Retirement housing inquiry hears from Ballarat

A man who challenged a $17,000 bill to refurbish his deceased mother’s retirement village unit and was initially offered a discount of just $15 gave evidence at a state government inquiry into retirement housing on Wednesday.

Alan Clark’s mother had been a resident at the local retirement village for less than three-and-a-half years when she died, whereupon her family were presented with a $17,049 refurbishment bill for the unit as well as an exit fee and responsibility for a $400 monthly management fee for up to six months following her death.

Mr Clark wrote in his submission that a retirement village ombudsman would have ensured “a quicker and less stressful resolution”.

Initially offered a discount of just $15, Mr Clark was able to get the bill dropped to $13,312. 

“I was able to negotiate the reduction in these supposed refurbishment costs … where I suspect others would not, especially in the context of dealing with the death of a parent.

“On every step of the way, I had to make a repeated request for action before it occurred.”

Mr Clark said the unit had been subject to only “normal wear and tear” besides a burn on the kitchen benchtop.

Among the items challenged by Mr Clark were over $1000 for items he deemed as new or upgrades to the existing unit, and more than $2,500 for services from a provider “many hours distant” from the village.

Both items were ultimately removed from the bill. 

Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria Lesley Menzies said residents needed “free, easy access to justice.”

”Everybody’s locked in in a retirement village,” she said.

Residents of Retirement Villages of Victoria president Lesley Menzies spoke at an inquiry into retirement housing held in Ballarat on Wednesday.

Residents of Retirement Villages of Victoria president Lesley Menzies spoke at an inquiry into retirement housing held in Ballarat on Wednesday.

“You don’t wake up to that until after you’ve been there for 12 months.”

In another submission to the inquiry that has put the spotlight on the industry and the equity of contracts and access to appeal for residents, a local retirement village resident said she would be “out of here next week if I could afford the exit fees.”

Country Club Villages director Stewart Gull, who also presented to the inquiry, defended the transparency of unit contracts and exit fees. 

“There will be costs if people make short term decisions,” Mr Gull said.

“If you wanted to buy one (unit) tomorrow you can't do it, you have to wait 21 days so if that isn't disclosure and a process, nothing else is.

“The industry believe that the industry is well regulated, it's got the options of residents to represent themselves and it's been working exceptionally well and that's why there are new people buying in retirement villages every day.”