Thursday, June 17, 2021
Times of Georgia
HomePoliticalConsumer NZ Calls Out Unfair Terms In Retirement Village Contracts

Consumer NZ Calls Out Unfair Terms In Retirement Village Contracts


Consumer NZ wants an overhaul of retirement village
regulations to protect residents from unfair
terms.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said its
review of retirement village contracts found terms that
unfairly favour the village and risk leaving residents out
of pocket.

“Retirement villages promise the good
life in your golden years. However, the agreements consumers
must sign before they move into a village can have a nasty
financial sting. Some also risk breaching consumer law,”
Duffy said.

A major concern was terms that made
residents responsible for the costs of maintaining and
repairing items in their unit, even though they didn’t own
them, he said.

Most retirement villages offer a
“licence to occupy”, which gives the resident the right
to live in their unit but no ownership rights to the
property. Despite this, some contracts made the resident
liable for repairing the operator’s
chattels.

Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson
said Metlifecare had a wide-ranging clause in its contract,
which gave residents just one month after the agreement
begins to advise the company of any repairs
needed.

After that time, the resident was required to
meet any costs, including paying for repairs to the unit’s
stove, garage doors, plumbing and electrical
fittings.

“In our view, these terms conflict with
residents’ rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act to
expect goods and services of a reasonable standard. If the
oven in your unit fails, the village should wear the repair
cost.”

Wilson said many residents also faced
significant financial losses when their unit was sold
because they didn’t receive any capital gains, despite
paying towards the property’s upkeep.

Villages’
retention of the capital gain was a major cause of
complaint. In a Consumer NZ survey of 1680 residents, 63
percent were unhappy their agreement didn’t allow them to
get any capital gain when their unit was
sold.

Consumer NZ’s review of village contracts also
found terms that gave the village wide discretion to decide
what residents could and couldn’t do.

Several
contracts restricted residents’ rights to raise objections
about village developments. Metlifecare and Summerset
contracts included terms stating residents weren’t allowed
to object to any dust, noise or other nuisance caused by the
development.

Wilson said these kinds of clauses
ignored residents’ rights to raise legitimate
concerns.

Consumer NZ will be providing the findings
of its review to the Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson,
who’s responsible for monitoring the
sector.

Consumer NZ’s review of retirement village
contracts was supported by a grant from The New Zealand Law
Foundation.

The review looked at contracts offered by
six major retirement village operators: Arvida, Bupa,
Metlifecare, Oceania Healthcare, Ryman Healthcare and
Summerset.

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