Last updated 5 September 2016
The Retirement Villages Act 1999 (Qld) (Retirement Villages Act) has extensive provisions in relation to resolution of disputes in a retirement village. These provisions relate only to disputes between a resident and the operator. They do not apply to disputes between residents. For disputes between residents, recourse must be had to usual laws affecting neighbours (see chapter on Neighbours).
The Retirement Villages Act sets up a dispute resolution process as detailed below.
If a dispute has arisen between a resident and the operator, the parties must try to resolve the dispute by giving a notice to the other, stating the matters in dispute and nominating a date for a meeting to talk about it. The day nominated must be at least 14 days after giving the notice.
Within seven days of receiving the notice, the other party must give a written response. The parties must then meet to attempt to resolve the dispute (s 154 Retirement Villages Act).
If the dispute is not resolved in the preliminary negotiations, a party may apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) for the appointment of a mediator to assist the parties to resolve the dispute. The current application fee is $55.
The registrar will then appoint a mediator to attempt to resolve the dispute, and any party can have a lawyer or agent represent them at a mediation conference unless the mediator thinks that a lawyer or other person should not represent the party. The mediation is held in private and no official record is kept of the discussion (ss 158–160 Retirement Villages Act).
While a party cannot be forced to come to mediation, it can be a very successful way of resolving disputes.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal
If the dispute is not resolved in the preliminary negotiation or mediation stage, an application can be made to QCAT to determine the dispute between the parties. A fee of $55 is also payable in respect of these applications.
A party to a dispute may apply to QCAT if (ss 167–168 Retirement Villages Act):
- the parties cannot reach agreement
- one party does not attend mediation
- the dispute is not settled within four months
- a party claims that another party to a mediation agreement has not complied with it
- a party is threatened with removal or is removed from the retirement village
- a party is threatened with deprivation or is deprived of the right to reside in the village
- a party is threatened with restriction or is restricted in the use of the retirement village facilities.
A party can conduct their own case or be represented by a lawyer or agent if they apply to be represented and QCAT allows it.
The tribunal can make the following general orders (s 191 Retirement Villages Act):
- ordering a party to do or not to do something
- ordering a party to refund monies to another party
- other orders which may be appropriate in the circumstances.
In particular, it should be noted that a resident can ask QCAT:
- to have their contract set aside if the scheme operator has given false or misleading documents, and the resident is materially prejudiced by it
- that the scheme operator pay the resident’s exit entitlement if the scheme operator does not comply with the provisions of the Retirement Villages Act relating to the resale of the unit, and the resident is materially prejudiced.