Retirement Villages provide you with a right to reside at the Village in return for paying various fees. You’re not buying the accommodation you will live in, or the land on which that home sits – both remain in the ownership of the Village operator. The Village operator may partner with a home-care service who will provide aged care services, allowing residents to receive home help at the Village, as they become less independent.
The level of support that Retirement Villages now provide could be considered the equivalent of what was previously called “independent living units” and “low care” units. However, if your health care needs are complex and/or you require a large number of hours of support, it is unlikely that a Retirement Village will be able to meet your needs.
The contract you will be required to sign before entering the Village could take several forms. The Village provider should provide you with government-approved documents setting out your, and the operator’s, rights and responsibilities. These documents should help you to make sensible comparisons between different Villages, including a summary of estimated costs between Villages.
The Village must allow you 21 days to review the documents before asking you to sign them, AND THEN there is a further 14 days cooling-off period in which you can get out of the contract, and receive a full return of any funds you have paid.
In addition to an upfront fee (“incoming contribution”) which provides you with the right to move into the Village, you will need to pay ongoing fees for the care and maintenance of your unit and to receive Village services, and an exit fee, which will apply when you leave the Village.
There are varying financial models for calculating the exit fees. Exit fees are a frequent cause of concern and disputes. For this reason, BEFORE you move into the complex, it’s very important to clearly understand all of the conditions you will need to meet when it is time to leave the Village. The exit fee is usually based on a sliding scale, expressed as a percentage of the incoming contribution you paid, and is pro-rata based on the length of time of residency. It may also be capped at a certain amount.
Leaving the Village
A Retirement Village operator can legally require you to move out of the Village if you receive a “high care” ACAT assessment. Most Village operators will control the process of sale of your unit when you leave the Village. So, unlike a traditional real estate sale where you would engage a real estate agent to act in your best interests, when you sell a private home, the Village operator may control the entire sale process, including how and to whom the property is marketed. This may not necessarily be in your best interests – while you may wish to take a lower price for the property to move quickly, that is not the best interests of the Village operator and the operator may not accept that offer.
Retirement Villages are regulated by State Governments. More information about Retirement Village living and State regulation can be found at each different State’s government website. However, if you find it difficult, or don’t want the worry of having to navigate a complex government regulated system, seek professional help.