Disputes may arise between residents and operators of retirement villages, or between two or more residents residing in the same village. While some of these disputes can be resolved informally, the operator of a retirement village must also have a written dispute resolution policy, which must comply with any requirements prescribed by the Retirement Villages Regulations 2017 (SA) [Retirement Villages Act 2016 (SA) s 45 and reg 18].
A copy of the policy must be provided to residents within 5 business days of request.
The dispute resolution policy must contain, among other things, information on:
- who a resident can contact in the event of a dispute (such as a representative of the operator);
- how a dispute will be handled once a complaint is made, including time frames for responding to complaints;
- how a resident can resolve a dispute with another resident;
- the ability of a resident to apply to SACAT if they are not satisfied with the response to their complaint;
- any requirements of the operator to keep records of complaints.
See Retirement Villages Regulations 2017 (SA) reg 18.
If, after reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute by following the dispute resolution policy, the dispute continues, a party to the dispute may apply to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) for resolution of the matters in dispute [Retirement Villages Act 2016 (SA) s 46].
Legal advice should be sought before making an application to SACAT.
An application must not be made to SACAT concerning an act or omission that occurred more than 4 years beforehand, except with the permission of SACAT [s 46(2)(b)]. In these cases, permission should be sought in the first instance.
SACAT can make a range of orders, including orders [s 46(3)]:
- to restrain a breach of the contract or the Act;
- to require action in the performance of the contract or compliance with the Act;
- to pay compensation for loss or injury, other than personal injury, caused by a breach of the contract or the Act;
- to require the operator to vary or reverse its decision;
- to avoid or modify terms or conditions of an agreement between the operator and resident;
- to require the operator to repay to the resident any amount paid by the resident; and
- to determine the amount payable as an exit entitlement
A dispute as to an exit entitlement may alternatively be brought before a court with jurisdiction to hear and determine a claim founded on contract for the amount in dispute [s 46(9)]. Depending on the amount sought, this would likely be the Magistrates Court or District Court.
The Office for Ageing Well provide a mediation service for certain retirement villages disputes, which may be considered as an alternative dispute resolution option instead of legal proceedings. For more information see the SA Gov- Retirement Housing Information for Residents website.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.