New association, about to hold first AGM, seeks a law review to strengthen rights

Retirement village residents have created their own body, seeking a law review to give them more power.

The Retirement Village Residents Association was incorporated last September and members will hold their first annual meeting tomorrow in Hamilton.

Rob Wilson, president and an Orewa village resident, said the association wanted the Retirement Villages Act 2003 amended so residents' rights were strengthened.

Membership was already 2500, "but we haven't actively gone out and sought members", Wilson said.

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"What generates membership is when people get stuck with a personal issue which focuses their mind and they start casting around for help.

"The organisation wants to have the act and code reviewed to achieve more of a balance for residents. At the moment, it's the operators saying we're doing great things but it's not always the case. Residents want more balance in the legislation."

Village owners got all the upside and residents all the downside.

"Operators don't pay out any capital gain when they resell. But residents are liable for any capital loss.

"So when the market's on the rise, that's okay but when the balloon busts, the residents have to take the loss. That's unfair," Wilson said.

"Another issue is unregistered villages," he said, adding one village had been unregistered for 12 years.

"Operating as a retirement village without being registered does not give protection under the act to the residents.

"Anecdotally, I understand there are about 20 unregistered villages in New Zealand and the average resident is not alerted to the fact to check out whether it's a registered village."

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Wilson said a judicial authority needed to be established to rule on disputes between residents and operators. "We need something like the Tenancy Tribunal, a neutral person who is not intimidating or expensive.

"The Retirement Commissioner is only there to monitor, she can't do anything to help individual residents," Wilson said.

"Some villages no longer charge monthly fees and ideally that would be great if it was across the board, but it isn't. There's so many things that we're seeking change over. We need to sit down with the operators and legislators. Bottom line, we're going to have to employ a constitutional legal outfit to help us, but that's further down the track."

Village companies were "real cash cows. When they build a village, they immediately recover all their capital outlay when they sell licences to occupy. From then on, it's just straight profit. Ryman have a limit on the age entry of 75 so they get a quick roll-over," he said referring to relatively fast unit resales and short occupancies by elderly residents who sometimes die just a few years after buying.

Deferred management fees - where residents lose 20 to 30 per cent of their purchase price, often within three to five years - were another issue. "The trouble is, it's part of the deal," Wilson said.

• More information is at www.rvranz.org.nz. Inaugural AGM of the Retirement Village Residents Association will be in the Rotary Lounge, Hamilton Gardens, at 1pm.

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Village people

• 32,854 retirement village residents at December

• Three years ago, population was only 24,000

• NZ has 363 registered retirement villages

• 75 have some level of development on

• 5188 new units are planned of which 1511 are in Auckland

- Source: JLL, Auckland

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CEO says issues 'lots of little things'

Low membership numbers in the new retirement village residents' group reflected well on the sector, a village business boss says.

"They don't have that many members because there aren't many issues," said Julian Cook, Summerset chief executive, of the new association's 2500 residents when more than 30,000 people live in villages.

He downplayed issues, saying residents' complaints were over "lots of little things, like a guy smoking beside a unit and the neighbour didn't like that".

Many avenues already existed for complaint resolution.

Complaints went to village management first, then to an independent panelist appointed to hear a dispute. The Retirement Villages Association had a complaints mechanism or grievances could be lodged with the Retirement Commissioner, he said.

"There's a number of avenues around at the moment. It's in our interests to have mechanisms that deal with these issues and the last thing we want is to have things festering out there. We want fair and quick resolution. I wouldn't say there wasn't a need for a tribunal but things work relatively well at the moment," Cook said.

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Simon Challies, Ryman Healthcare chief executive, took a different approach, praising the association's formation. "We think anything that is good for residents is more than likely to be good for the sector," he said.