The Queensland Parliament has passed new legislation which will impact on the regulatory landscape of retirement villages and manufactured homes, writes retirement property lawyer Danielle Lim. The changes aim to achieve fairness and security for residents of seniors’ living accommodation into the future, according to Minister DeBrenni.
Other MP's who spoke on the legislation included The Member for Southport, Mr Molhoek, who noted that there exists 'depths of passion' in relation to the seniors’ living issues, particularly in relation to manufactured home parks, and who told parliament that some stakeholders are not satisfied with the Bill. The Member for Noosa, Mr Glen Elmes, said that Bill was not sufficient to meet the needs of the people it is trying to protect.
Mr Molhoek said he believed that parliament would be revisiting the Act because the current review did not go far or deep enough to achieve the required outcomes.
Chief Government Whip, Mr Chris Whiting, also said that parliament would be revisiting the Act, but for a positive reason - to keep on top of the evolving retirement living products that may come to market.
Mr Molhoek observed that it is imperative that the families of residents consider the entry cost, the exit cost and the costs of living in the park – a message that Ms Lim says she hears echoed by park owners and retirement village operators time and again.
The specific changes to the Bill covered matters arising from a recent Committee Report, as well as some late changes introduced during the second reading debate.
A high level summary of the changes are outlined below:
Manufactured Home Parks
The changes in the new Act include:
· More consultation regarding site disputes (three step process - now two steps before getting to QCAT)
· Greater involvement by home owner committees regarding site disputes
· A two stage disclosure and mandatory cooling off period
· Restriction on charging administration fees for reading meters
· New behavioural obligations
· Restriction on the timing and method of rent increases
· Consultation by qualified valuers regarding market reviews
· A requirement to prepare an emergency plan for the park
The final changes to the Bill that relate to the manufactured home park laws include:
· a reduction of the cooling off period where legal advice has been obtained.
· confirmation that a home owner only needs to refund the purchase price received by that home owner where a prospective buyer terminates under a cooling off period. That is, the home owner will not be required to pay the legal fees of the prospective buyer.
· clarification that only one site review can happen each year (i.e. not CPI and market at the same time).
The changes in the new Act include:
· Mandatory buyback (18 months)
· Disclosure changes – in terms of content and timing
· Replacement of the Public Information Document with Village Comparison Document (which must be available on the operator’s website) and Prospective Costs Document
· Clearer separation between the General Services Charges and Maintenance Reserve Fund Charges
· New valuation required every 3 months during the sales process
· Dispute resolution changes
· Transfers of ownership of villages to be in accordance with Transition Plan
· Strict requirements regarding redevelopment
· New behavioural standards
The final changes to the Retirement Villages Act include protections in respect of:
· The sales process - including a restriction on operators providing misleading documentation; and
While it is not clear whether Minister DeBrenni’s immediate objectives of security and fairness will be achieved by the new laws, it is clear that the new changes will impact on all aspects of village and park life - including registering, running, developing and closing them.
Danielle Lim is an experienced property lawyer who specialises in the seniors living industry. She advises clients on property developments, acquisitions and disposals, and regulatory compliance, and is a member of the government's parliamentary working committee on manufactured homes in Queensland, the Property Council's Residential Committee and the UDIA Seniors Living Committee. Danielle regularly speaks at industry events and provides legal training sessions.