Living in a retirement village

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From the outset it’s worth emphasising that life in a retirement village will involve living in a community with an older age group. Although retirement villages are marketed to over 55s, the current average age of entry in Western Australia is 78 years, and the current average age of residents is 80 years.

The decision to move into a retirement village must be seen more as a lifestyle choice for the long term rather than an investment decision. Industry surveys indicate that people who understand these distinctions along with the terms of their contracts and what communal living entails, are generally happy with their decision to move to a retirement village.

Communal living doesn’t suit everyone’s temperament. Remember that you will live in close proximity to others and will have restrictions placed on your ability to make independent decisions concerning your residence and lifestyle. Communal living requires a ‘swings and roundabouts’ mentality – you will like some of the decisions impacting on your life better than others.

If you’re not suited to communal living, or you find you miss having younger people around, it can cost a lot of money to leave.

As a resident of a retirement village, you have certain rights under the Retirement Villages Act. These include residence contract cooling off periods, termination rights and  dispute resolution.

code of practice also applies. The code is law and covers the provision of information, as well as the promotion, sale and operation of villages. Operators must comply with the code. 

Most villages also have their own day to day rules, known as residence rules. These rules are not law, but your residence contract may require you to abide by them.

Names on the lease

Make sure both you and your partner’s name are on any title, lease or licence. Otherwise he/she may have to move out if you die or need to move to aged care.

Consider village rules around new partners. Check whether the rules allow for a new partner to live with you on a temporary or ongoing basis.

When the village operator sells

Retirement village residents cannot be evicted if a retirement village changes hands. New village owners are still bound by the contract you entered into with the previous village owner.

Your rights if the village operator becomes insolvent will vary depending on the contract you have entered into. While there are some statutory protections, this is a complex area and it is strongly recommended you get legal advice to see what your position would be in the event a village operator becomes insolvent.

Residents' committee

Residents of a retirement village may elect a Residents’ Committee if they wish to. If residents seek to form an incorporated association to carry out the function of the Residents’ Committee, this must be decided by a special resolution. Other committees can also be formed in the village for other purposes such as social activities, but there can only be one Residents’ Committee.

A Residents’ Committee is not a decision making body. It is a group of residents, elected by their fellow residents, to represent their interests and to carry out certain functions. Residents’ committees also provide an important channel for communication between the residents and management.

Residents’ Committees are free to set their own procedures, as long as these are not inconsistent with the law.

A publication called Guidelines for retirement village residents' committees  provides detailed information on setting up and running a residents' committee and include tools such as sample ballot paper, agenda and checklist. 

Dispute resolution

Disputes between residents, or between residents and the administering body, can sometimes occur.  Having open and respectful communication is the best way to prevent or resolve disputes.

The publication Guidelines for retirement village dispute resolution  provides a tool for handling disputes for village managers and residents.  It is designed to follow the dispute resolution process outlined in Division 6 of the Fair Trading (Retirement Villages Interim Code) Regulations (No.2) 2018 (Code) .  This process places strong emphasis on providing easy access to an informal and inexpensive process to resolve disputes.

If the dispute resolution process is unsuccessful, you may wish to lodge a complaint with Consumer Protection. You can complete the online complaint form.

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