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Opinion: Should RV park managers be certified?

The blurred distinction between mobile home parks and RV parks is growing even more fuzzy in California, where a Senate bill that would require managers of trailer courts to get annual training and certification is in the legislative hopper. Trailer courts–and, almost incidentally—RV parks as well.

SB 869, introduced in January by Senator Connie Leyva, would require “each person employed or acting in an onsite or offsite managerial capacity or role, on behalf of a mobilehome park or recreational vehicle park to receive appropriate training of at least 18 hours” by May 2024, and additional training each year thereafter. Trained park managers would receive a certificate of completion, to be posted “in a conspicuous location onsite.” Failure to get the training or to post the certificate could result in civil penalties and a suspension of a facility’s operating permit.

The bill is vague on the training specifics, leaving it up to the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development to fill in the blanks. But it does specify that the department “shall review the complaints it has received” from park residents when designing the curriculum, paying particular attention to complaints about evictions, fees, management of utilities, homeowner communications and how sales of a campground are handled. The training is also to include parks’ contingency planning and how they would respond to medical and other emergencies.

THERE IS MORE, but it may all be moot, as the bill has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee Suspense File. A potential graveyard for all legislation with an annual price tag of $150,000 or more, the Suspense File’s hundreds of bills will be reviewed by the committee May 18 and either approved for floor vote or quietly allowed to expire. Which way SB 869 will be decided is uncertain, but clearly CampCalNOW, the state’s trade association for RV parks and campgrounds, believes it’s a done deal, emailing its members with the assurance that the bill has been “shelved.”

Perhaps. On the other hand, Eric Guerra, a consultant for the Senate Select Committee on Manufactured Home Communities, believes that “things are still open.” The bill “is a pretty high priority” for Senator Leyva, who chairs the committee, following a rising chorus of complaints from park dwellers about predatory practices by park managers. Unlike neighboring Oregon and Nevada, both of which mandate training and licensing for park managers, California has no standards, even though such managers may be responsible for the safety of more than 200 residents, sometimes in remote areas.

Although most complaints that triggered the proposal have come from trailer parks, RV parks got swept into it because in many cases “they have become de facto mobile home parks,” Guerra explained. And while CampCalNOW argued that most RV parks in the state don’t have the kind of long-term residents that the bill is seeking to protect, the exceptions have been disturbingly stark. Most notably, the Fairplex RV Park in Pomona, a former KOA, was the subject of a blistering 2016 L.A. Times investigation that resulted in a state audit issuing several safety violations, including for frayed overhead electrical wires and bathrooms in disrepair. That memory lingers, Guerra said, and the Fairplex park was not unique.

IT’S ENTIRELY POSSIBLE, if Senator Leyva gets a sense that the political winds are unfavorable, that SB 869 will yet be amended to modify its RV park aspects, while leaving stronger measures in place for mobile home parks. But whose interests would be served by a more narrowly tailored bill? A training requirement of 18 hours—which the bill expressly allows to be done online in as many installments each year as desired—is at most a nominal obligation. RV parks, like trailer courts, increasingly are home to economically and physically vulnerable populations, in a state that is at growing risk of wildfires and mudslides. Ensuring that the people most directly responsible for maintaining a safe environment have just a teeny bit of instruction about their duties would seem a no-brainer.

The wonder is not that RV parks might be opposed to legislation that would set some minimum operational standards, but that more campground owners are not proactively implementing policies and practices that would safeguard their customers. Consider this, for example: When’s the last time you stayed at an RV park that had an automated external defibrillator (AED) that you could readily access, in case your traveling companion had a heart attack? As with so many other common sense precautions, most RV park owners simply hope for the best and reflexively push back against anything that smacks of government regulation.

Leyva’s bill does not mandate AEDs, but by raising the subject of how campgrounds respond to emergencies, it certainly opens the door for discussing this and other measures. RVers in California should be thankful for that, even if campground owners are less enthused.

Andy Zipser is the author of Renting Dirt, the story of his family’s experiences owning and operating a Virginia RV park. From the book: “While campers are out to experience fresh air, bucolic surroundings and the easy-going camaraderie of fellow travelers, the people who create that environment are often over-worked, under-paid and stressed out. And to make matters worse, their efforts are too readily dismissed as just ‘renting dirt.'” The fascinating book is available at some bookstores and at Amazon.com.

##RVT1050b

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Todd Hartman
22 days ago

How would this effect work campers?
Would all camp hosts need to be certified?? A lot of parks are finding it difficult to find hosts as it is. And I hope that it would apply to all parks in the state and not just private owned parks.

Steven Peterson
22 days ago

Sounds like another load of bully krap from Cali to me!!!

