Accommodation types - Retirement villages

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The style of buildings that make up retirement villages range from units, apartments and villas to townhouses and freestanding homes. Accommodation can include independent living units, serviced apartments and hostel accommodation. 

The accommodation in a retirement village is designed for seniors and may include additional fixtures and fittings, such as handrails, emergency call buttons and intercom systems.

Retirement villages should not be confused with residential aged care. Retirement villages cater mainly for people who are able to live independently. Although some villages have aged care facilities on the same site or an adjacent site, entry to these facilities is determined by Commonwealth laws.  Despite what many people think, and the fact retirement villages are often located with or near aged care facilities, being a resident in a village DOES NOT guarantee you a place in a particular aged care facility.

If you are an existing retirement village resident, your eligibility for residential ages care will be determined by Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT), so placements within the aged care facility cannot be guaranteed by the village operator.

Ownership and occupancy

Different ownership and occupancy rights exist in retirement villages in Western Australia, depending upon the contract signed between the resident and the village operator prior to entry. 

Some contracts are in the form of a licence or lease giving a right to occupy, others allow the resident to purchase the premises outright as a strata title unit or acquire ownership through a ‘purple title’ arrangement. The various legal forms include:

  • Freehold title, which can be: 
    • strata title – where the resident purchases ownership of a defined portion of land or building; or 
    • purple title – where the resident acquires an undivided interest in the whole of the retirement village as a co-owner.
  • Lease/Licence – where a resident enters into a contract that gives the resident a long term right to occupy the premises but they never own the premises. The lease/licence may or may not be registered on the title.
  • Other forms, including shareholder and company title.

Some villages offer rental as well as purchase and lease options and some offer rents that are capped at a percentage of income. This allows people on low incomes with few assets to choose retirement village living. If you rent, you may be eligible for Commonwealth Rent Assistance. Rental contracts in a retirement village are not subject to the Residential Tenancies Act.

You might think the most important factor would be whether you will own your unit or simply lease it. The reality is provisions in the residence contracts for strata and purple title villages can mean many of the arrangements in these types of villages are similar to lease villages, such as control over resale or requiring the payment of substantial exit fees. Additionally, buying a unit in a strata or purple title retirement village can incur some costs not payable in lease villages. These costs include payment of stamp duty and the requirement to continue to pay recurrent charges, even after you have left the village, until the premises are sold.

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