Key Points:

    • 38,741 NZ retirement village residents
    • They live in 382 villages
    • 29,801 units in villages
    • One resident faces eviction
    • [Source: JLL Retirement Village Whitepaper, May, 2018]

    Retirement chiefs have expressed surprise at the possible eviction of a west Auckland resident but one says the situation highlights the vulnerability of people living in villages because most do not own their properties, only a licence to occupy.

    Troy Churton, Commission For Financial Capability retirement villages national manager, and Colin Porter, Retirement Village Residents Association president, said the situation of Sandra Williams in Henderson's Waitakere Gardens was unusual.

    Sandra Williams at Waitakere Gardens. Photo/Martin Johnston
    Sandra Williams at Waitakere Gardens. Photo/Martin Johnston

    "In his four years in the role, Troy is not aware of any licences to occupy being terminated," a commission spokeswoman said yesterday of Williams' dispute over changes to her unit following building remediation.

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    Porter said he had also not heard of a dispute causing eviction and although his organisation backed residents, she had chosen not to return to her place.

    "There's no question about the dangers of the situation. You only have a licence to occupy, not an interest in the land or buildings," Porter said.

    "We would support any resident who has an issue but by the same token, we almost have a legal exercise here so it's out of our hands. She's making the decision and she's got to have legal grounds to make that decision," Porter said.

    Porter, whose organisation represents people living in more than 100 retirement villages, said such licences could be terminated "in certain circumstances, particularly where someone gets sick, there is no hospital at their village and they must leave to move into care".

    Almost all retirement village residents have no title to their properties, only a licence to occupy which can be terminated in certain circumstances, such as a breach of contract. Few village residents own their properties outright, although Bethlehem in Tauranga has at least one village like this.

    A Ryman spokesman said in the six years he had been with that business, he had never heard of a licence being terminated due to a dispute but Graham Wilkinson, chairman of the Retirement Villages Association which represents owner/operators, said he had, but only due to health reasons.

    Troy Churton of the Commission for Financial Capability. Photo/Ben Fraser
    Troy Churton of the Commission for Financial Capability. Photo/Ben Fraser

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    Williams featured in the Herald this week in her battle against Metlifecare's Waitakere Gardens. Last year, she moved to a temporary unit while major work was done on the leaky block where she has a licence on a place.

    Graham Wilkinson, Retirement Villages Association chairman. Photo/Michael Craig
    Graham Wilkinson, Retirement Villages Association chairman. Photo/Michael Craig

    Post-repair, she is refusing to return, complaining her place is unfinished, two apartment windows no longer open, objecting to a new enclosed walkway, beefed-up fire regulations and lack of consultation.

    But Metlifecare has accused her of abandoning her apartment, causing "nuisance, annoyance and distress" and is threatening to terminate her licence to occupy.

    Glen Sowry, Metlifecare chief executive. Photo/Warren Buckland
    Glen Sowry, Metlifecare chief executive. Photo/Warren Buckland

    But he had not heard of a termination due to a dispute.

    Last May, real estate agency, investment and management business JLL released a study showing New Zealand had 382 retirement villages with 29,801 units in them and an estimated 38,741 residents.

    Glen Sowry, Metlifecare chief executive, said the company had done all it could to accommodate her and had now reached the end of the road.

    "We pride ourselves on being able to work constructively with residents to do everything to resolve these issues," Sowry said yesterday.

    Metlifecare's Waitakere Gardens. Photo/file
    Metlifecare's Waitakere Gardens. Photo/file

    In his three years with the company, it hadn't previously issued a notice of intention to force out a resident, he said. Asked if Metlifecare had done it before him, he said, "I don't know. If we have, it's extremely rare."

    Sowry said the non-opening windows had to be fitted to comply with the latest fire regulations that aimed to prevent a fire in an apartment spreading to others or to communal areas. An independent review had found the air-flow in Williams' apartment was good.

    Entrance to Metlifecare's Waitakere Gardens. Photo/file
    Entrance to Metlifecare's Waitakere Gardens. Photo/file

    "With the enclosed walkway, we were required under the new Building Code. If we had left it open to the elements as it was before, we would have … had to build a lip on each door entry which would have been … inappropriate for an older resident and would have created a trip hazard."

    But he acknowledged the enclosed walkways became too hot in mid-summer and a fix was being devised to ensure the problem was resolved by next summer.