The High Court has demanded three companies operating a caravan park in New South Wales Tweed River area pay more than $2.3 million in compensation to consumers relating to the sale of waterfront villas as “permanent residences”, despite the sites not having development consent for permanent accommodation.

Jonval Builders Pty Ltd, Hacienda Caravan Park Pty Ltd and John Allan Willmott, who lost their High Court appeal on Monday, were instructed to pay compensation, interest and costs totalling $2,353,926 after the Court found that the defendant companies had engaged in misleading, deceptive and unconscionable conduct.

The villas were marketed to consumers under the pretence that they were suitable for permanent residents, even though the sites on which they were located did not have planning consent for permanent accommodation.

NSW Fair Trading brought proceedings to the Supreme Court of NSW in 2019, after a series of complaints from consumers who purchased villas believing they would be able to live there permanently.

Minister for better regulation Kevin Anderson says the work conducted by NSW Fair Trading should give people that have been misled confidence that they are able to place trust in the governing body.

“This is consumer regulation working exactly as it’s meant to – government going into bat for consumers that were victims of unscrupulous players in the market.

“These operators acted unconscionably, leading to consumers, including retirees, paying a premium for what they believed were permanent waterfront residences.

“I’m glad that the consumers will be properly compensated,” he says.

“If you’re looking at buying a dwelling located inside a caravan park, make sure you check with council to confirm what you’re being offered is above board and seek independent legal advice on the sale.”