Recommendation 1: Consider amendments to the Retirement Villages Act 1999 (NSW) to strengthen consumer protections and transparency around marketing practices.
Recommendation 2: Improve the up-front disclosure provided to prospective residents to make it simpler to understand the critical terms and conditions. This should be informed by an evaluation of the effectiveness of existing disclosure requirements.
Contracts, fees and charges
Recommendation 3: Require that a legally-binding, Exit Fees and Charges Statement is provided to residents early in the process. The statement should set out in plain-English all costs, fees and charges that a resident will likely be required to pay when leaving the village, how they are calculated and an explanation of any relevant resident’s rights under the legislation. The statement should include which items are optional and which items are required under the contract.
Recommendation 4: Require operators to provide residents with an opportunity for a regular contract ‘check-up’ during their occupancy and encourage family members or those holding Power of Attorney to be present.
Recommendation 5: Require an operator to buy back the unit after a maximum timeframe from a resident leaving the village that is a registered interest holder.
Funding for village maintenance and upgrades
Recommendation 6: Simplify the funding arrangements for maintenance of a retirement village by clarifying the definitions that apply.
Recommendation 7: Require operators to develop an asset register to increase transparency around maintenance of village assets.
Recommendation 8: Introduce a mandatory, accessible and independent step into the dispute resolution pathway which is appropriate for elderly residents and encompasses expertise in retirement village legislation.
Recommendation 9: Require operators to share information about the dispute resolution process in the village by:
- a) requiring that operators have an internal dispute resolution process in place, and
- b) increasing the obligations of operators to report on disputes to Fair Trading
Safety and security of the built environment
Recommendation 10: Improve the level of awareness of safety and security measures in the sector. Consideration should be given to:
- a) increasing consistency in the standard of practice across the sector, and
- b) implementing a requirement for regular fire and emergency drills in villages
Recommendation 11: Consider opportunities to advocate for age-appropriateness in village building design.
Administrative and operational practices of Fair Trading
Recommendation 12: Increase Fair Trading’s oversight of retirement villages through targeted compliance activities that focus on retirement villages.
Recommendation 13: Increase the level of collection of village operator and sector data including a requirement that operators report certain data to Fair Trading such as key village information and contract types on offer.
Recommendation 14: Overhaul and enhance the public register of retirement villages to provide information on the sector to members of the public.
Recommendation 15: Increase the level of awareness of prospective residents about retirement village living and their rights to facilitate informed consumer decision-making by:
- a) improving the accessibility of the Fair Trading website and introducing a single portal for retirement village information, and
- b) requiring operators to make the Retirement Villages Living Guide (published by Fair Trading) available to residents, and
- c) increasing the number of community information sessions focussed on retirement villages Training and conduct of village management
Recommendation 16: Require retirement village managers to undertake appropriate training to ensure that they have an acceptable level of knowledge and the skills suitable to managing a retirement village. States and territories could work together on this.
Recommendation 17: Increase the level of accountability of operators for the standard of conduct and quality of village management and consider:
- a) implementing a Code of Conduct which outlines performance and conduct standards of village managers, operators and residents, and
- b) the potential for a ‘negative licensing scheme’ involving mandatory public reporting of breaches of the Code of Conduct on a public register