Increased accountability for operators, improved transparency of exit fees, and improved dispute resolution processes will all be part of the NSW Government’s “crackdown” on the retirement village sector.

The NSW government has announced that it will accept most of the recommendations made in Kathryn Greiner’s review of the retirement village sector, which she delivered to the government in December last year. A small number of recommendations will be accepted in principle, and will be followed up with further investigation.

Ms Greiner considered 500 submissions last year as part of the review, and handed down 17 recommendations to the Government.

The Government said it will take immediate action on some measures in the report, and look in more detail at other measures.

“To give effect to the Greiner Review Report, the Government will take immediate action on some measures, and begin a more detailed examination of measures that have potential to have a greater impact on the sector,” the Government said.

The measures the Government will take include:

  • Increasing transparency in the sector by making it easier to understand terms and conditions when entering, living in, and leaving a retirement village,
  • Providing increased certainty for consumer about costs and charges,
  • Making operators more accountable,
  • Putting processes in place to improve the effectiveness of dispute resolution processes and outcomes,
  • Strengthening Fair Trading’s oversight of the retirement village sector,
  • Reviewing existing powers and penalties to strengthen and enforce compliance in the sector.

The Government didn’t make it clear which measures it would introduce immediately, and which it would delve into for more information.

The ABC reported that NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Kean, said the government planned a “crack down” on “unscrupulous exit fees”.  The report said retirement villages will have to abide to a mandatory code of conduct, and will be policed by retirement village ambassadors.

Response from the Industry

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) said it “supports the NSW Government’s efforts to safeguard the rights of retirement village residents.”

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said LASA and its retirement living members are committed to continuous improvement and look forward to working with the NSW Government on its areas of focus for retirement village directions.

“The Greiner Review Report concluded that improvements in the requirements for industry reporting and data collection would improve Fair Trading’s oversight of the sector and that industry best practice could be more consistently applied.

“It is essential that moves in this area are streamlined and do not simply add ‘red-tape’ and unnecessary costs to the village operators or residents,” said Rooney.

He also said, “it is important to recognise that the Greiner Review Report also identified a large number of positive experiences by residents, managers, operators and the industry at large, who requested minor changes only and are otherwise satisfied with their time in the village”.

Mr Rooney called for more information from the NSW Government.

“Further details of these NSW reforms are required,” he said.

“This strongly aligns with the NSW Government priorities. A National approach in this is essential for transparency and consumer clarity.”

The Greiner Review

Ms Greiner’s report followed media reports that revealed complex contracts and exorbitant fees being charged by retirement village company, Aveo. The conduct revealed in the report was likened to “financial abuse of the elderly”.

Ms Greiner’s report made recommendations in three key areas:

  • Increasing transparency of exit fees and contracts
  • Clarifying funding arrangements for ongoing maintenance costs
  • Providing more support when disputes arise.
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