WA retirement village investigated, ministers move to allay fears

Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray. Photo: ABC
Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray. Photo: ABC

IN the wake of the ABC Four Corners expose on retirement villages, it has been disclosed an investigation into a WA operator for serious management issues resulted in the election of a new board.

WA Seniors and Ageing Minister Mick Murray said Consumer Protection investigated the not-for-profit Lisle Villages, which manages the retirement lodges of Lisle and Leaweena in Mt Claremont and Melvista in Nedlands.

Consumer Protection officers seized electronic and hard copy documents at the premises in July 2016 after receiving complaints about the financial position and operation of Lisle Villages.

Examination of the evidence resulted in a broader investigation into all aspects of Lisle’s management and governance which resulted in a new board being elected in May 2017.

Following the investigation,  Acting Commission for Consumer Protection David Hillyard also recommended the establishment of a residents’ committee at each of the villages.

Seniors and Ageing Minister Mick Murray said the Four Corners program – exposing retirees caught out by complicated contracts, excessive fees and punitive rules – focused on the business practices of the Aveo Group, which has no operations in WA.

“I am pleased to report WA has much better regulation in place for the retirement village industry than other States,” he said.

“The concerns raised in the report (program) around delays in marketing units are addressed by WA legislation, which requires operators to provide marketing reports to former residents detailing their efforts to sell unsold properties and sets a maximum time for how long residents can be charged after vacating a premises.

“WA law also sets refurbishment costs at cost recovery,” he said.”

Mr Murray said WA required retirement village operators to provide would-be residents with information detailing costs to be paid on entry, while a resident, and upon leaving to enable people to compare whole of package costs between providers.

He said WA was investigating whether provisions in residents’ contracts for deferred fees are allowable under Australian Consumer Law.

Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt MHR (Hasluck) promised action after watching the program on Monday.

“Older Australians should be able to feel safe and secure in their aged care and not be subjected to mistreatment or abuse of any kind,” Mr Wyatt said.

Parkerville resident Helen Crichton said the program was disturbing and shocking.

“Some people had walked away with less than a quarter of what they’d paid for their homes; it made my blood boil,” she said.

Mrs Crichton said she abandoned the idea of moving to a retirement village with her husband when she received paperwork in the post ‘the size of a Bible’.

Mr Wyatt said the Federal Government would revisit recommendations to protect retirees in a 2007 Parliamentary inquiry and 2011 Productivity Commission review.

“I’m committed to looking at what options there are and how we deal with those options, what my State and Territory colleagues are prepared to do as well,” he said.

“One of the problems with the Commonwealth process is when there’s an election, some of those reports go into abeyance; I now want to revisit that report,” he said.

Mr Wyatt said issues brought to light in the program showed the emerging trend of aged care providers also providing retirement-style living options.

“While the industry advises me the majority of residents are happy, these highlighted cases are not what we want in a fair-go society,” he said.

The regulation of retirement villages is primarily a State Government role; currently there are nine retirement villages in the Hasluck electorate.

In the Shire of Kalamunda, plans to develop an integrated aged care facility in Wattle Grove moved forward in June after a meeting between the Shire and Planning Minister Rita Saffioti.

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