Retirement Village disputes will inevitably arise from time to time. It is a byproduct of communal living. The disputes can be between the residents or between the residents and the retirement village operator.
The residence contract will set out the procedure for resolving these disputes.
Retirement Village Disputes between neighbours
The Residence Rules, which form part of the residence contract, will detail rules of the village which must be adhered to by each resident. The aim of of the rules is to ensure that every resident is able to enjoy a peaceful and comfortable lifestyle without any undue interference.
The rules will typically cover some of the following;
- Noise to be kept to a minimum;
- The type of pets that can be kept in the units;
- Cars to be parked in designated car-parking spaces; and
- Length of stays and numbers of visitors permitted to stay overnight.
In the event that one of these rules is consistently breached, for example parking in someone else’s car-parking space, what can be done? In the first instance the resident should speak to the offending neighbour. If there is no change in behaviour the resident can take the complaint to the retirement village operator. The operator will then advise the offending resident that he/she has breached the Residence Rules. If the wrongdoing continues the operator has the option of terminating the contract. This, of course, would be a last resort.
Retirement Village Disputes between residents and the operator
The appropriate forum for raising complaints with the operator is the residents’ committee. Most villages will have a residents’ committee which is elected by the residents and whose function is to protect the interests of the residents. In the absence of a residents’ committee the aggrieved resident would need to approach the operator directly.
It would be hoped that any complaint raised by the residents’ committee/resident with the operator is resolved quickly and amicably, and to the satisfaction of both parties. If the matter cannot be resolved the parties will need to proceed in accordance with the operator’s dispute resolution policy.
- the name of the person representing the operator;
- the manner in which a complaint can be made;
- how a dispute is handled;
- the persons or bodies available to the resident or committee to seek advice about the dispute;
- the right to apply to the Tribunal if the response to the complaint is unsatisfactory.
If, after meeting and discussing the complaint, the parties are still not able to resolve their differences they are encouraged to seek mediation. The mediator will be a person experienced in mediation; familiar with the type of dispute at issue; and agreed between the parties. The Office for the Ageing offers a mediation service. The outcome of any mediation will not be binding but will, if successful, bring the parties closer to resolution.
A last resort for resolving the dispute is an application to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the “Tribunal”). The Tribunal will only adjudicate on disputes between residents and operators (not disputes between residents) and only disputes arising from an act or omission less than 4 years old.
At the hearing the Tribunal will hear from both parties. Each party should bring all correspondence and documents relating to the dispute to the hearing. When the hearing is concluded a legally binding decision will be handed down. All parties must comply with any orders made by the Tribunal.
It is important to note that lawyers are not permitted to represent a party at the hearing unless the Tribunal is satisfied that a party would be unfairly disadvantaged by not having legal representation. If one party has legal representation that right is automatically extended to the other party.
Other options available for resolving Retirement Village disputes
The South Australian Retirement Villages Residents’ Association (SARVRA) can provide assistance to its members. Most types of disputes tend to occur frequently and SARVRA is accustomed to providing helpful advice with a view to resolving these disputes. SARVRA’s contact details are:
Similarly, the Aged Rights Advocacy Service has a Retirement Village Advocacy Programme to assist residents. Their contact details are;
A lawyer familiar retirement village law can also provide preliminary advice and appear at a Tribunal hearing if circumstances permit.