We are pleased with the decision of Metlifecare to discontinue charging the weekly fees for outgoing residents when they leave their units. This is as it should be of course and other operators should do the same.

Previously, they had continued to charge for up to six months or until the unit was resold, whichever was sooner, after the outgoing resident had transitioned into a care facility, or had died. Metlifecare had taken possession of the property and it was of no further consequence to the outgoing resident, or their family. Resident’s occupational rights are akin to the rights of a tenant in a home-lease, in that the home owner has the real rights and the tenant only a personal right.

The other unfair term in the Occupational Rights Agreement (ORA) gives the operator the right to withhold the capital repayment due to the outgoing resident until they have relicensed it to another new resident. As they refurbish the units before re-licensing, this sometimes takes quite a long time and it is completely at the discretion of the operator. Once again, it is of no consequence to the outgoing resident. Re-payment of their capital should also be settled when their ORA is terminated. A care facility requires payment up-front and the outgoing resident needs and is entitled to their money. Metlifecare has also introduced a clause in their ORA from February 26, where residents or their families will be able to access $20,000 of their capital sum on vacation of their unit. This is helpful of course, but goes only part way to the fairness of the out going resident.

We are regulated by the Retirement Villages Act 2003 and the Code of Practice 2008. The Code is a legal document and sets out the minimum rules for all Villages and over-rules the individual ORA, where minimum standards are not met. But it is non prescriptive to the point that wide interpretations of clauses are possible by village managers and decisions are usually not in favour of the resident.

The Retirement Villages Association (the operators) had a strong influence on the formulation of the Act and the Code. There was no organisation of residents at the time and if there was any consultation, it would have been only with individual residents. So it is all weighted in favour of the operators.

The main focus of the Retirement Village Residents Association has always been to have a review of the Act and the Code. They are intended to be ‘self- regulating’, but the only regulators are the statutory supervisors who are employed by the operators. Complaints to them are often dismissed because they do not contravene the unfair conditions in the Code, allowing outcomes which are perceived by residents and others as unfair but legal.

A clause in the Code of Residents Rights, says residents have the right not to be exploited. The RVRANZ will not rest until this right is achieved.

To read the Retirement Villages Association president Graham Wilkinson’s response to this article, please click here.

To read Metlifecare chief executive Glen Sowry’s response to this article, please click here.

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