A dispute between a retirement village resident and the operator of her village is unresolved, even after a statutory supervisor was brought in to independently assess the trouble and suggest ways to resolve the deadlock.
Isabella Campbell, 92, was asked to leave her freehold unit in a 15-unit apartment block at Hamilton riverside Alandale Retirement Village unit earlier this year.
She wants either to return or get her money back.
But Alandale said residents were only asked to leave when it discovered building safety issues: either they could stay and each pay an extra $550/week for on-site fire wardens or go, it said, because the safety of residents was paramount.
Campbell left her place but wants either to return or get her full $130,000 back. Alandale has offered her $82,250 - $115,000 less her deferred management fee which she agreed to when she signed up to live there.
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Malcolm Gray, manager of statutory supervisor Covenant Trustee Services, recommended Campbell and Alandale work through each issue to resolve their dispute and he suggested ways to ease the deadlock.
Troy Churton, retirement villages lead at the Commission for Financial Capability which monitors the sector, said today he had been in discussions with the Campbell family, Gray and the Retirement Villages Association throughout the dispute.
The trouble is yet to be resolved.
"This is an unfortunate situation. We acknowledge the statutory supervisor's assessment and have encouraged the family to work with their lawyer to secure mediation with the operator, as per the complaint process," Churton said.
"Circumstances in which the family does not yet have all the information it has requested, and where the operator is challenging the views of the supervisor, lend themselves to being discussed further through mediation."
Christina Campbell said she and her mother had a mixed reaction to Gray's report.
"We were disappointed with some of the recommendations but are happy with two: on my mother not being liable for fire wardens or building upgrading costs," Christina Campbell said.
"We are one of the few families remaining to stand up against Alandale. Others have caved in or signed confidentiality in order to sell the apartments at low rates. Mum is well, but it's all very upsetting for her, especially with the extra work required to stand up against them," Campbell said.
Grant Clegg of Alandale also indicated today a full resolution was yet to be reached.
"We're talking with the families. It's still ongoing. We're in discussion with them and the statutory supervisor. Some people are still living there [in the block].
"We have one fire warden which is a requirement under our fire and evacuation plan, approved by Fire and Emergency NZ. Even if there were no issues with passive fire protection in the building, there is still a requirement for a warden when people are staying overnight."
Gray said some apartment residents held freehold titles.
He did not say it, but that is very different to most other villages where only licenses to occupy are granted. Gray said other apartment residents rented from Alandale. If owners want to sell, they get their capital gain but must pay a deferred management fee of up to 25 per cent of the value of their units, he noted.
Alandale has asked apartment block residents to pay the cost of having fire wardens on the site, at $550/week per resident as well as paying a portion of the block repair costs, quoted at $919,336.
Alternatively, residents can sell back to Alandale at a fair market price less the fee, Gray noted.
Alandale was wrong to tell Campbell to leave, Gray found: "The operator does not have the legal right to compel residents to move out of the apartment block."
Nor could it charge her for the fire wardens because her agreement with Alandale said she would not be liable for any costs from any defects or repairs to her unit.
On the price Campbell wants, Gray recommended she and Alandale "continue negotiations".
Campbell complained Alandale changed her status from independent to disabled and that it shared her medical records with a third party which influenced reports from Fire and Emergency NZ and Hamilton City Council.
Gray recommended Alandale confirm to Campbell that she is an independent resident, not disabled and to apologise for misunderstandings.
Gray said Alandale confirmed it had only two residents in the apartment block. FENZ has agreed only one fire warden is required, Gray noted, not two.
Campbell claims Alandale is intentionally forcing residents out to repurpose the building but Gray said he understood from Alandale that was not the case.
Gray hoped his string of recommendations would lead to a mutually acceptable agreement between Campbell and Alandale.
Last Friday, Alandale's Grant Clegg wrote to Campbell saying her absence from her apartment was now "voluntary" and it wants its service fee of $3495/month, suspended during the country's pandemic lockdown but reinstated from this month.
That bill includes money for a fire warden.
Christina Campbell said today getting that bill was "our most recent nasty surprise."