Retirement Villages Act
Speech to Parliament
3 December 2014
Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 15:20 :10 ): I rise to speak today about retirement villages in my electorate and the proposed recommendations of the select committee to change the Retirement Villages Act.
I am fortunate to have some very proactive people in my community who have a real passion for this sector. There are a number of villages across my electorate—including Albion Mews, Dover Gardens; Walnut Grove Estate, Old Reynella; Grandview Heights, Trott Park; and Life Care Village, Old Reynella—and there is scope to build more villages in the future to support this growing sector.
Across the state, there are over 500 registered villages that accommodate more than 24,000 residents. By 2036, the number of people over 65 years in a retirement village in South Australia will reach 495,000. With an ageing population, retirement villages are expected to increase in number and popularity in the years ahead. I note that the recent Select Committee on Retirement Villages came up with some very good recommendations to amend the act and make it more workable for the increasing lifestyle choice within our community.
There were more than 30 recommendations in total and, while I am not going to explore them all here today, I would like to touch on some that have been raised with me by members of my community. Firstly, it was noted in the report that the name of the act could be looked at because so many varieties of retirement villages are available today and in some cases people could be living in them who are not retired. It was suggested that a name change around the lifestyle these villages offer could be considered.
Many people who live in retirement villages have raised concerns about the lack of clarity about contractual and administrative matters, and I note that this was outlined in recommendation 4 from the committee. Many people go into retirement village accommodation in some cases not having read the contract or, in other cases, not having understood the contract due to its legal complexity. Some people are unclear that they face the possibility of having to pay significant costs if they choose to leave the village in either the short or long term. These are known as 'exit fees', and these fees and charges vary between different villages. Many residents have also faced a variety of unexpected charges.
The recommendations of the committee include a suggestion that the act be amended to introduce standard disclosure documents prescribed by regulations to assist residents in comparing villages and in understanding their rights and obligations. It was suggested that the standard disclosure documents include information relating to all fees and charges that residents will be responsible for prior to entering the village, while residing in a village and upon leaving a village, as well as examples of exit fee scenarios and definitions of fees, charges and funds. A large number of people have raised these points with me. This is a key issue that has been raised with me in my electorate.
People looking at this style of living want it made simpler. They do not want to have to engage lawyers at every turn. They do not want to burden their children or families with having to help them through reading pages and pages of documentation. They just want the legalities around their fees and charges outlined clearly in easy to understand language. The suggestion of an extra 15 days to cool off on contracts, which I noted was supported, also had a good response from my community.
It was noted that the minister did not support the concept of a web-based calculator being developed so that residents are able to enter exit scenarios and be provided with examples of how much their refund amount would be under various scenarios. The minister also did not support the suggestion that the Property Council be encouraged to produce a set of pro forma contracts that are recommended templates for operators. The Office for the Ageing currently produces pro forma contracts that are reflective of the act's requirements so, hopefully, with the proposed changes to the act, the pro formas will be automatically changed and the contracts will reflect these amendments.
Greater transparency in relation to management fees and head office costs charged to village dwellers is another issue that is prominent with people who have spoken to me, as is the ability of residents to appoint an independent valuer on vacating the village if a valuation is not agreed to between both parties.
Given the perceived growth in this sector over the coming years, I trust the government will take up the vast number of recommendations that have come out of this report. I look forward to them following the recommendations and putting measures in place to make the Retirement Villages Act a better piece of legislation that is far easier to follow and understand. For all involved, this is a vitally important area that needs to be amended, and the people in my community feel that way.