Forum to address Retirement Villages Disputes ProcessPosted to Financial Capability Retirement Section on 10-08-2015
In September 2015 a forum was conducted by the Retirement Commissioner and the Commission for Financial Capability to investigate better ways to resolve disputes in retirement villages.
The move came after a report produced for the Commission found a number of key issues with the current disputes panel system.
• The formal dispute resolution process is not user-friendly for all residents.
• There are a lack of alternative options to resolve disputes.
• There is a need for greater advice and support for residents in resolving disputes, as well as better information about the dispute process.
A gap has been identified between the complaints process in villages and the formal dispute process, which could be bridged by a mediation option.
Troy Churton, the Commission’s Retirement Villages Programme Strategy Manager, said: “People want to have their issues resolved effectively and in a timely manner, preferably in a way that prevents them from escalating into disputes that require a formal resolution process. Mediation may help with that.
“Most operators have a genuine commitment to sorting out complaints quickly and take pride in ensuring residents have a high satisfaction with their service.
"But we need to be confident that the disputes system, when required, works as well as possible for everyone.”
The report found overwhelming agreement among residents, operators, panellists, lawyers and statutory supervisors that change is needed to make the current system more customer-focused, efficient and effective.
The various groups were invited to a forum led by the Commission to discuss the issues and consider changes, such as mediation and alternative dispute resolution, with the potential for a Variation to the Code of Practice process.
A total of 23 disputes have entered the formal dispute resolution process over eight years (2007-14). Of those nine were withdrawn and 14 reached a decision, almost all in favour of the operator.
Churton added: “The needs and dynamics of complainants in the retirement village industry can be very diverse. There may be no absolute perfect system for every type of retirement village dispute.
“Our forum was a chance to develop a process that we can recommend to the Minister for approval and which enables more appropriate options for all parties, whatever their resources.”
The report identified the importance of having a system that meets the needs of all residents, especially those who are vulnerable; who have impairments that make communication difficult; or who are reluctant to complain.
Operators, who pay for the resolution panels, were concerned at the cost of the process and delays in resolution. Many said they would be reluctant to initiate a dispute, not only because of the expense, but also the risk of reputational damage and the disruption to other village residents.
Statutory supervisors also raised concerns about the costs, delays and the lack of alternative processes for resolving disputes.
Some lawyers said the panel process needs to be more accessible and user-friendly for older people. They also thought simplified or alternative forms of dispute resolution could be used.
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