Retirement village contracts

There was a recent article in the Age newspaper about some of the legal consequences of getting into and out of retirement villages.

A spokesman for the Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria was interviewed and was complaining particularly about some of the unfair practices adopted by village owners prior to 2006 legislative changes. For instance, prior to the changes owners could contract to hold onto the sale proceeds of a retirement village unit for up to 8 years (!) thus depriving the (elderly) seller of the use of this money, and the interest earned on this money. Also mentioned was the practice, which still applies, of village management being placed in charge, sole charge, of selling the unit when the resident wishes to move on.  This can lead to conflicts of interest that can be financially disadvantageous to the seller.

Although some of the more undesirable practices were outlawed by the 2006 changes, those changes were not made retrospective, and there are very many contracts still in existence formed prior to 2006.

Although it is almost impossible to have a retirement village contract changed (although this firm has been able to do so) it is still much better for the retiree to go into these things fully informed. Unfortunately, many solicitors don’t know an awful lot about the pitfalls that can happen with a retirement village contract, and they will often treat the matter as a normal conveyancing transaction. The fact of the matter is that many retirement village contracts do not involve the conveyance of land at all. Many contracts just provide a licence or lease to occupy.

I pointed out in an email to the Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria that even a widely used (and very good) Manual on conveyancing written by a Victorian solicitor, Russell Cocks, does not cover retirement village contracts that do not involve the transfer of land. Russell Cocks simply says that these other contracts do not fall into the category of conveyancing and are accordingly outside the scope of his Manual.

Prospective entrants into retirement villages simply have to find expert legal advice. It may well be that the local solicitor is so busy with “normal” conveyancing that he or she doesn’t have the time to properly consider and advise on these lengthy and complex contracts.

©Peter J. R. Gauld LL.BGauld & Co. Elder Law SolicitorsSuite 5, 1st Floor,838 Glenferrie Road,Hawthorn, Melbourne, Australia, 3122.03 9024 38680401 230

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