Consumer Action Law Centre response to Retirement Housing Inquiry Final Report

Consumer Action has called on the Government to implement the recommendations in Final Report of the Inquiry into the Retirement Housing Sector, which it says will provide much-needed protections for residents. Consumer Action and its partner organisations (HAAG, RRVV and COTA Vic) have supported thousands of Victorian retirees in disputes with retirement housing operators, and we are heartened by the acknowledgment in the report that these retirees deserve a better consumer protection framework.

As stated in the Final Report, ‘Victorians deserve to feel confident that should they choose to move into a retirement village or park, they will find a suitable home where they will feel safe and enjoy their retirement years, and where this does not occur, there are processes in place to address these concerns.’ It is clear that significant reform is necessary to provide this confidence. The 766 submissions received by the Inquiry, the majority of which were submitted by residents of retirement housing, support this conclusion.

We urge the Victorian Government to respond to the report promptly, with a commitment to reform that will ensure older Victorians have safe, secure and fair retirement housing. We are particularly supportive of the Inquiry’s recommendations to:

  • review the Retirement Villages Act 1986 (Vic);
  • regulate deferred management fees;
  • improve training and accreditation standards for retirement housing providers; and
  • establish a low cost, timely and binding dispute resolution body covering the entire sector (such as an Ombudsman).

The Inquiry’s report is an important first step towards much-needed reform in the retirement housing sector. A number of additional reforms will be necessary to ensure an effective overall consumer protection framework for residents, particularly in relation to deferred management fees and security of tenure.

Below is a summary of our responses to each of the Inquiry’s recommendations:

 

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Recommendation

 

Advocates’ response

 

1. That the Minister for Planning give consideration to planning provisions that encourage increased supply of retirement housing, such as the establishment of Retirement Housing Zones. Support.
2. That the Victorian Government review the Retirement Villages Act 1986. The review should determine the effectiveness of the Act in providing consumer protection while allowing growth and innovation in the sector. Strongly support.
3. That Consumer Affairs Victoria collate its online ‘Retirement villages’ information into a booklet. Retirement village operators must provide this booklet to potential residents, either as a hard copy or electronically. Support.
4. That the Law Institute of Victoria’s Elder Law Committee develop professional accreditation for specialists in retirement housing and also provide training to general practitioners to improve their understanding of this area

of law.

Support.
5. That the Victorian Government investigate measures to ensure that all retirement village units hold the same owners corporation voting rights. Strongly support.
6. That the Retirement Villages Act 1986 and related regulations define whose responsibility it is to pay for repairs and maintenance, both inside units and in the communal areas and facilities. These amendments should further require all works to be undertaken within a reasonable and mutually acceptable timeframe. Strongly support.
7. That the Victorian Government require that retirement village operators disclose ingoing prices with and without deferred management fees (DMFs). Support.
8. That the Victorian Government require that deferred management fees are applied on a pro rata basis. Support.
9. That the Victorian Government require that retirement village operators provide every resident with an estimate of their exit fees every financial year. Support.
10. That the Victorian Government make provisions to allow retirement village operators to pay either the refundable accommodation deposit (RAD) or daily accommodation payment (DAP) for residents entering aged care until the resident’s unit is sold. Strongly oppose. Consumer Affairs Victoria has been consulting on this issue, and we refer to our submissions made to that process.
11. That the Victorian Government give consideration to developing a model for mandatory accreditation for all retirement housing providers. Strongly support.
12. That the Victorian Government ensure that an appropriate minimum Certificate level applies to retirement village management courses. Strongly support.
13. That the retirement housing sector engage more proactively with disability and aged care design professionals when designing villages to facilitate greater choice and an ability for people to age in place. Strongly support.
14. That the Victorian Government require retirement villages to report on compliance with maintenance plans funded by maintenance charges paid by residents. Support.
15. That the Victorian Government introduce a new alternative

for low cost, timely and binding resolution of disputes in the retirement housing sector. This may be through a new body or by extending the powers of an existing Ombudsman.

Strongly support. This reform is essential and urgently needed.
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