Retirement Housing Matters – Advocacy groups Council On The Ageing, Consumer Action Law Centre, Housing for the Aged Action Group and Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria are building on their demand for Retirement Village reforms in 2018 an election year in Victoria.
“Key points in the retirement housing matters campaign are:-
- Establish a Retirement Housing Ombudsman – Retirement housing residents need access to an industry- funded ombudsman service, to provide free, fair and binding determination of retirement housing disputes, across the full spectrum of retirement housing types. Currently, residents must go to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to resolve their disputes with operators, which is an expensive, lengthy and intimidating process. Running a substantial matter through VCAT is simply beyond the financial capacity of most retirees, and the process itself can be overwhelming. A case run by Consumer Action was independently assessed as costing over $250,000. As a result, many choose not to pursue legitimate grievances through VCAT, leaving those grievances unchallenged and largely unreported.
- Put a Stop to Excessive Fees – Retirement housing exit fees are currently unregulated and open to exploitation by operators. These fees appear to have no relationship to the value of the services provided. Exit fees must be reformed and regulated to prevent excessive price gouging, to provide greater clarity around pricing, and to ensure that residents can compare options. There are different types of exit fees, including, deferred management fees (DMFs), refurbishment and reinstatement fees, legal costs, share of capital gain and long-term maintenance fees. One of the most problematic exit fees is the DMF. These exit fees are generally 20 to 40% of the sale price of a unit. DMFs are applied in both residential park and retirement village contracts. These fees may not be clear to residents when they move in, making informed choice and comparison
difficult, if not impossible.
- Introduce Mandatory Minimum Training and Accreditation Standards – Shockingly, there are no minimum training or accreditation requirements for retirement housing operators. Residential parks are not even registered with Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV). The lack of minimum standards in retirement housing has a significant impact on the day-to-day lives of residents and their families, and it is simply unacceptable. Meanwhile, training and accreditation programs developed by industry have failed to meet appropriate standards, and lack credibility. Retirement housing employees should be required to meet minimum training and ongoing professional development standards. This training should be a minimum Certificate IV qualification under the Australian Qualifications Framework. This would not only improve the reputation and professionalism of the industry, but would recognise the unique skills and responsibilities required of managers. We also recommend ongoing professional development and banning managers who have significantly
breached their duties. Police checks should also be mandatory for all staff.
- Reduce the Complexity of Contracts – It is not uncommon for retirement housing contracts to exceed 100 pages in length. Lawyers at the Consumer Action Law Centre recently described these contracts as ‘some of the worst [they had] ever seen’. Older Victorians are often going through a traumatic and upsetting time of their lives as they
leave their family home to enter a village or other retirement living community. They should not be expected to navigate complex and lengthy legal documents to make significant life decisions.
Basic guidelines should be developed to ensure that contracts are expressed in plain English and meet a certain standard of readability. While the Retirement Villages (Contractual Arrangements) Regulations 2017 (VicIC) establish prescribed terms and layouts for management and residence contracts, they have failed to address the length and complexity of contracts. Consumer testing of any standard layouts or terms is essential.”
The Retirement Housing Matters campaign was first launched on Thursday November 30 – We’ve had the inquiry, now we need retirement housing reform!