Retirement Villiages Amendement Bill

(Debate, 11 November 2020, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

The Retirement Villages Amendment Bill 2020 will help former residents of retirement villages to access their exit entitlements if their property has not been sold, allow that entitlement to go directly to an aged-care facility and reduce former residents' ongoing costs to a retirement village. These are vital reforms. However, the bill's provisions are not tight enough to prevent some people from slipping through the cracks and experiencing hardship. The father of one of my constituents had to transfer from a retirement village to a nursing home in April. He has been unable to sell his registered long-term lease in the retirement village, which he was relying on to meet the costs of his new nursing home, including the refundable accommodation deposit. It does not look likely that the unit will be sold soon as there is a number of unoccupied units in the village and there have been no sales of registered long-term leases in the village for the past two years.

The nursing home is now charging him 4.89 per cent on the $550,000 owing for the accommodation deposit. The retirement village continues to charge him general fees that come to $1,996.40 a month. Meanwhile, he has care fees in his new nursing home. This comes at a time in this elderly man's life when his focus should be on his health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, the bill will provide limited to no help in his situation. Because the new 42-day cap on general changes will not start until 1 July next year, his monthly fee of almost $2,000 a month will continue for another eight months. By then, he will have been paying this phenomenal amount for over a year. The cap should clearly commence when the legislation is enacted to protect people who are currently incurring, or will incur, charges over the next six months.

It is unclear whether my constituent's father will be eligible for accommodation payments to be made directly to his nursing home because the bill excludes former occupants from making such a request if they entered an aged-care facility immediately before the bill commences. As a result, he will have to obtain an exit entitlement order, which is onerous and will require steps that would be difficult for someone in aged care agreeing to a valuation with the operator, or to obtain an independent valuation. Occupants who vacated to a nursing home before the bill was enacted should be able to get accommodation payments paid to their nursing home. It will also be easy for retirement village operators to delay the payment of exit entitlements beyond the six months prescribed in the bill if the premises have not been sold.

The operator may get an extension if they have not unreasonably delayed the sale of the vacated premises. This will be easy to satisfy for most operators, particularly when a large number of leased premises are vacant and the market is flat. The Government should take into consideration the hardship that delaying the payment of exit entitlements will cause former occupants when making decisions whether to postpone the exit entitlements. I acknowledge the work of the Minister's office in considering the complex case of my constituent. I also thank Ms Abigail Boyd of The Greens for taking an interest in the circumstances of my constituent's father and for successfully moving amendments that may reduce his immediate financial burden. I hope the Government will take these concerns on board and work to improve the reforms.