Retirement village owners and operators have agreed on an action plan to deliver higher standards, clearer and simpler information about costs and contracts, and an independent umpire to resolve disputes.
More than 20 operators met with retirement village resident association leaders from around the country in Melbourne last week to hear resident feedback and work on common issues.
As a result of the discussions, the retirement village industry has committed to an 8-point plan that is designed to lead to greater transparency and higher standards across the industry.
This will be achieved by supporting mandatory accreditation for retirement village operators, ensuring contracts are consistently clearer and more understandable and providing better dispute resolution mechanisms.
Ken Morrison, Chief Executive of the Property Council of Australia, which is driving the plans, says the industry is laying the foundation for giving greater residents more opportunities to have their say, and ensuring residents have greater confidence that disputes and concerns are fairly dealt with.
“Over 180,000 older Australians live in retirement villages. This action plan is about giving residents, their families and the broader community confidence that the interactions between residents and the villages they are part of, reflect community expectations.
“Our retirement villages should be places where all residents feel they are being treated fairly, kindly and where they can have their say. This action plan will lay the foundation for an industry where complaints are better managed and residents get a better service.
Ben Myers, Executive Director – Retirement Living at the Property Council of Australia, says the action plan will form the basis of future discussions with politicians and regulators about enhancing the industry.
“We know from independent surveys and resident feedback that the clear majority of village residents are enjoying the retirement village lifestyle and the advantages it provides,” Mr Myers said.
“But there are improvements that operators in the industry need to make, to ensure residents have complete certainty about their contract, including what they’re paying for and when they’re paying it.
“Together with resident representatives we have identified some key issues for action, and we are commencing the work on these straight away.
“We look forward to working constructively with state and federal governments so that residents are reassured that their interests remain paramount to retirement village operators across Australia. The action plan we are implementing will better equip operators to continue to improve, and help correct misconceptions that have occurred recently.
“We invite any operator, resident or member of the public to contact us via our website at www.retirementliving.org.au with any feedback they may have,” Mr Myers said.
- Support nationally consistent retirement village legislation and contracts.
- Ensure there are transparent and easy-to-understand descriptions in contracts of entry pricing, ongoing service fees, reinstatement costs and fees and payments relating to departure, so residents have certainty about the costs associated with living in a retirement village.
- Encourage all potential residents to seek independent legal advice before signing a contract, and work together with government and the legal profession to make this happen. We will also encourage potential residents to share this information with family members and trusted advisers.
- Improve training and professional support for village managers, sales people and other staff who engage directly with current and potential residents.
- Commit to improve industry village accreditation standards and coverage, and support government initiatives to make accreditation a mandatory requirement for operating a village.
- Work with the Australian Retirement Village Residents Association to implement an industry Code of Conduct to set and maintain high standards about the marketing and operation of villages, as well as dispute management procedures for all operators and residents.
- Commit to the establishment of an efficient and cost-effective government-backed independent dispute resolution process, such as an Ombudsman or Advocate, for disputes that are unable to be solved at a village level.
- Maintain and strengthen the relationship between industry and the Australian Retirement Village Residents Association to make sure resident issues are clearly identified and addressed.