One of New Zealand's richest families have denied they are profiting from the elderly in a move which could net them more than $5 million.
A group of pensioners at Perrinpark near Hamilton are fighting the Perry Foundation, a charitable trust and owner of Te Kowhai retirement village, over freeholding of land.
The Perry Foundation's trustees include members of the Waikato's Perry family, ranked 47 on the National Business Review Rich List.
The Perrys pushed through a move to freehold land under the 72 houses at Perrinpark in January.
But the daughter of a former resident says that under the unit title restructure, the true value of the residents' interests in their properties has been distorted by importing a land value into the capital value.
Phillippa Waters said she stood to lose $82,000 from the sale of her late mother's house.
The house was purchased for $112,500 in 2003 under a site agreement where Perrys owned the land and Jeanne Waters owned the house, in exchange for a one-off site fee of $12,500.
In August 2009, Ms Waters signed an application for disposal of her mother's home which would return $216,000 if sold for $260,000, after the site fee, commission and solicitor's fees were deducted.
But following the freeholding offer, which Ms Waters did not take up, she was sent a new application for disposal which said she would receive only $133,000 of a $235,000 sale, and the Perrys would take $82,000 for the value of the section.
If the Perrys collected an average $75,000 for each section, the trust would be $5.4 million richer, she said. "I wonder where they are taking all the money they're getting from the village?"
Now, 31 residents at the park who have not freeholded have sought help from Hamilton lawyer Wanda Hendrikse of McBreens Solicitors.
Ms Hendrikse said Perrys had used the subdivision to change the method of valuing the residents' financial interests in their properties and this resulted in substantial losses to the residents.
The office of the Retirement Commissioner and Covenant Trustee Services recommended residents file a dispute notice but Ms Hendrikse said that would be hard on the residents, many of whom had health problems.
Perry Foundation trustee Barry Coombes said it was "ridiculous, mischievous and completely untrue" to suggest Perrys was trying to take advantage of the elderly. Perrys had offered generous freeholding terms to all residents and it did not change their interest. "It has only changed the way the Perry Foundation chooses to deal with its own interest."
Mr Coombes said any money left once Perrys' interest had been sold would be treated in strict accordance with the foundation's trust deed.