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Retirement village legal advice

Seniors Rights Service Retirement Village Legal Service solicitors provide legal advice on retirement village issues to current, former and prospective residents of retirement villages in NSW.

Common issues our solicitors can help with include:

  • repairs and maintenance
  • village budgets and recurrent charges
  • variations to services or facilities
  • resident committees and meetings
  • moving out of a village – departure fees, refurbishment and sale of units
  • village operator proposing to sell or close down the village

Our solicitors may also visit retirement villages on request to conduct sessions to educate residents about their rights and responsibilities and to provide information about Seniors Rights Service. We can customise an education session to address a particular issue in your village, if required.

Contact the Retirement Village Legal Service to discuss your issue or request an information session 02 9281 3600.

Know Your Rights in a Retirement Village

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What do I need to know about Retirement Villages?

Moving into a retirement village is a big decision. It’s important to know the facts first. Seniors Rights Service can provide support and legal advice. NSW Fair Trading also has a lot of information regarding retirement villages on their website.

Please note – this is general information only. It is not legal advice. If you feel you need legal advice, please speak to a Seniors Rights Service solicitor or your own private solicitor. Seniors Rights Service solicitors can advise you on your legal options in relation to a complaint.

What support is available in a retirement village?

Retirement villages do not provide aged care. They provide residential accommodation for older people who are able to manage their own care. Retirement villages are regulated under the NSW Retirement Villages Act 1999.

Villages offer a range of services that are funded by the residents including gardening, repairs and maintenance of units. Some villages offer extra services such as laundry or meals that are paid for separately by those residents who choose to use them. If you live in a village, you can still make use of Commonwealth funded in-home aged care services, provided you are eligible.

What should I ask the village manager and the residents before making the decision?

  • Ask about the rules for residents of the village. Check for rules that might affect things that you want to do. For example:
  • Making changes to the inside of your premises.
  • Adding structures in your garden, such as a gazebo or birdbath.
  • Having someone visit overnight, or for a week or so, or live with you permanently.
  • Keeping a pet – some villages have rules regarding the size of dog allowed, or the total number of pets allowed, some ban all pets.
  • Doing your own gardening, including planting or removing plants.
  • Smoking – if you are a smoker (or if you are sensitive to cigarette smoke and wish to avoid it) you should check the rules around where people can smoke in the village.
  • Parking a boat, caravan or RV within the village grounds.

Ask for the village’s General Enquiry Document and make sure you have adequate information about the village. It is important to show all the documentation to an independent solicitor so your legal rights and obligations are clear to you. If you are interested in a unit, ask for the Disclosure Statement for that unit.

Ask a representative of the residents’ committee if there have been any issues with the running of the village.

Do I need to see a solicitor before I sign my documents?

It is very important that you talk to a solicitor before you sign anything. Talk to your family solicitor, or ask for Seniors Rights Service’s referral list of solicitors with expertise in retirement village law.

Have you considered other options?

These might include renting or buying a property in the desired area, if you are thinking of relocating; and/or privately engaging services similar to those that might be provided in a retirement village, such as gardening, home maintenance, or community transport to access activities in the community.
Have I looked at other villages to compare the accommodation, services and financial arrangements?

Village services and facilities

Does the village have adequate services and accommodation for my present needs and will it continue to do so as I get older or if I get sick, become disabled, need a wheelchair, walking aid or bath rail? If I need extra services, how much will they cost?

Is there space for residents and visitors to park? Different villages may offer different options for resident parking. Do I want a garage? A carport? Or would a designated outdoor space be sufficient? If I don’t drive, can I save money by getting a unit without a garage or carport?
Are the village grounds secure, pleasant and looked after? Is there adequate external lighting and good paths for easy access? Remember that in winter, afternoon activities may well result in you returning home after dark.

Are all the services and facilities that I want currently available at the village, or will I be relying on a promise from the operator that these will be made available at a later stage in the development? For example, an operator might state that a swimming pool or barbecue area will be built by a certain date. How much of a problem will it be if the promised services or facilities never eventuate? Compensation may be offered to residents if this happens, but will this be an acceptable alternative to me?

Village location and transport

Is the village near the services, activities and attractions that I want to go to? A beautiful location some distance out of town may lose its appeal quite quickly if you have to drive a long way every time you want to meet friends, see a doctor or go shopping.

If I become unable to drive in the future, are shops and other facilities easily accessible from the village by walking, public transport or village bus?

Living in the village

How will I fit in at the village? Is it a small village where all the residents participate in activities together, or a larger village where all the residents may not even know each other?

Financial and legal issues

  • Can I pay the recurrent charges/levies comfortably on my present income?
  • What will my financial position be if my spouse or partner dies?
  • If the recurrent charges/levies rise, will my future income be enough to meet the payments?
  • Will I have to pay any fees if I decide to leave the village after only a year or two? After five years? Will I be able to afford to move somewhere else after I have paid any departure fees?
  • Will I be eligible for rental assistance from the Commonwealth Government?
  • When I leave the village, how and when do I get my money back?
  • Do I fully understand the contract I am about to sign?

Can the operator make me leave the village?

The operator of a retirement village may apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) for an order terminating your residence contract if it believes that you cannot live there independently because of a physical or mental incapacity. However, the Tribunal can only make such an order if it has considered a medical report by a doctor – nominated by you – and you must be given reasonable opportunity to supply the report.

The operator can also terminate your contract on other very limited grounds, including, under some circumstances, breach of village rules or breach of village contract.

Please call Seniors Rights Service and ask to speak to one of our solicitors if you want to discuss this, or have any concerns.

Contact Seniors Rights Service on 02 9281 3600.

Can Seniors Rights Service assist me with Retirement Village problems?

Seniors Rights Service runs the Retirement Village Legal Service. Please call and ask to speak to one of our solicitors if you have any concerns. We can explain your rights, refer you to other solicitors, or assist you to act for yourself.

Contact Seniors Rights Service on 02 9281 3600.

View our retirement village information brochure

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