The Retirement Villages Amendment Bill 2018 has introduced a raft of changes based on six of the 17 recommendations made by Kathryn Greiner AO in her report, including:
- New “rules of conduct” for operators for or with respect to professionalism, training, competencies, performance and behaviour (maximum penalty $11,000);
- A requirement that village operators explain contract information to residents once a year, if requested, including contract terms, maintenance charges and exit fees (maximum penalty $5,500); and “reasonable” estimates of the costs involved (maximum penalty $22,000);
- Improved dispute resolution and mediation services, managed by NSW Fair Trading;
- A requirement for annual audits of the village (maximum penalty $11,000) and the need for consent from residents for the appointment of auditors of accounts;
- New asset management plans detailing the items of capital that the operator is responsible for (maximum penalty $11,000);
- New requirements for the provision, sharing and publication of certain information about retirement villages; and
- The introduction of emergency plans and safety inspections for villages, including evacuation exercises and the display of key safety information (maximum penalty $22,000).
Ms Greiner’s report followed an extensive inquiry between August and December 2017 into the state’s village sector after the ABC/Fairfax Media launched a damning investigation into retirement villages.
Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean says the Government has listened to the concerns raised and taken “strong action to address the shortcomings in the industry.”
“We’re putting consumers first. I’m confident these changes will hold operators to account, while also providing peace of mind for residents who can access support if they need it,” he said.
Labor MP Yasmin Catley however criticised the lack of inclusion for a Retirement Village Ombudsman in the Bill.
“Residents tell us that they want the protections and remedies that come with an ombudsman. Labor will deliver this to residents of retirement villages. We will need to come back next year to make this reform to strengthen the rights of those living in retirement villages and residential home parks.”
“This bill was a good opportunity for the Minister to say, ‘I got it wrong. No-one knows what a retirement village ambassador is or what he or she will do and I acknowledge Labor’s initiative and back it in 100 per cent’,” she said.
Expect then to see further debate on these reforms.
You can download the full bill HERE.