While listening to news radio this week I heard about a proposal to change the law in relation to living in a caravan on your own land. Living in caravans (or anything for that matter) is, of course, topical because of the housing crisis.

Caravans – the current law

We all know that we need development consent to erect any building on land. A building is defined in the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (“the EP&A Act”). A building: “includes part of a building and any structure or part of a structure, but does not include: (a) a manufactured home, a moveable dwelling or associated structure or part of a manufactured home, a moveable dwelling or associated structure”.

Also, regulation 77(b) of Local Government (Manufactured Home Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings) Regulation 2005 makes it clear that: Council approval is not required for: (b) “the installation of not more than one caravan or campervan on land occupied by the owner of the caravan or campervan in connection with that owner’s dwelling-house, so long as it is used for habitation only by the owner or by members of the owner’s household and is maintained in a safe and healthy condition”.

Caravan is a defined term which means “a moveable dwelling that is designed so as to be capable of being registered (within the meaning of the Road Transport Act 2013) as a trailer, but does not include a camper trailer“.

Mr Findlay’s Caravan

Mr Findlay was living a peaceful existence in his caravan on his property at Bexley. That all came to an end when Rockdale Council started proceedings against him and sought declarations that he had carried out development without consent. Why? Well, although he was living in his caravan on his land, it turns out that the caravan (with annex) was on top of a shipping container that was also on his land. The case (Rockdale City Council v Findlay [2004] NSWLEC 592) pre-dates regulation 77 referred to above and the argument was all about whether the caravan in its current mezzanine position was still a “moveable dwelling”. It wasn’t.  To add insult to injury, there is also authority for the proposition that the container was itself, a structure which required consent (see Wyong Shire Council v Cohen & Anor [2004] NSWLEC 171).

Creative commons acknowledgment for the photograph