Top 5 Legal Issues for Glamping Business And Unique Holiday Rental Owners

What legal issues do I need to consider, how do I structure my Terms of Service and what's included in a Privacy Policy? These are a few common questions I'm asked by concerned business owners who I support in my programs. Obviously, as I'm not a trained lawyer I can not give advice in this area, however, that doesn't mean sticking our heads in the sand is a good idea either.

The fact is that occasionally things do happen. The pandemic is one such out-of-the-ordinary event that no one could have predicted but since then everyone has been racing to get their Terms of Service updated in a way that helps make cancellations and refunds a smooth process in the face of a challenging situation.

So I was delighted when Amy Saunders approached me to help out. Amy is a Principal at the international commercial law firm Support Legal and has been advising travel and tourism businesses on legal issues for many years.

Amy is also in the process of setting up her own tourism business and therefore understands the struggles involved for new owners trying to make sense of the legal quagmire. As a result, I asked her to share some of the most frequent legal issues for glamping businesses or unique holiday rentals.

Amy Saunders | Principal at Support Legal 

This is not intended to be legal advice or an exhaustive list of issues and should not replace the advice of a good lawyer. The issues have been considered from a UK (English law) perspective, but there are similar themes in other jurisdictions.

Starting any business can be overwhelming, but for glamping site owners, the myriad of legal issues to consider can be daunting for even the most commercially astute.

This article covers the top 5 legal issues for glamping business owners, as follows:

  1. How should I structure my business?
  2. What partnership options are available to me?
  3. What legal documentation do I need?
  4. How do I comply with data protection laws?
  5. What regulations do I need to consider?

1. How should I structure my business?

There are a few options available to potential glamping business owners considering setting up their business in the UK:

  • Planning permission – once approved, planning permission is generally permanent, so this is understandably the most attractive option for most. However, the associated costs of consultants, council fees, and reports including protected species, heritage impact, and visual impact etc, can make the process a long and expensive one, prompting businesses to increasingly consider alternatives.
  • 28 day permitted development – landowners are permitted to use their land as they see fit (within reason) for 28 days of the year, including for camping/glamping. However, please note, you must still comply with various regulations and legislation, you cannot engage in engineering works and the tents/structures must be taken down at the end of the 28 day period.      
  • Exempt organisations - another option is to apply for an exemption certificate from an exempt organisation.  Organisations such as the Greener Camping Club and Freedom Camping are exempt from the requirement to obtain planning permission and can permit you to operate, subject to restrictions on the number of tents and/or caravan like structures.      

In terms of legal structures, there are various options with pros and cons of each, these include:

  • Sole Trader – it’s relatively straightforward to operate as a sole trader. Effectively you are self-employed, operating the business in a personal capacity. The major downside of this is that you are personally responsible for the liabilities and debts of the company.
  • Limited Liability Company – unlike the sole trader model, by setting up a Ltd company the shareholder/director’s personal assets are protected in the event of company insolvency, etc.
  • Partnership – if you have a business partner, partnerships can either be incorporated (providing the same protections as limited liability companies) or simply documented and registered with HMRC. With the latter, your liability is similar to that of a sole trader and personal assets are potentially vulnerable.

Obviously, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but limited liability (either by setting up a limited liability company or partnership) is usually preferred.

You can read an interesting summary of the various models here: Choosing the right business structure - Companies House

2. What partnership options are available to me?

Sometimes combining forces with others is the more effective way to get a business off the ground in terms of risk and cost. Whether you’re partnering up with a friend, family member, franchisor or local landowner, it’s always worthwhile having a clearly documented legal arrangement in place.

Some of the options we see are set out below:

  • Partnership/joint venture/franchise – rather than paying out a fixed amount on rent each month (which may be costly in the early days before your business is making money) you may decide to partner up with a landowner on a profit or revenue share basis instead. Similarly, you may wish to partner with others with a different skill set than you.  There are also various businesses in the UK that provide branding, marketing/admin, and set up support in exchange for a share in your profits (Featherdown Farms is one example). In these types of arrangements, documenting who is responsible for what and what happens if the relationship breaks down is critical – we see far too many cases of partners ending up in a dispute without an agreement in place to protect them, or with a poorly drafted agreement. 
  • Lease/license to use land – if you don’t necessarily want to enter into a partnership with the relevant landowner, then another option is paying to use the land. This could either be by way of a lease (exclusive use of land) or a license (usually a shared / non-exclusive right to use the land). If you do go down this path, it’s important to consider the term (duration) of the agreement (you don’t want to be getting kicked off the land after investing in set-up costs), what infrastructure/resources you expect the landowner to provide, insurance (and at whose cost) and what (if any) other activities will be permitted on the land. Finally, an indemnity (a promise to pay compensation) from the landowner for any claims made against you for their acts, omissions or breaches of the contract.

Of course, there are other models (including investment by third parties), but this should provide some inspiration for options.

3. What legal documentation do I need?

In addition to the agreements mentioned above (e.g., documenting partnerships), we recommend every business has the following legal documents in place:

  • Terms of use – governing acceptable use of your website, etc.
  • Terms and Conditions – effectively a contract between you and your customers
  • Privacy Policy – setting out how you will treat your customers and website users' data
  • Cookie policy – setting out how you use cookies on your website (if applicable)

Sometimes business owners also request that their customers sign a release of liability (occasionally referred to as a liability waiver) to protect the business owner against liability for personal injury claims. These waiver letters are often unenforceable, face scrutiny by the courts and should never replace risk assessments, caution or insurance!  If you do decide you’d like a document like this in place, it should always be drafted by a legal professional.

In addition to the above, glamping businesses should also regularly risk assess their businesses and keep detailed records of such assessments. This isn’t just a ‘box ticking’ exercise – it will keep your customers safe and potentially provide you with a defence if you are ever caught up in a claim and you have done all you can to keep your guests and staff safe. Potential hazards include fires, slipping, falling and other injuries. Of course, Covid19 has brought a whole new level of risk assessing to glamping businesses (probably one for another blog post)!

4. How do I comply with data protection laws?

Data protection compliance can feel daunting, but it really isn’t something to be afraid of if you familiarise yourself with relevant legislation. However, compliance does go further than simply having a privacy policy and as a business owner, you really should be familiar with the requirements, as breaches attract significant penalties and reputational impact.  Always seek legal advice if in doubt – it could be a significant cost saving in the long run.

The Information Commissioner's Office publishes some very useful guidance, checklists and self-assessment tools. We urge you to review the guidance and take any requests from guests re data seriously. You may also have received a letter about paying a data protection fee to the ICO – this letter is genuine and unless you are exempt (unlikely) then prompt payment is advised. For organisations | ICO

5. What regulations do I need to consider?

Without going into too much detail on the relevant legislation, some of the issues that glamping business owners should consider (and if necessary) seek advice upon, include: 

  • Fire safety
  • Gas safety
  • General health and safety (including preventing legionnaires – sites with hot tubs beware)
  • Music and TV licences      
  • Licences for animal-related activities
  • Alcohol licences 
  • Food safety

We hope you found this summary of key considerations helpful.

Amy Saunders is a Principal at the international commercial law firm Support Legal. If you’d like any further support (including with drafting your legal documentation), Amy can be contacted at [email protected] or

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