stages, by the original construction company that built the houses.
Where there is a restrictive covenant in place, it can be very difficult to overcome.
If you choose to ignore a restrictive covenant, you could, potentially, face a claim in damages for the breach in addition to any injunctions granted. There are two types of damages that can be awarded:
- Compensatory damages to reflect the diminution in the value of the benefited land by reason of the breach
- Damages awarded in lieu of an injunction
It is possible to insure against any action arising from such a breach, but insurance is not available retrospectively, obviously, once the owner of the covenant is already aware of your breach. In addition, the Upper Tribunal in England and Wales and the Lands Tribunal in Northern Ireland have powers under section 84 of the Law of Property Act 1925 or Article 5 of the Property (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 to dissolve or relax covenants that appear to be out of date or unreasonable, so it may be worth looking into that, if you are concerned.
If you want to know more about how covenants work, this is an extremely useful article on them;
You tend to find that most modern covenants on housing estates contain pretty much the same, general, provisions, including things like not constructing boundaries to the front aspect, no caravans on property, no sign written vans etc. So, as a general (but not cast iron) guide, if all of the houses in your street are lacking in any kind of boundary fence, hedge etc, in the front garden, it stands a chance there are restrictive covenants in place. If, however, you want to check your own property, specifically, then you can request the information, for a fee, from The Land Registry.
Restrictive covenants, once agreed between the parties, are placed in the title deeds to the property. They bind the land and not the parties personally. In other words, the restrictive covenant ‘runs with the land’. This means that the covenant continues even when the original parties to the covenant sell the land on to other people. Restrictive covenants also continue to have effect even though they were made many years ago and appear to be obsolete. They are enforceable by one landowner against another, provided they are restrictive or ‘negative’ in their effect and effectively allow a form of private planning control.
A good indication as to the likelihood of this will be the number of other prohibited units on the estate. If every other house has a caravan on the drive, then it is far less likely to be an issue in your area, but be aware of the potential legal ramifications, if covenants are breached. Also, we may find that folding campers are able to get around some covenants, where caravans, etc, aren’t. Some covenants will only prohibit storage of units that are higher than the permitted fence height (usually anything from 3 to 6 feet). Most campers are, obviously, below this level, and may, on occasions, be capable of being stored where other units can’t. Always worth checking the small print.
One other thing that is, perhaps, worth mentioning here is that these covenants are inherent in the title deeds of the property, and are passed on from one owner to the next. If a landlord lets a property to a tenant, and that tenancy agreement permits the storing of a caravan etc on the land (or simply doesn’t mention the restriction) that does not alter the legality of the covenant, and it remains enforceable by the original beneficiary (ie the builders). Very often we hear; “Oh. I’m fine. I’m living in housing association accommodation, and it isn’t mentioned in the lease”. That is, unfortunately, not the case. All subsequent owners, including large organisations like HAs are bound by these covenants, and cannot over rule them, by the creation of a tenancy agreement for their own tenants, so tenants beware.
Storing On The Road / Curtilage
It has to be said, this is never to be recommended, especially long term, however, sometimes we may need to do so, even if it is just overnight, ready for a long trip, early in the morning. So, what are the legal implications?
Once again, there are no national laws preventing you from parking a camper, caravan etc outside your house, however, other issues, such as local bye laws, issues of obstruction etc may still prevent you from doing so. If we are parking our unit on the road, we must ensure that they do not deny access to the public, wilfully obstruct the highway without lawful excuse or make unreasonable use of the highway. This is defined under section 137 of the Highways Act and Regulation 103 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Act of 1986. In practice this means that a caravan, camper etc can be parked on the road as long as it does not block anybody’s driveway or create a hazard to other road users, such as blocking visibility around a tight bend.
We are allowed to park our unit, with much the same restrictions as for a normal car. These are covered by The Highway Code, Sections 238 To 252 (Waiting And Parking) as long as we comply, then we are, technically, within the letter of the law.
That said, even compliance with all of this is no guarantee we will be allowed to park outside our own house. Many local councils place high emphasis on the nuisance factor of caravans, trailers etc, and, often, there will be local bye laws, restricting their parking (in much the same way as we have local restrictive covenants on our own properties). Another key factor, again, will be the involvement of neighbours. If no one complains, the council are far less likely to act. If, however, someone does complain, then you may find that a visit or letter, from the council may be forthcoming.
There are a couple of urban myths surrounding parking on the roadside, that are worth dispelling.
Firstly; many people believe that you are only allowed to park a caravan on the road, if it is attached to a towing vehicle. This is completely untrue. Any unit can be left on the road, without being attached, provided it complies with the legislation above.
Secondly, many believe that a camper / caravan must be lit, if parked on the road at night, in much the same way as a skip needs to be lit and appropriately marked. This is not helped by a recent police statement (often quoted in discussions on the subject) which states that; “The caravan MUST be lit at night if it is parked on a road and comply with the other normal parking rules”. This is extremely misleading, as your unit DOES NOT have to be physically lit at night, in exactly the same way as cars don’t. The more mature readers may well remember the parking lights that used to be compulsory on cars, but are no longer required. The same applies with any form of trailer unit. In order to comply with the ‘must be lit’ requirement, we simply need to ensure that the van is pointing in the direction of the traffic, and that it has adequate rear reflective panels. Powered lighting is not a legal requirement*. The difference between this and a skip (which does require lighting) is that the skip does not have the same, street legal, reflective triangles etc on it.
Regardless of the law, it is never a good idea to leave a camper or caravan on the road for any longer than is necessary. If you do have to, it is always worth ensuring that your insurance policy, where applicable, covers you for prolonged periods of on road parking, as many don’t.
*- To say that it is not a legal requirement to have powered lighting is very slightly misleading, as there is a conflict in the legal system, here. Rules 249 and 250 of the Highway Code actually state that a caravan MUST display parking lights at night, however, following the introduction of Decriminalised Parking Enforcement, a number of years ago, there has been a general move away from the criminalisation of trivial offences, such as parking contraventions. In the real world, the Police will take a common sense approach, and ask the question; “Does it represent a danger to public safety”? If not, then it is not a criminal offence, and the Police have far more important things to do with their time. Let’s face it; a caravan, parked, facing in the right direction, on a well lit street is hardly going to represent a significant danger to public safety, and this is why we never see any caravans, or, indeed, other vehicles parked up, at night, with their lights on, nor do we, any longer, hear of anyone who has been prosecuted for this offence. As this issue has been queried, recently, we thought it best to clarify the full position.