Greens motion for retirement village reform

A Greens motion calling for a retirement village ombudsman passes the Legislative Chamber. 

For profit retirement villages in NSW have been exposed for price gouging, misleading marketing, and further dishonest business practices. A retirement village ombudsman would be a step in the right direction to fix this. 

Abigail tabled the following successful motion.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (14:41): I move:

(1)That this House notes that:

(a)retirement villages in New South Wales are home to more than 66,000 residents over 55 years of age across approximately 650 retirement villages in the State; and

(b)a 2017 joint investigation by the ABC and Fairfax Media exposed price gouging, misleading marketing, gratuitous fees and charges, and further dishonest business practices in the largest for-profit retirement village operators.

(2)That this House further notes that:

(a)the Inquiry into the NSW Retirement Village Sector conducted by Kathryn Greiner, AO [the Greiner report] found that the operation of the retirement village sector could be improved in three key areas, including increasing the transparency of exit fees and contracts, clarifying the funding arrangements for ongoing maintenance costs which are shared between residents and operators, and providing more support for residents to pursue disputes with operators; and

(b)the retirement villages amendment bills of 2018 and 2020 and associated regulations, which sought to give effect to some of the recommendations of the Greiner report, have been welcomed by advocacy organisations such as the Retirement Villages Residents Association.

(3)That this House notes the broad support among retirement village residents and operators outlined in the Greiner report for a retirement village ombudsman or similar dedicated retirement village dispute resolution body to assist consumers and operators in the sector through training, public education and complaint investigation, and further notes that:

(a)at most community forums conducted during the course of the Greiner report, the need for an ombudsman was raised;

(b)40 submissions explicitly called for the establishment of an ombudsman;

(c)advocacy organisations the Retirement Village Residents Association and the Seniors Rights Service have advocated for a dedicated retirement village ombudsman;

(d)the Greiner report recommended that the services of Fair Trading be expanded to include training, public education and complaint investigation;

(e)while Fair Trading offers retirement village complaint and mediation services, which provide dispute resolution assistance, they have no enforcement powers and there is no obligation on retirement village operators to cooperate with these processes; and

(f)complaints investigation and enforceable orders must be sought via the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal [NCAT].

(4)That this House further notes that the Retirement Village Residents Association maintains that the NCAT process remains overly burdensome on, and inequitable for, retirement village residents, because:

(a)the average retirement village resident is aged over 80 years old and, compared to the rest of the population, is relatively computer illiterate;

(b)retirement village residents typically do not have access to financial resources sufficient to enter NCAT proceedings as the vast majority of their financial assets are tied up in their retirement village property;

(c)retirement village operators typically have access to significant resources outside the reach of residents;

(d)in practice, section 45 of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 often results in retirement village residents pursuing their matter without representation while the village operator obtains legal representation; and

(e)as a result, matters between retirement village residents and village operators often represent an unfair and prejudicial balance of abilities and resources.

(5)That this House supports ongoing calls from the Retirement Village Residents Association for an ombudsman-style service to be made available to retirement village residents which would provide enforceable complaints resolution, including through imposition and enforcement of orders for financial compensation or specific performance.

(6)That this House requests the Minister for Fair Trading work with relevant stakeholders, including the Retirement Village Residents Association and industry bodies, to develop an ombudsman-style enforceable complaints resolution service to either replace, offer an alternative to, or follow a failure of the mediation services currently offered by Fair Trading.

Motion agreed to.

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