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Texas Association of Campground Owners

TACO Executive Addresses Theft of Service at Parks


The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) has spent many years working to amend existing state laws to make it easier to remove guests on the basis of “theft of service” or “trespassing” legislation.

The idea, according to TACO Executive Director and CEO Brian Schaeffer, is to create the legal basis to quickly remove guests who fail to pay for site services or otherwise violate park rules, just as if they were staying in a hotel or motel.

But during a legal affairs seminar on the second day of TACO’s Spring Meeting Wednesday, Schaeffer said the association’s efforts to modify state statutes mean little if local law enforcement authorities know nothing about these statutes or if they automatically handle every kind of guest dispute as a “landlord-tenant” issue that has to go through a civil court process.

It is, therefore, up to park operators to visit with their local law enforcement authorities as soon as possible to find out how they interpret state laws governing “theft of service” and “trespassing” at RV parks, Schaeffer said.

“You need to talk to local law enforcement from an educated standpoint,” said Schaeffer. “Visit with law enforcement, you need them to be on your side.”

He added that the park operators can print out latest versions of applicable state laws involving expulsions and evictions, which are posted at www.tacomembers.com

“Take the laws and ask (your local law enforcement authorities), ‘How do you interpret this?’ ” Schaeffer said. “You need to able to approach these people, get their opinion and know up front what they are going to be able to do to help you or not help you.”

If local law enforcement officials still refuse to enforce state statutes involving RV parks, ask them what you can do to improve your chances of having guests quickly removed if they fail to pay or otherwise violate park rules. This may involve having every guest sign a “site service agreement,” if they haven’t done so previously.

“If they say (they will not remove guests based on state ‘theft of service’ or ‘trespassing’ laws), then you have to learn how to process evictions quickly,” Schaeffer said, adding that park operators have to proactively “adapt” to their local circumstances if law enforcement will not honor RV park specific laws.

“Learn to process evictions quickly and ruthlessly,” Schaeffer said. Otherwise, he said, your park will lose money.

Schaeffer noted that some park operators run criminal background and credit checks on every guest. He added that when companies call to reserve a block of campsites for their workers, background checks should be run on every guest.

One park operator attending Schaeffer’s seminar said it’s also worthwhile to obtain contact information for every guest’s “next of kin” in case they die, or some other emergency situation occurs while they are at the park.

TACO’s annual trade show also took place Wednesday with some 50 vendors who showcased their products, including several park models and a covered wagon. The evening’s events included a “TACO Unity Dinner” and the association’s annual auction, which raises money for TACO’s legislative affairs program.

During today’s Spring Meeting, there will be a session on customer service with a focus on the pros and cons of automation versus personalization.

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