Guidelines for retirement village dispute resolution

This publication is for: 
Retirement village owner / operator

The information in this document is provided as a guide for village managers and residents. The dispute resolution process is outlined in Division 6 of the Fair Trading (Retirement Villages Code) Regulations 2015 (Code).

In any communal living situation with shared amenities, disputes between residents, or between residents and the administering body, may occur. Open and respectful communication is the best way to prevent or resolve disputes.

All residents of a retirement village want to enjoy their retirement years and willingness to communicate and compromise is essential to harmonious communal living.

The Code places strong emphasis on providing easy access to an informal and inexpensive process to resolve disputes.

Should the Code’s dispute resolution process fail to resolve the matter, either party can seek the assistance of the Commissioner for Consumer Protection.

The Commissioner can refer the matter for conciliation or investigation. Participation in conciliation is entirely voluntary and the outcome is dependent on the good will of all concerned.

The majority of disputes referred to the Commissioner are resolved at the conciliation and investigation stage. 

The Commissioner has the power under the legisaltion to provide information and mediation services to either party to assist with the resolution of the dispute or refer the matter to an independent external mediator.

Residents

Resident conflict and informal dispute resolution

Many disputes are caused by simple misunderstandings.

Should you and your fellow resident/s experience conflict then open and clear communication, negotiation and compromise are some of the tools you can use in the first instance when resolving the issue/s between yourselves.   Resolving conflict through open communication between you and your neighbour is an excellent way to ensure a positive on-going relationship and is the most practical way to resolve the issue.

Before using the dispute resolution processes under the Code you may find it useful to discuss the issue with a friend or advocate, for example, a member of the residents’ committee or a member of WARVRA, the Western Australian Retirement Village Residents Association. Throughout the dispute resolution process it is important to bear in mind that the best outcome will be one that is acceptable to all parties and that positive relationships between residents of the village are maintained.

If open and clear communication, negotiation and compromise are unable to resolve the matter, the Code’s formal dispute resolution process can be used to ensure that the dispute is dealt with promptly and fairly. Disputes that linger have a tendency to grow and spread to the rest of the village.

When dealing with a dispute with your fellow resident consider the following:

  • The other resident may be unaware there is a problem and their actions are adversely affecting you.
  • State your concerns from your point of view and explain how you feel.
  • Refrain from personal comments about your fellow resident.
  • Give your fellow resident an opportunity to respond and really listen to what they have to say.
  • Refer to the residence rules and contracts, if these are being breached.
  • Keep a record of all exchanges including dates, times and discussions relevant to the dispute.
  • Temember to focus on the problem not the person.
  • If the informal approach is getting off track, seek the assistance of the village manager to establish a framework for dealing with the issue.
  • Ask for an independent person to mediate the dispute if you think this will help.
  • Remain calm and respectful in all your dealings; if it is hard to stay calm ask for a break or for the parties to reconvene at a convenient time.
  • Be clear about what outcome you are seeking from this process but be open to alternatives that may be acceptable to both parties – there may be solutions that have not occurred to either resident.
  • Keep notes on the discussion and any agreed outcomes.

Dispute with the administering body

Your complaint may relate to concerns you have about how the village is being run, including the financial management of the village, the provision of facilities or services. Your administering body should welcome and encourage residents to bring their concerns and complaints to its attention. If, however, your administering body does not promote a welcoming environment in which residents may safely make their voices heard, the Residents’ Committee may be willing to speak on your behalf.  

While it is the responsibility of the administering body to manage the village, you have the right to be consulted and kept informed of issues related to the running of the village. You also have the right to have your concerns about the running of the village heard and properly considered. An open exchange of information between residents and the administering body serves to avoid or resolve issues. When the administering body readily explains why a decision has been made it may make the resident/s aware of aspects of management of which they were previously unaware.

Focus on specific issues you think are critical to the efficient running of your village. Positive outcomes are easier to achieve when issues are broken down into small components and dealt with one at a time.  After you successfully resolve your first issue, you may find that the remaining issues either fall away or are easier to resolve.

While the informal approach is the preferable way to solve disputes there will be occasions when communication breaks down or the matter is sufficiently serious to warrant a more formal solution. A more formal dispute resolution process is outlined in the Code.  

Formal dispute resolution process

Each village should have a documented dispute resolution process which is readily available to all residents. Any such process must incorporate the following procedures as outlined in the Code.

  1. If you wish to make a complaint you must:
    1. give written notice of the issue/s to all other people involved in the dispute and call on them to rectify or otherwise attempt to settle those matters (Notice of Dispute); and
    2. notify the administering body that the dispute has arisen.
  2. The administering body should confirm, in writing, receipt of the notice and the issues to be resolved, and clarify the outcome or remedies you are seeking.
  3. After receiving the Notice of Dispute:
    1. the second party/ies must acknowledge receipt of the notice in writing within 10 working days - the acknowledgement must give written reasons if any of the complaint matters are rejected; and
    2. the administering body must nominate a suitable person or body who is to deal with the dispute - the person or body should be a neutral party and should not have been involved in any of the disputed matters. The administering body should confirm their nominee is acceptable to all parties.
  4. Prior to the dispute/s meeting, parties to the dispute must exchange all documents and information relevant to the dispute.
  5. The appointed person should then convene a meeting of all parties no later than 20 working days after the issue of the Notice of Dispute (unless a later date is agreed by the parties) to attempt to resolve the matters in dispute. The venue for the meeting can be the retirement village or any other place as mutually agreed.
  6. Parties to the dispute can be supported by another person if each party to the dispute is notified of that person’s name.
  7. Nothing that is said, done or produced during the dispute process is to be used for any other purpose, or disclosed or communicated to another person, without the explicit agreement of the parties.
  8. The administering body must document the dispute process.
  9. Any matters that remain unresolved may be referred to the Commissioner for mediation as per clause 31 of the Code, or, in certain circumstances, the State Administrative Tribunal.

The dispute resolution process set out in Division 6 of the Code can be varied if the administering body agrees to the changes and they are passed by a special resolution at a meeting of the residents. 

Village managers

Resident conflict and information dispute resolution

Residents experiencing conflict should be encouraged to make every attempt to resolve issues between themselves. Many disputes or conflicts are due to simple misunderstandings or a lack of suitable information. Effective communication, negotiation and compromise are preferable to using more confrontational processes. It may be useful for the residents to discuss the issue with a friend or an advocate before using the dispute process available under the Code. An advocate may be a member of the residents’ committee or a member of the Western Australian Retirement Villages Residents Association (WARVRA).

If residents are unable to resolve a dispute informally, the formal dispute resolution process can be used to ensure that the dispute is dealt with quickly and fairly. Whichever approach is taken, it is essential that problems are dealt with quickly to ensure they do not escalate, involve more residents and become difficult to resolve.

In dealing with a dispute between residents, village managers should attempt to:

  • establish a framework for dealing with the complaint and obtain the agreement of both parties to that process;
  • conduct any discussions in a neutral location acceptable to both parties;
  • remain impartial and fair to both parties;
  • appoint an independent person to deal with the complaint, if necessary;
  • clearly identify the substance of the complaint by carefully listening to and questioning both parties;
  • summarise the key points to ensure you have correctly understood the issues;
  • seek input from other parties or witnesses to confirm the facts, if necessary;
  • have the complainant clearly identify what outcome they are seeking from this process;
  • suggest alternatives that may be acceptable to both parties;
  • encourage compromise;
  • ensure that you maintain control of the process. If the discussion becomes too heated to be productive, suggest suspending the process and re-convening at a later time or date;
  • document the process and any agreed outcomes.

Dispute with the administering body

It is important to remember residents are paying substantial fees to live in the village and they have a right to be consulted, kept informed and have their concerns about the village dealt with respectfully. Many issues can be avoided or resolved by simply providing adequate information.

The resident’s complaint may concern the way the village is being run, including concerns about the financial management of the village, or the provision of facilities or services. It is important that residents feel comfortable enough to raise concerns with the administering body without fear of intimidation or retribution. The best way to achieve this is to maintain an open, consultative approach to residents, being prepared to listen to their concerns and willing to negotiate an appropriate outcome. The residents’ committee may also be a valuable means of resolving residents’ concerns in an informal way.

Where this type of informal approach has failed, or in situations where the resident does not feel comfortable raising the issue informally, the formal dispute resolution process may be appropriate.

Formal dispute resolution process

Each village should develop, document and publish their dispute resolution process and make it readily available to all residents. Any such process must incorporate the following procedures as outlined in the Code.

  1. The resident making the complaint must:
    1. give written notice of the issue/s to all other people involved in the dispute and call on them to rectify or otherwise attempt to settle those matters (Notice of Dispute); and
    2. notify the administering body that the dispute has arisen.
  2. It is recommended that the administering body provide written receipt of the notice and the issues to be resolved, and clarify the outcome or remedies being sought as part of the required dispute documentation process.
  1. After receiving the Notice of Dispute:
    1. the second party/ies must acknowledge receipt of the notice in writing within 10 working days - this acknowledgement must give written reasons if any of the complaint matters are rejected; and
    2. the administering body must nominate a suitable person or body to assist with the  resolution of the dispute - the person should be a neutral party and should not have been involved in any of the disputed matters. It is recommended the administering body confirm their nominee is acceptable to all parties.
  1. Prior to the disputes meeting, parties to the dispute must exchange all documents and information relevant to the dispute.
  1. The appointed person should then convene a meeting of all parties no later than 20 working days after the issue of the Notice of Dispute, unless a later date is agreed by the parties, to attempt to resolve the matters in dispute. The venue for the meeting can be the retirement village or any other place as mutually agreed.
  1. Parties to the dispute can be supported by another person if each party to the dispute is notified of that person’s name.
  1. Nothing said, done or produced during the dispute process is to be used for any other purpose, or disclosed or communicated to another person, without the explicit agreement of the parties.
  1. Any matters that remain unresolved, may be referred to the Commissioner for Consumer Protection for mediation as per clause 31 of the Code, or, in certain circumstances, the State Administrative Tribunal.

The dispute resolution process set out in Division 6 of the Code can be varied if the administering body agrees to the changes and they are passed by a special resolution at a meeting of the residents.  

Consumer Protection
Guide / handbook
Last updated 09 Nov 2017

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