If you are considering moving into a retirement village you should carefully consider the residence rules.
All residents are entitled to peaceful enjoyment of their retirement village unit. The units are located in close proximity to each other therefore it is imperative that the residents have regard to the comfort and peaceful co-existence of their neighbours. The rules set the standard of conduct for every resident.
The retirement village operator (“Operator“) must include the residence rules in the contract and the rules must address the following issues as required by the Retirement Villages Regulations 2017 (“Regulations“):
- visitors to the village including overnight visitors;
- noise within the village;
- parking of vehicles within the village;
- collection and disposal of rubbish;
- gardens and landscaping; and
- use and operation of services and facilities in the village.
Most residents place a strong emphasis on lifestyle when deciding to move into a retirement village. You should, at the outset, make sure the rules do not conflict with the lifestyle you were expecting. For instance, some villages do not permit smoking in the units or the common areas. If you have been a smoker for many years and you are not willing to give up you will not be welcome in the village.
The residence rules will cover the abovementioned issues as well as other issues. I have noticed significant differences in the rules provided by the various operators. Three of the issues addressed in the rules:
- overnight visitors;
- pets; and
are critical for many prospective residents.
Overnight Visitors Residence Rules
If you are planning to have your children and/or grandchildren stay overnight at your unit you need to pay particular attention to this rule. Some villages allow overnight visitors to stay for up to 10 nights without the need to obtain consent from the Operator. Other Operators require you to obtain prior consent for visitors staying overnight for 1 or 2 nights.
The issue of overnight visitors may be an issue for the other residents. Having strangers wandering around the village may alarm the other residents who are concerned about their personal safety and the security of their units.
Pets Residence Rules
It is widely acknowledged that pets play an important role in the lives of their owners. Forced separation can be quite distressing for an owner.
Retirement villages will have differing policies in regard to pets. Some villages do not allow pets at all; some allow cats, fish and birds, but not dogs; and some allow all small pets. If you have a pet that you intend to keep with you in the unit you should notify the Operator before you sign the contract and ensure you have the Operator’s consent to keep the pet in the unit.
You should be aware that the consent to keep a pet may be withdrawn at some point in the future. If your dog barks loudly and frequently the Operator may ask you to remove it on the basis that it interferes with the other residents’ quiet enjoyment of the village.
Noise Residence Rules
It goes without saying that a noisy neighbour makes for an unhappy environment. Retirement villages are quiet places and a neighbour who constantly plays loud music will upset the other residents. Other sources of loud noise may include loud electrical appliances, motor vehicles and arguments between a couple in a shared unit.
Can the Residence Rules be Changed?
The short answer is “yes”.
The Operator can change the rules but only after consultation with the residents (Section 6 Schedule 1 of the Regulations) and it must provide an opportunity for the residents to respond. It should be noted that the Residence Rules, or any change to the rules, cannot be harsh or unconscionable (Retirement Villages Act 2016 Section 41).
As to what is “harsh and unconscionable” depends on the circumstances of the case. Consideration would need to be given to the nature of the new rule, how it compares to the previous rule, and how the change impacts the residents.
It could be argued that a change in the rules would be harsh and unconscionable if the Operator changed the rules to prohibit the keeping of pets when previously, the keeping of pets was allowed. In this situation the residents could approach the Operator and request the pets policy remain unchanged. If the Operator insists on changing the policy the residents could then exercise their rights as outlined in the dispute resolution procedure in the contract.
What Happens if You Breach the Residence Rules?
In the first instance the Operator will remind you of the village rules and ask that you comply with the rules. If you persistently breach the rules the operator is within its rights to terminate your contract. See my article “Retirement Village Disputes“.
Termination of a resident’s contract is a last resort and must be approved by the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.