Recent changes to the NSW retirement villages sector
Two notable developments in the NSW retirement villages sector have recently taken place – the first being the passage of new retirement village amendment legislation in November 2018 and the second being the appointment of a retirement village ambassador in December 2018.
Retirement Village Reforms
The Retirement Villages Amendment Act 2018 was assented to on 28 November 2018 following the completion of the Inquiry into the NSW Retirement Village Sector in 2017.
The Amendment Act will amend the Retirement Villages Act 1999 and its associated regulations. Below is a summary of the main changes:
- Emergency plans and safety inspections – an operator of a retirement village must ensure that an emergency plan is prepared and maintained and that residents and staff are made familiar with the plan. Furthermore, the operator is required to undertake a safety inspection at least once a year and report on such findings to residents.
- Annual emergency evacuation exercises – an operator of a retirement village must ensure that an evacuation exercise for residents is carried out at least once a year. Key safety information must also be displayed and provided to residents.
- Meeting to explain village contract information to residents – a resident may request, once a year, a meeting with the operator for an explanation of certain information about the resident's village contract. The operator must provide the resident with a written summary at the meeting of the explanation.
- Rules of conduct for operators – the regulations associated with the Act may be amended to prescribe rules of conduct for operators with respect to professionalism, training, competencies, performance and behaviour of management.
- Asset management plans – operators will be required to prepare and maintain an asset management plan for the items of capital within the village.
- Other – other changes relate to the appointment of auditors and enabling the regulations to make provisions for mediations of disputes and what information about the retirement village might be required to be made available to the Office of Fair Trading and other government agencies.
The provisions of the Amendment Act are not yet in force at the date of this article and there is no current set date for when the changes will commence. However, the Office of Fair Trading has suggested that the changes will commence on 1 July 2019.
Many of the abovementioned provisions come with significant penalties should an operator fail to comply with them. We recommend that operators start preparing for the enactment of the changes sooner rather than later. The Amendment Act should be carefully reviewed and further advice may need to be obtained by operators to ensure that compliance can be achieved.
Retirement Village Ambassador
On 10 December 2018, the Department of Finance, Services & Innovation announced the appointment of Kathryn Greiner AO as the NSW Retirement Village Ambassador. Ms Greiner had led the Inquiry into the NSW Retirement Village Sector in 2017.
According to the Office of Fair Trading, the Ambassador role will involve informing residents about the changes to the retirement village laws, listening to and advocating for residents and monitoring and reporting on issues facing the sector. The terms of reference for the NSW Retirement Village Ambassador Program are now available for consideration.
Part of the Ambassador's role is the conduct of a "Retirement Village Roadshow" that will involve visiting retirement villages and speaking to residents. The Roadshow will also involve talks and information sessions at retirement villages, RSL clubs and local centres around NSW. Members of the public can contact the Office of Fair Trading to request a visit from the Retirement Village Ambassador.