Retirement village operators have come under intense scrutiny with the NSW Government due to conclude its enquiry into the sector later this year.
We caught up with aged care and retirement villages expert, Jessica Kinny from Kinny Legal to shed some light on what operators can do remain compliant.
Jessica Kinny: The inquiry has come about because there's been ongoing concern for some time, which may have intensified particularly lately, about contracts in the Retirement Village Industry not being easily understood by residents and their families and about costs whether or not they're fair, whether or not they're being charged in a way that's consistent with the Law.
So, the outcome of the inquiry really depend on the extent to which the investigation reveals unfair results for residents. And the second part being if there are unfair results what's the cause of that? So if it's a bunch of rogue operators then that's relatively easy to deal with. It means that further investigations might commence against those operators. If operators are complying with the law, but unfair outcomes are still happening, then that becomes a little trickier because then we need to figure out what needs to change in the regulatory framework to better protect residents and keep the industry going.
And of course you act for a number of the top retirement village operators in the sector. What would you be saying to your clients now while this inquiry is happening? Anything that they can do at the moment?
Jessica: No matter where you are in the industry keeping on top of the regulations is a great idea as it changes all the time. Even before the inquiry the Act came out in 1999, the Regulations came out in 2009. There's been minor tweaking which everyone needs to keep on top of but the new Retirement Village Regulations 2017 came out on 1 September. There are some changes in there that affect all the prescribed documents in the way that you interact with the residents, so keep on top of that.
Number two: it's always best practice for everyone to conduct a compliance and risk audit to make sure that everything's up to scratch.
Number three: standard contracts, prescribed documents, again the Regulation has changed some of those things but making sure that, they're up to date and easily understood by residents particularly if there's extra provisions up the back.
Number four: a lot of concerns have happened that residents have come into retirement villages without really knowing, for whatever reason, what they’ve signed up for, or not realising the financial implications of the contracts that they've signed.
And, on that point there's been some recent changes to the New South Wales Fair Trading website. So part of that four point plan for the New South Wales Government was to release an online calculator. That's been released now I think last week and so residents looking to enter into a retirement village can look in and figure out - there's two calculators; one of them figuring out what might fit their budget, and number two testing the actual amounts that they might be charged.
So, that's also a good idea to mention to residents so they're not signing up for something they might not be able to afford in a few years.
Absolutely. Okay, well there you go. A calculator for the residents and for operators a four point plan to keep you busy in the lead up to December and all eyes on that date. Thanks so much for joining us Jess.
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