The booming multi-billion dollar booming retirement village sector is in for a big shake-up following revelations of wide-ranging dispute issues dogging residents.

Troy Churton, the Commission for Financial Capability's retirement village programme strategy manager, this morning announced a big change in the sector following an investigation which showed:

• the formal dispute resolution process is not user-friendly for all residents
• there are a lack of alternative options to resolve disputes
• there is a need for greater advice and support for residents in resolving disputes, as well as better information about the dispute process.

A forum will now be established by the retirement commissioner and the commission to investigate better ways to resolve disputes in retirement villages.

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The moves following the issuing of a new report from the commission which identified significant issues in the sector for residents.

That examined the needs of all residents, especially those who are vulnerable who have impairment that make communication difficult or who are reluctant to complaint, the commission announced.

Statutory supervisors also raised concerns about the costs, delays and the lack of alternative processes for resolving disputes, the commission said.

As a next step, the commission is now conducting a stakeholder forum to determine ways to integrate solutions - such as mediation and alternative dispute resolution - into the current framework.

That could result in change via a variation to the Code of Practice process, the commission said.

In the report, residents told of their frustration with the current system: "I would have liked to sit down with the operator but it was their intransigence, they stuck to their view".

Another said: "The operator would not discuss anything with us, I wanted to sit down with the operator right from the start and they wouldn't sit down so where do you go?"

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Yet another resident complained: "The main driving force behind my actions was the fact that too many residents were complaining to me of what they considered high handed behaviour and lack of consultation," while another said: "I didn't feel there was anyone else to go to for advice, filing a dispute notice was the only course of action to sharpen their [operator's] attention".

The report outlined how between 2007 and last year, there were 19 villages involved in 23 retirement village disputes.

One village was involved in three disputes and two villages were involved in two disputes.

The remaining villages were involved in one dispute each, the report said, without identifying the villages.

The disputes were over:
• Disposal matters including marketing, valuation, length of sale, refurbishment, ongoing charges and exit payments - 11 disputes
• Fees setting, amount and increases - 2 disputes
• Validity of termination of occupational rights agreements - two disputes
• Resident's behaviour - 2 disputes
• Conduct of manager towards resident- 2 disputes
• Residents' expectations around the provision of promised facilities and services - 2 disputes
• Repairs and maintenance to resident's dwelling - 2 disputes
• Treatment of GST in fees and charges - 1 dispute
• Compliance with regulations regarding village bank account - 1 dispute
• Provision of information about village expenditure and budgets - 1 dispute
• Consultation with residents about changes in communal and personal spaces - 1 dispute

Read the first report here - International Comparison of Disputes Processes and Collation of Best Practice Resources:

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Read the second report here - The Practice, Experience and Views of Dispute Resolution: