QLD: new bill pushes forward retirement village and Land Lease Community changes

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Housing Minister Mick de Brenni has introduced the Housing Legislation (Building Better Futures) Amendment Bill 2017 (Bill), which includes major changes to both the Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) Act 2003 (Qld) (MHRP Act) and the Retirement Villages Act 1999(Qld) (RV Act).

Mr de Brenni says the new bill will “increase transparency, improve pre-contractual disclosure processes and introduce new behaviour standards to make it easier to address undesirable behaviour in residential parks and retirement villages” with a “greater focus on dispute resolution.”

The reforms to the Manufactured Homes Act include limitations on rental increases, banning extra fees around utilities and meter readings and ensuring emergency services and health workers have access to residential parks.

The Retirement Villages Act will also be amended to “increase transparency in the relationships between operators and residents, and provide greater security to residents, balanced against ongoing industry viability,” he said.

“Greater financial transparency will be required about retirement village funds, budgets and financial statements, and will address resident and consumer advocate concerns about fees and contracts. Residents will also have greater protections around resales and exit entitlements or when there is a change in village operations. A regulation may also impose a requirement about the provision of equipment in a retirement village for public safety.” (Think defibrillation).

As we reported here, the QLD Government began an inquiry into retirement village costs and contracts three years ago, but sped up the regulation changes following the recent Fairfax/Four Corners investigation.

Key changes to the MHRP Act include a new two-stage disclosure process for entry into site agreements, with new residents to be given at least 21 days before entering into an agreement and the second stage at least 14 days.

If these are not complied with, residents have to be given a cooling-off period of 28 days. A cooling-off period of seven days will also apply regardless.

New behavioural obligations for park owners and homeowners will also require park owners to provide a “complete response” within 21 days to any correspondence regarding a complaint, proposal or question about the running of the park from a homeowner.

The categories for what defines a “residential park dispute” have also been widened to include a homeowners committee being allowed to bring a dispute against a park owner about the running of the park and a homeowner being able to bring a dispute against another homeowner about their rights or obligations under the MHRP Act.

Residential park disputes will also need to be mediated through a three-step process – negotiation between the parties, mediation before a mediator appointed by the Principal Registrar of QCAT, and then an application to the Tribunal.

In addition, the amendments have put forward considerable changes to the RV Act, including:

  • Mandatory buyback if the accommodation unit has not sold within 18 months from termination of the residence contract.
  • Regulation about the form and content of residence contracts.
  • A 21 day pre-contractual disclosure period, which can only be waived by the resident if they have received legal advice.
  • Village operators must also provide a “village comparison document” on their website which must be registered along with all promotional material (with a few exceptions); a “prospective costs document” which contains a summary of the estimated costs of moving into, living in and leaving the retirement village; and a condition report for the accommodation unit, with a process on entry and exit similar to that under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act.
  • Separation of the general services charges fund and the maintenance reserve fund.
  • A distinction between “reinstatement work” (that the resident is responsible for) and “renovation work” (that the scheme operator is responsible for).
  • If a unit has not sold within three months of the termination date, a new valuation of the resale value every three months must be considered or obtained (down from the previous six month timeframe).

The Bill will now go to the Public Works and Utilities Committee, which is due to report back by 28 September.

But with the Govt promising to have the Bill passed later this year, village and LLC operators can expect any changes to happen quickly.

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