National Seniors will continue its campaign for national reform of the retirement village industry, following Queensland Government moves to toughen consumer protection for residents.
Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said the Queensland Government was leading the way with its announcement last weekend that it would take urgent action to ensure fairness for seniors living in retirement villages and residential parks.
"Given that many of these retirement village companies operate nationally, we think it's only fair that people should have national laws," Mr Henschke said.
“You only have to look at the vast number of people who retire to live in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland. They may only live a few kilometers apart yet the laws and regulations can vary hugely. But why should there be different rules when the only difference is geography?
"National Seniors also believes it's very important to have an independent complaints commissioner who oversees these laws."
Mr Henschke welcomed the Queensland reforms, but said the problems confronting retirement village residents was broader, and had been the subject of ongoing lobbying by National Seniors for some years.
"It's a big problem and it's a growing problem because we have 5.5 million baby boomers moving into retirement," Mr Henschke said.
"Confusing and complex contracts that vary from state to state and ongoing fees and charges, as highlighted recently in the Fairfax Media/4 Corners television program, put great strains on people."
Mr Henschke urged the Queensland Government to talk to the Federal Government and state and territory counterparts around Australia to introduce a national system.
"Australians like to have national laws, especially when they cover and protect them in consumer legislation,” Mr Henschke said
“We want to ensure that older Australians living in other states and territories have the same protections and security being introduced in Queensland.”
The Queensland Government announced that it would introduce laws to:
- Require simplified, standard contracts
- Require ongoing fees and charges to be clearly declared upfront
- Introduce a minimum 21-days to evaluate contracts before signing
- Make exit fees and payments for preparing a unit for sale fairer
- Implement dispute resolution processes
- Introduce enforceable behaviour standards for village operators.
It has pledged to ensure the changes take effect before the end of the year.