Vanessa Clarke from the Office of Ageing Well speaking at DCM Institute's Professional Development Day in Adelaide on 27 February 2024

Amendment Bill tabled in South Australia

Following extensive consultation with residents, operators and key stakeholders, the South Australian Health Minister, Chris Picton, tabled the Retirement Villages (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2024 (SA) (Bill) in Parliament last week.

The Bill introduces a series of proposed amendments to the existing Retirement Villages Act 2016 (SA) to provide greater clarity to operators on several matters and to safeguard the rights and interests of residents.

The key changes under consideration:

  • Enhanced Registrar Powers: The Bill suggests providing the Registrar with additional information-gathering powers to strengthen oversight.
  • Increased Transparency in Contracts: Residents can anticipate more detailed residence contracts and disclosure statements, ensuring a clearer understanding of their rights and obligations.
  • Mandatory Terms in Residence Contracts: The introduction of mandatory terms for all residence contracts will standardize agreements across the sector.
  • Deposit Regulation: The Bill proposes regulating the taking of deposits, imposing a cap of $5,000 to prevent excessive financial burdens on residents.
  • Shortened Buyback Period: The statutory buyback period is set to be reduced from 18 months to 12 months plus 30 days, offering quicker resolution for departing residents.
  • Controlled Recurrent Charge Increases: Restrictions on recurrent charge increases to CPI where contracts lack a fixed amount or formula.
  • Sinking Fund Contribution Limits: A cap of 1% of the unit’s current market value per year, not exceeding 12.5%, is proposed for sinking fund contributions upon departure.
  • Limited Alteration Refusals: Grounds for operators to refuse consent to prescribed alterations in a resident’s unit will be restricted.
  • Safety and Insurance Obligations: New obligations regarding village safety and insurance will be introduced for operators.
  • Restricted Scheme Terminations: Operators will face limitations on terminating a retirement village scheme in ‘part’.
  • Expanded Tribunal Powers: The SA Civil & Administrative Tribunal is set to gain enhanced powers to hear and make orders about retirement village disputes.
  • Mandatory Training Requirements: Village operators and staff will be required to undergo mandatory training.
  • Codes of Conduct: The Bill provides for additional codes of conduct to be observed by village operators, managers, staff, and residents.

The Bill remains with the South Australian Parliament with the proposed amendments to take effect at a date to be determined.

Speaking at DCM Institute’s recent Professional Development Day in Adelaide, Vanessa Clarke from the Department of Ageing Well noted that following proclamation, her team would still need to work on the accompanying regulations – which would take some time, and require further consultation.

DCM Institute’s industry partners, MinterEllison, are urging village operators in South Australia to carefully consider the Bill, make any necessary changes to their village contracts, and assess potential impacts on operations. This is to ensure they are prepared when the amendments commence.

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