‘Misleading and inaccurate portrayal of village life’: Retirement village owners retaliate in battle to reform sector
Retirement village owners have proposed a set of “voluntary reforms” that they hope will ward off the threat of government regulation.
It includes a crackdown on unfair terms in retirement village contracts and village operators who take too long to return capital to residents who leave a village.
On August 10, village residents’ representative Nigel Matthews invited MPs from the House of Commons Social and Community Services Committee to play a game of “villageopole” to highlight the need for fairer treatment for elderly residents. from the village.
But Graham Wilkinson, chairman of the Retirement Villages Association (RVA), hit back at a committee hearing on Wednesday by telling MPs the game of villageopoly had given them a ‘misleading and inaccurate portrayal of village life’.
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“Independent research conducted by the UMR shows overwhelming satisfaction rates. There is no other industry like ours with such satisfaction,” said Wilkinson.
Villageopoly was designed to draw MPs’ attention to unfair terms in retirement village contracts, and Matthews said: “We’re 100% in the game.”
Retirement villages provide managed housing for retirees and 50,000 older people now live in the 407 RVA member-owned villages.
People who enter retirement villages pay to buy an Occupancy Rights Agreement (ORA), getting most of their capital back when they leave.
But residents say some ORAs are unfair and some departing residents have to wait far too long to get their principal back.
This could make it difficult for them to transition into elderly care at a very vulnerable time in their lives, they say.
The Retirement Village Residents Association, led by Matthews, has asked Parliament for an update to the two-decade-old laws covering retirement villages.
The petition included a call for the return of ORA’s capital within 28 days, which the village operators said would impose unreasonable financial stress on them.
The petition sparked industry action.
Wilkinson told MPs that RVA members had now agreed to a “voluntary” package of reforms for its members, who made up 95 per cent of the retirement village sector.
Among the main changes is the obligation for village farmers who are members of the RVA to pay interest on unpaid capital, if a former resident has not been reimbursed within nine months of leaving a unit.
Its members would be asked to stop charging weekly fees once a unit was terminated and released.
It would also ask members to remove unfair contract terms.
Matthews explained to MPs the difficulties that delays in reimbursing capital to departing residents could cause, particularly when they had to move to care facilities.
The RVA’s voluntary reforms included a commitment by its members to take all reasonable steps to assist departing residents who needed their capital to enter residence in order to obtain a loan from the Department of Social Development.
If it was not possible to obtain a loan, the village operators would lend the departing resident enough money to cover his care costs, until his capital was returned to him.
The RVA’s voluntary reforms would only cover its members and would be voted on by members next year.
“We have always accepted the need to make improvements to the industry’s consumer protection regime where they are feasible and make sense,” said Wilkinson.
“Developing and applying industry best practices is a more efficient and fairer way to address these issues rather than legislative upheaval for the sake of it,” he said.
Matthews called the RVA’s voluntary reforms a token gesture that has failed to address the sector’s pressing problems.
The government is committed to reviewing the legislation.
Retired Commissioner Jane Wrightson supports the review of the legislation.