Property industry group Retirement Living has called for more operator input into a review panel tasked with overseeing Queensland’s controversial “buy back” laws.
Retirement Living executive director Ben Myers this month repeated their request to Queensland Housing Minister Mick de Brenni for additional input into the review and the panellists in a letter seen by Inside Ageing.
The terms of reference and an oversight panel have been established to review the amendments to the Retirement Villages Act, which force retirement villages to pay the exit entitlements of residents if they have not sold after 18 months.
Retirement Living executive director Ben Myers said it was disappointing they were not consulted in the terms of reference or the panel.
“We also understand that none of the review panel members have had hands on experience in the operations and financial management of retirement villages,” he said.
“While the members of the review panel are experts in their chosen fields, the financial operations and funding of retirement villages are complex and differ considerably across different operators – both large and small – and village types (eg freehold vs leasehold).
“With the review required to report on how industry viability can be maintained, we are concerned that the panel does not have anyone with a deep understanding of these matters.”
Industry says the new laws have the effect of requiring village operators to buy back freehold property. They have also been blamed for contributing to financial stress and some recent operator collapses into administration.
The panel for the independent statutory review is Griffith University Law School Dean and Head of School Associate Professor Therese Wilson, the University of Queensland Director Healthy Ageing Initiative Professor Laurie Buys, Gerontology senior lecturer Dr Maree Petersen, and Findex Partner Jacqueline Carmont.
A spokesman for the Housing and Public Works department said under the terms of reference, the expert panel would be required to consult with peak bodies including the Association of Residents of Queensland Retirement Villages, COTA, Leading Age Services Australia, National Seniors, Property Council of Australia, the Queensland Law Society and the Queensland Retirement Villages and Parks Advisory Service.
“In introducing the amendments requiring the review, the government [appointed] independent experts with skills in accounting and actuarial disciplines, as well as deep understanding of the needs and aspirations of older Queenslanders and their families,” he said in a statement.
The Queensland Government has said the 18-month rule offered protection for both residents and operators and there was recourse through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
It is understood there are about half a dozen matters going through that process, which was described by Retirement Living as “extremely adversarial”.
There have not been any public decisions to date.
The buy backs were a factor in the fall into administration of the regional Queensland Cooloola Waters Retirement Resort, in Tin Can Bay. Worrells administrators have said the directors did not have the capital to buy back the properties.
Recently proposed changes in New South Wales will allow residents to apply for their exit entitlement after six months in a metropolitan area and 12 months in the regions if they feel their property’s sale has been unreasonably delayed.
Retirement Living has called for a more flexible timeframe for the Queensland laws, especially given the expected property market changes amid the COVID-19 restrictions.