Retirement village code of conduct


Retirement village ambassadors, compulsory code of conduct among sweeping reforms for NSW sector

Retirement villages will have to abide to a mandatory code of conduct — and will be policed by retirement village ambassador — in a range of sweeping reforms set to be introduced to the sector in New South Wales.

Buying into a ‘financial sinkhole’

One former resident describes Aveo’s business practices as “totally rapacious, I don’t know how they get away with it”.

Described as a “good start” by the Retirement Villages Residents Association (RVRA), the proposed reforms come on the back of a 2017 review into the retirement village sector led by Kathryn Greiner.

The Greiner Review came after a joint investigation by the ABC’s Four Corners and Fairfax Media into retirement village company Aveo that uncovered exorbitant fees and complex contracts, described by some residents as “financial abuse of the elderly”.

After reviewing 500 submissions, Ms Greiner — who was involved the Gonski Review and NSW Catholic Funding Review — handed the NSW Government 17 recommendations in a report in December.

The NSW Government today announced it would accept the majority of the proposals, whilst a “small number” of recommendations would be “accepted in principle” with further consultation required.

Some of the recommendations included:

  • Improving up-front disclosure provided to prospective residents, making it simpler to understand the critical terms and conditions.
  • A legally-binding exit fees and charges statement is provided early in the process.
  • A requirement for operators to provide residents with an opportunity for a regular contract check-up during their occupancy.
  • A requirement for an operator to buy back the unit after a maximum timeframe from a resident leaving the village that is a registered interest holder.
  • Simplifying the funding arrangements for maintenance.
  • Fairer dispute resolution processes.
  • Increasing Fair Trading’s oversight of retirement villages through targeted compliance activities that focus on retirement villages.
  • The introduction of a code of conduct.

The Government did not specify which recommendations it had “accepted in principle” and which ones it was accepting unconditionally.

However, NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean emphasised a planned “crackdown” on “unscrupulous exit fees”.

“The review is all about putting power back in the hands of retirement village residents and their families,” he said.

RVRA president Tom Gate described it as a “good start” to bring the industry up to modern day standards.

“We haven’t had an opportunity to go through [the report] properly as an association yet, but we will,” he said.

Mr Gate said the association was pushing for a retirement village ombudsman, and was “disappointed” that was not one of the recommendations.

There are 55,000 residents in retirement villages across the state, with predictions it will skyrocket to more than three times that in the next decade.

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