Prospective residents of retirement villages will be able to calculate the estimated costs of moving into a village before signing a contract, with the launch of a new online calculator by NSW Fair Trading on Tuesday.
The tool is among a raft of reforms announced for the sector after a joint investigation by Fairfax Media and ABC’s Four Corners uncovered questionable practices by one of the biggest listed and most profitable retirement village operators, Aveo.
The investigation revealed business practices including gouging; a business model that profits from churning residents, safety issues, misleading marketing and advertising and confusing contracts, which often presented unexpected costs.
Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said the online calculator would allow residents to “compare village prices and ultimately ensure they’re not getting ripped off by unscrupulous operators”.
“It can be overwhelming to assess retirement village costs due to a wide range of fees and charges that are often incurred at different times,” he said.
Mr Kean said the calculator would be supported by recent amendments to the Retirement Villages Regulation 2009, which includes a new standard for fees and charges.
A compliance blitz and an inquiry into the sector, headed by Kathryn Greiner, who recently conducted an internal review of the NSW Catholic school system, has begun.
The inquiry will include a number of community forums to be held around the state, seeking feedback from the public.
Minister for Ageing Tanya Davies said she was pleased to see new measures were working to protect residents from confusing contracts, hidden fees and unexpected costs.
“By putting the right protections in place we are safeguarding the financial and physical independence of older people in our communities,” she said.
The calculator will offer basic and detailed estimates for those who are only gathering information and those who have already obtained a village disclosure statement.
Community forum sessions will be held at the following locations:Hornsby RSL, 4 High Street, Hornsby – Tuesday October 3, 10am-12pmNewcastle Exhibition Centre, 309 King St, Newcastle West – Wednesday October 4, 10am-12pmWagga Wagga International Hotel, Cnr Lake Albert Rd & Sturt Hwy, Wagga – Tuesday October 10, 10am-12pmWollongong Diggers Club, 82 Church Street, Wollongong – Thursday October 12 – 10am-12pmSMC Conference & Function Centre, 66 Goulburn Street, Sydney – Tuesday October 17 – 10am-12pmBallina RSL, 1 Grant Street, Ballina – Wednesday October 18 – 10am-12pmPort Macquarie Golf Club, Ocean Drive, Port Macquarie – Thursday, October 19, 10am-12pm