Retirement village laws need independent advice: COTA
That's the key message that will determine the success of the Queensland Government's attempt to rebuild the reputation of the scandal-plagued retirement sector.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced over the weekend that the government would soon introduce a new bill that will force retirement villages to simplify and make their contracts easier to understand.
Council on The Ageing Queensland chief executive Mark Tucker-Evans welcomed the announcement but made it clear the any new legislation should be underpinned by two factors: information and independence.
"We certainly welcome it," Mr Tucker-Evans told Seniors News. "We've been talking to the government for a number of years around the need to simplify the contracts that people enter into.
"But in addition to commending the government were still asking them to fund an independent advisory service for older people around housing needs.
"So that they get independent advice … before they make key decisions around either selling their existing house or going into retirement village."
Mr Tucker-Evans identified several contentious issues that he said needed greater clarity moving forward towards simpler and clearer contracts.
"People need to be much better informed before they enter into retirement villages," he said.
"The idea of having a standard contract that includes up-front fees, so people know what they are paying before they go in, the opportunity to actually change their mind in 21 days.
"The exits fees have always been a bone of contention for many people in retirement villages, they don't know what they'll be so I think having clarity around this will be welcomed by the vast majority of people living in retirement villages."
The new laws quickly follow on the heels of the disturbing allegations aimed at the sector-leading Aveo by a joint investigation by Four Corners and Fairfax Media.
And while Mr Tucker-Evans admitted the media scrutiny highlighted several issues, he said the coverage showed the lack of understanding between the idea of buying into a retirement village and the reality.
"I think one of the interesting things to come out of this is that in fact many people think they were buying a house or buying into a retirement village," he said.
"But you're actually only buying to use the house during the time you're there and that's part of the education program were suggesting (the government) run."
Ms Palaszczuk said she hoped the new bill would take affect before the end of the year to help any Queenslander make an informed decision when choosing to move into some form of retirement accommodation.
"It's very clear that the rights of people who live in retirement villages just aren't in line with the expectations of the community," Ms Palaszczuk told the ABC.
"We intend to put in place a new, staged pre-contractual disclosure process, limits on rent increases, and minimum behavioural standards for park owners, staff and home owners."
But Mr Tucker-Evans said more was needed to be done to end any potential abuse of vulnerable seniors across the country.
"We would, however, suggest legislation needs to be harmonised," he said.
"At the moment it's state legislation and it differs from state to state.
"So we'll continue to try and get that on the national agenda."