Retirement Village contracts should be standardised federally

With a federal election due by May, this is a great opportunity for Retirement Village residents, who, for the most part, have been ripped off by signing complicated contracts which neither they, nor unfortunately, their lawyers understood, to achieve some justice and peace of mind in their declining years.
I sought legal advice as advised and accepted this advice.
However, I now know that neither he nor I could make an informed decision regarding the appropriate lease for my circumstances, as it was and still is impossible to know what properties in the village are bought and sold for. Such information is totally secret and necessary as the basis on any contract.
Then reinstatement costs can be astronomical and if one is, say single, and has deceased, the village seems able to determine these costs which can be of the order of $150,000!!!
In Queensland, the effect of legislation to have an 18 month "buy back "scheme has been awaiting consideration by the state government.
However, any proposed or even recently ( 2017) approved legislation refers only to prospective residents.
Since bad publicity e.g. Aveo in an ABC Four Corners program mid 2017, and in 2021 re Living Choice NSW, in Current Affair, some changes have been made to leases which are somewhat more appropriate.
While some residents have negotiated favourable leases over the years, and in my village, it is known that there are almost as many leases as residents, those residents, who received and accepted totally incorrect legal advice, should be able to renegotiate to more reasonable leases.
It is well known that one doesn’t enter a retirement village expecting to make money, but one should be able to expect that a fair amount will be paid out on exit. At present the time taken for any pay out after exit fees could have an individual unable to pay the fees should they need to enter a nursing home.
Andy Kollmorgen from CHOICE investigated Retirement Villages in August 2015. In 2021 the Federal Government commissioned a Review of Retirement Villages. A questionnaire was developed by the University of NSW and the chief investigator is Associate Professor Max Travers of the University of Tasmania. However, unless the states agree, which seems unlikely, the Federal Government can’t intervene in what is a state responsibility. At present the Property Council of Australia seems to be composed of retirement village owners who have drafted contracts to ensure their immense profits. Lawyers always are reluctant to act against their own even though they’d have to admit most are unqualified in this area.
Please are there investigative journalists out here ready to act for current Retirement Villages residents?


Welcome to the Community @Godiva

A topic about retirement villages started shortly after Choice inaugurated the Community in 2016.

There are a number of intersecting topics linked into that one. Specifically peruse those posted by @BrendanMays from Choice.

An issue for regulation is that for most things Australia is not so much of a country as it is 6 states and 2 territories. Each legislates for itself regarding property matters and each assumes it has it perfect.

Part of the problem with anything changing for the better seems to be tax laws that dissuades companies from building and operating rental properties as a generalisation. The outcome is the rental markets are collections of individually owned properties and retirement villages are designed for ownership and the benefit of the developer not the residents.

Your overview of the issues suggests you are atop all of it, including why it is a problem to get any resolution. You have also noted some of the higher profile reports that seem to have gone nowhere.

As the old saw goes Welcome to Australia, owned and operated by property developers, and retirement villages are operated accordingly. Pollies listen to donors and lobbyists more than anyone, excepting perhaps in marginal seats where every vote becomes important, but those are most often local issues rather than public good issues. Window dressing has been the modus operandi for at least the past decade and most of Australian history has had business prioritised in one or another way over individuals, at least as often if not more so.

‘We’ get what we vote for, and that is based on bags of policies, beliefs, and prejudices rather than single issues. The issues with retirement village contracts is ‘well known’ but neither state nor federal governments seem interested in doing more than shuffling deck chairs, if even that. If the affected seniors became the difference between a party winning and losing they would get attention; property developers, their donations, contacts, and so on do, and ‘here we are’. Some will dispute that, which is their prerogative.


As @PhilT notes the issues at hand are well known. The lack of action on consumer issues is not unique.

Our experience with lawyers is that they cannot offer financial advice. For Aged Care or Retirement Villages or Superannuation etc, our wisdom is to seek the advice of an independent professional. Finding one that is dependable and truely independent can also be a challenge. If it comes to considering a change from the family home, it may be best to research first and go prepared with a list of options.

Retirement villages are not the only option. Down sizing to a property in a convenient location, paying to have it modified for assisted living, bathrooms, access etc is a choice. If one needs home services or in home care they cost whether in a retirement village or elsewhere. It may suit doing the same for your current home. Note that while it may cost to pay a Gardner, mower person or pool service, retirement villages also build those costs into their services and margins. Nothing is free!

It’s possible that asking a financial advisor to compare the differences in outcomes will provide more clarity. Eg between staying at home using a reverse mortgage if necessary, vs the change in financial circumstance for any alternate living arrangement

Whether one goes into a retirement village etc, or is more self reliant, old age costs. The difference with villages , they are a profit making business! They need to take a return plus a profit out of your savings and equity to justify their investment. At least in the home you have saved for and payed off there is no need to pay it off a second time or make a profit on it.

Doubtless Retirement Village investors will have a different spin. It’s unlikely IMO Governments will change the status quo. The privatised industry built on retirement needs minimises the burden on the public purse, by redistributing acquired wealth in return for Govt acceptance. Cynicism deserved. Although there are a great many not so well off that a retirement village would ever be an option.

None of this should detract from being critical of how the Retirement Village businesses have operated over previous decades, or those with cause for complaint.


Welcome to the community. The nub of your argument is

Contracts should have to be in plain English and easy to understand for the elderly. How can a retiree have any hope of understanding the contract if their legal representative can not?

I think that you have already alluded to the only way to get any real change when you wrote:

The Federal and State/Territory Governments moved to privatise Aged Care & wash their hands of the whole issue. It has been made fairly clear that they are not in a rush to take responsibility back. Generally, those in the industry saw Aged Care as a proverbial gold mine. Of course there are some exceptions, but they are in the minority.

As the preceding posts have indicated, politicians are beholden to those that fund their election campaigns, and property developers and the Aged Care industry are generous to the two main political parties. They will not want to upset the donors unless they are in a position where they have no choice. The way to achieve this is through publicity.

As you are a resident, and clearly aware of what is going on, you would be in an ideal position to start publicising the issue by contacting the ABC, and other media. Also contact your relevant Retirement Home Residents’ Association. (click on the blue type to go to the linked search page.) You might even contact your State and Federal Member to make them personally aware of what is going on.

Good luck with it all.