Retirement village dispute resolution could be improved soon, after a forum in Auckland last week found a gap in the system.
The outcome could be a beefed-up mediation process for the approximately 33,000 residents who live in a steadily rising number of villages, attempting to resolve issues faster between the owner/managers and the residents - and complaints might be able to be made online soon.
A statement just released by the Commission for Financial Capability says recommendations are now being drawn up, following the forum last Wednesday, organised with the Retirement Commissioner.
"A gap was identified between the complaints process in villages and the formal disputes process, which could be bridged by a stronger mediation option," the statement said.
Troy Churton, the commission's national retirement villages manager, said views became clear at the forum which was also attended by residents, operators, lawyers, mediation specialists and statutory supervisors.
They also discussed the need for an improved register of complaints, he said.
"At the moment, when complaints cannot be resolved in a village, mediation can be offered to a resident by the village operator. There was a strong view at the forum that both operators and residents should be able to elect mediation at any stage in the disputes process," Churton said.
The commission will now draft a summary of recommendations which could change the Code of Practice.
Recommendations would go out for public consultation before being submitted to Housing Minister Nick Smith for approval.
The forum also discussed different ways of accessing dispute resolution services in the future, including the possibility of doing so online.
In August, president of the newly formed Retirement Village Residents' Association Rob Wilson, welcomed the commission's report which recommended residents get more advice and support in resolving problems.
The report found overwhelming agreement among residents, operators, panelists, lawyers and statutory supervisors that change was needed to make the system more customer-focused, efficient and effective.
Wilson said then that overhauling the disputes system was to the advantage of residents, who consultants JLL said last year numbered 32,854.
"It will at least give them a little more power," Wilson said at the time.