MrDisaster
23 days ago

SInce Oregon and Nevada already have a training requirement, it might be prudent for the industry group, CampCalNOW, develop a reasonable training program for its members? Heck they could plagerize to other states plans. Training could inclde First Aid, CPR and AED training. Red Cross and local Fire agencies could do this for nominal charge. Park managers should be trained (with written policies and training for their employees) on fire evacuations (something that does happen in CA) Earthquake mitigation plans (for their facilities. As well as other emergencies (you know the occasional RV fire)(or medical emergency). That training would benefit the business (reduce liability) and negate the need for government intervention. Additional training could be tailored to the type of facility operated and include minor plumbing, minor electricial and on-site sewage systems (septic tanks). How about basic accounting and customer service training? (all park employees could use a refresh)

Bob M
23 days ago

Certification is just another way for our government to extract money from your wallet and not say it’s a tax. Just because they may require certification don’t mean the facilities are up to safety standards. As for the automated external defibrillator (AED). Many state parks don’t have cell service and by the time you get to a phone. The person could be dead.

Robert Patrick McBride
23 days ago

That will just raise rates. Rocket science not needed to run an RV park.

Rich
23 days ago

more unneeded govt intrusion into the private sector. but, hey, that’s what CA does best.

MattD
22 days ago
Reply to  Rich

not un-needed, forced upon govt intrusion more like it.

Sherry
23 days ago

You can get a degree in Hospitality. I wonder if the larger corporate RV park companies are hiring managers from this pool of graduates just like the large hotel chains do? I wonder if the subjects listed here such as handling emergencies, evictions and the law etc are covered in the hospitality area of study? Finally are the distractors below completely sure this is a government driven initiative? Go to your state’s website for professional licensing and certification. The list is endless and in most cases the listed professions requested and lobbied government officials to be licensed and set up the standards themselves. Many of you would prefer a certified nurses aid to care for your elderly parents, Unfortunately states do not require auto mechanics to be certified but reputable repair shops and dealerships readily advertise their mechanics as certified.

Betty
23 days ago

With the cost of camping now over the top for what one gets in return imagine what these greedy camp owners will charge if this is required!! A simple on line computer backround check should be enough..besides nothing is fool prove, look at some of our teachers!! I have decided to sell my motorhome and use motels again..much cheaper and safer during bad weather..

Mike Sherman
23 days ago

Are AEDs, training, CPR, first aid, etc. etc. mandated for hotels and motels? Laws and regulations are already excessive and redundant. If the business owners/managers fail in their responsibilities there are plenty of lawyers willing to get involved.

James DaVanzo
23 days ago

Do we really need more regulations for employment? All this is is a another attempt for California to grab more money and make it harder for people to find employment We’re not talking about the owners of the park, but the employees. And knowing California, most of the qualifications will be an arbitrary list that makes little sense in the real world, but has the “best of intentions”. We are talking about someone who’s main duties are to oversee day-to-day operations, pay the bills, keep the park in good repair. and manage the front desk. I’m not disrespecting managers, they have a difficult job to do, having to answer to their bosses (owners), and the parks clients.

Rod B
23 days ago

I don’t see how the training is going to change how the predatory mobile home park managers treat their tenants. It costs too much for most tenants to move. It’s not a law that mandates a change in their practices. However if I don’t like an RV park or it’s manager I will leave and not go back. I would also post a review on their website along with other review sites. Bad RV park managers loose repeat business Training isn’t going to change a thing.

Skip
23 days ago

Why not just let local governments set required standards on health and safety as they have folks doing it already. What next the tax payers need to build, pay for, maintain shelters and all for those that wish to boondocks. Just see one huge mess. I hope the rest of the country don’t follow what ever California is doing past history shows their bumbles.

BillyBogey
23 days ago

Yes & No. Do think Community Colleges need to offer Courses in RV Park Management & Basic RV Equipment Repair. Citation Driven as would think RV Park Visitors would appreciate & respect’s the effort The Park puts into “Quality”.

wanderer
23 days ago

That’s probably what the slumlords said back in 1850 before we had building codes. If we listened to them, po’ folks would still be living 10 to a room in 5 story walk-up cold water flats with sewer pipes discharging to the street.

It sounds like the main use of the reg would be as leverage to shut down bad and dangerous parks.

Steve
23 days ago

Thank you, Andy, for becoming an RVTravel editorial writer and journalist. Your expert insight into RV park management, operations, and legal challenges is much appreciated by most of your readers. Makes me wish you had sold your RV park sooner so you could have had time to contribute and write books years earlier!

Andy
23 days ago
Reply to  Steve

Thanks, Steve. Those who don’t share your sentiments are quick to pile on, so it’s nice to read an encouraging response now and then. Safe travels!

Kev
23 days ago

When the writer uses a scare tactic that has nothing to do with the bill it then becomes propaganda not an article.
Just my opinion

bill n stacey
23 days ago

Well Said!

Bill
23 days ago

Might be a good idea but like many of California’s good ideas it’s gonna cost money and the park’s residents and visitors are gonna pay for it. Is it worth it? Probably not. Are they going to do it anyway? Probably yes.

J J
23 days ago

I agree with it because campground owners are not doing it themselves. Last month we were in South Carolina when two tornadoes came through an hour and a half apart in the early evening. There was a lot of damage just 8 miles away. My weather radio alert came on and we headed to the laundry/restroom building, which was concrete block.

But the campground had no designated storm shelter and no alert system for campers. A couple of us went around and banged on RV doors and got more people and their kids out of their RV’s.

Get this, even the campground staff came over but the majority of campers probably had no idea. The campground had no damage but had a lot of trees. This easily could have been a disaster. I’d bet this is more common than not.

But in addition to “certification”, which essentially is an unregulated industry (anyone can create a certification, unlike licensing), the bill should include minimum life and health standards.

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
23 days ago
Reply to  J J

Your tornado warning experience is an excellent example of WHY regulation is needed and suggests some minimum standards. As an RN and former BSA ASM / ADC x 20 years I suggest: basic life support /CPR/Adult/child/AED certs, fire, tornado, hurricane/derecho , blizzard safety, and First Aid certification. Company protocol for holdups/threats of body harm to self or others, In addition some of the safety needs to be printed on camper registration info such as AED location and tornado shelters.

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
23 days ago

BTW, I’m the nurse/Boy Scout volunteer- DH just listens and nods when I run stuff past him. Mitzi Agnew Giles.

Micheal Whelan
23 days ago

Another government solution looking for a problem. Obvious attempt to exert control over the freedoms we are quickly loosing. More control equals more money for the government to waste. It is all about power not about safety and security. These people really need to get out of our business and find a real job…. and they wonder why people are leaving the state…

bill n stacey
23 days ago
Reply to  Micheal Whelan

Well Said!!!

Allen F
23 days ago
Reply to  Micheal Whelan

So, what freedoms are you referring to? The freedom to irresponsibly set up shop and take advantage of folks and their money with no accountability for public safety? Perhaps people think this is ok and figure the Darwin principle is at play here – let who they consider stupid people deal with the consequences-camp at your own risk. To me, having a warning and sheltering policy isn’t too much to ask – nor is knowing CPR or other life-saving techniques to help protect and assist their customers. I’m all for getting rid of over-regulation by the government, but without basic common sense industry standards then you have unsafe chaos. Unfortunately, there are those that don’t want even that in the name of ‘freedom.’ Go check out what that kind of freedom gets you in one of the many 3rd world countries. And if you want to look at what government regulation really looks like – take a peek at China. Personally, I’m grateful to be camping in the USA. Those that aren’t, enjoy beautiful Russia!

John Olson
23 days ago
Reply to  Allen F

Have you ever camped in China or Russia? Or even been there? Does every business in the USA have to have CPR or life saving technique training for its customers? How about City parks? Or Trails? Which do or don’t? Do Harvest Host locations need to be Certifed as managers and have AED units available? Are they taking advantage of their customers? Does “unsafe chaos” exist in campgrounds? Really?

Allen F
23 days ago
Reply to  John Olson

You are seeing more responsible businesses getting CPR training and you probably see more AED’s in the public setting. No, it isn’t mandatory but it IS the progressive and right thing to do. How do I know? I’ve taught many CPR and AED courses to businesses that care about their staff and customers. I have also witnessed first hand the life saving results of both! If it was your loved one that lived because responsible people and businesses made the effort to have the training and AED on site, you may sing a different tune. Come on! Are we going to lower the American standard (even more than it has embarrassing done so already) in the name of ‘freedom’? That’s just down right embarrassing! And no, I don’t plan on camping in China or Russia- I don’t trust them and I value the freedom that being a citizen of the USA gives me!

suzanne Ferris
23 days ago
Reply to  Allen F

Thank you for such a thoughtful reply to all the knee jerk reactionaries who equate their personal freedom as being the same as The Greater Good. I applaud the nurse who also wrote a reasoned reply to these anti- government crank cases.

We are blessed to be Americans; not tools of some vast totalitarian regime frightened of our own government.

Bob M
23 days ago
Reply to  Allen F

Our government regulations are no good here in the USA. Just a Monopoly to get your money. The city I live in has their own zoning and restaurant inspection. One restaurant I was in has a light hanging from the ceiling and an outlet in the bathroom with no cover. My son worked for a Pa. state park as a certified lifeguard as well as first aid. Years later they did away with the lifeguards and put signs up swim at your own risk. I’ve had three homes built by licensed contractors and it was amazing what they missed. Licensed contractor replaced my roof and didn’t install the drip edge right. Walking on the roof you can feel some wood sheets should have been replaced. I inspected union electricians work for the Army and they were too lazy to follow engineering drawings. I’d end up rejecting their work. Non electricians did a better job. I can just go on what I’ve seen.

Jesse Crouse
23 days ago
Reply to  Bob M

I agree Bob. I have worked both union and non-union jobs and if you wonder why the job has no integrity it’s because the person who did the job had none. How do you get people with integrity, a work ethic and just all around ethics is really the question. It’s not union vs. non-union. Until ownership steps up to the question, on their own or forced to, it’s a crap shoot to what you get. I always try to find out the rep a place has before i go there.