Retirement village residents have nowhere to turn for justice and are being deterred by a “toothless”, non-binding conciliation process, the Consumer Action Law Centre says.
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The organisation, which has submitted to a state government inquiry into retirement housing, has challenged industry surveys indicating a 97 per cent satisfaction rate as “spurious”.
The inquiry, which sat in Ballarat last month, has received over 700 submissions.
Consumer Affairs Victoria is unable to deal with contractual disputes meaning complainants were forced to turn to the courts, CALC senior policy officer Zac Gillam said.
“There's nowhere to go to get justice,” Mr Gillam said.
“What we believe it’s simply too hard to get justice and a lot of disputes aren’t even raised when they should be because people are essentially put off by the process.
The industry’s own report into resident satisfaction, which was released in 2013, identified what it referred to as “clear issues” with residents’ understanding of their contracts and a 39 per cent rate of dissatisfaction with contract exit fees.
In contrast, the question which led to the 97 per cent satisfaction rating asked only whether residents found the financial arrangement suitable when they entered the village.
Property Council of Australia Victorian executive director Sally Capp said the lobby group does not claim a 97 per cent satisfaction rate.
Ms Capp said “happy residents” were in the best interest of the operator and would “create a successful business.
Ms Capp did not comment on whether contracts needed reform.
However PCA deputy director Asher Judah told The Courier last month research indicated "satisfaction levels were over 98 per cent in retirement villages."
Residents of Retirement Villages president Lesley Menzies said residents were “too frightened to speak out”.
“You’re dealing with elderly, vulnerable people who only want a quiet retirement, a lot of them are ill, they don’t have the energy to fight back and they get taken advantage of.”
Retirement villages are the subject of two separate state government reviews in which dispute resolution is a key issue.
Consumer Affairs Victoria is reviewing consumer property law, internal dispute resolution and complaint handling under the Retirement Villages Act.
The Department of Justice and Regulation is reviewing dispute resolution.
A spokesperson said the government was aware of community concerns in the sector.
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