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Legislation reviews – A heightened focus on resident rights will require more and better communication by operators

Retirement Village Act legislative reviews are underway in four states, so it was great to get updates from DCMI Industry Legal Partners:

  • Minter Ellison (NSW 7 QLD)
  • Russell Kennedy (VIC)
  • Jackson McDonald (WA)
  • O’Loughlins Lawyers (SA)

There was absolutely a common theme that there is a heightened focus by regulators and Ministers toward increasing residents’ rights.

Rosemary Southgate Partner, Russell Kennedy, succinctly shared her belief governments are clearly focused on creating rights-based frameworks that promotes:

  • resident independence
  • the ability to make their own decisions
  • a clear right to privacy
  • and a right to have security in their tenure

If this is not a big indicator that as operators we are likely to be compelled to review our operational practices and more specifically how we communicate and consult with residents, then I am not sure what is.

Information, governance, exit entitlements

The team from Minter Ellison went on to highlight the 3 key regulatory reform themes they believe are the focus for many of the reviews:

  • Information – disclosure, transparency and clarity
  • Governance – residents rights, standards of operations and training and qualification
  • Exit entitlements – buybacks, caps on recurrent charges, and reinstatement Vs renovation clarity

Disputes, training

In Victoria there is discussion on the need for a review of dispute resolution procedures and even discussion of the appointment of an independent body to guide disputes.

In Victoria and South Australia there is significant focus on training and qualifications and the operator’s responsibility to ensure staff have the adequate skills and maintain them, with both states keen to investigate the need for a qualification.

With a new Labor Minister in South Australia, and a pending election in Victoria, I am sure any new government will be keen to reinforce policies to uphold the rights of the consumer ie. residents in Retirement Villages, highly influenced by the well-coordinated resident associations.

Dialogue and communication remain key to respectful relations.

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