A village was upgrading its community facilities. This included a large hall, small hall and proposed shared kitchen and toilet facilities. Plans were drawn up and presented to the residents. While 2 toilets were included off the main hall, the new design lacked a toilet attached to the small hall. This design would require residents to either walk through the large hall or walk outside and then up steps to enter the toilet.

Residents asked verbally and in writing for the design to be reworked to include the extra toilet. They pointed out that when the large hall was being used, including by several outside groups, toilet access would be restricted for residents using the small hall. The issue of navigating steps for some was mentioned, along with the fact that many in their 80’s and 90’s were on fluid retention medication so close access was important, and that council regulations would actually require a facility of this size to have 4 toilets if built from new. Their written request also included a petition from over 70% of the residents, along with suggestions on how the change could be achieved, if space was the issue.

However, these requests appeared to fall on ‘deaf ears’. With word that a contractor had already been selected and work about to commence, residents contacted the RVRANZ.

Part of the email to the RVRANZ said “We have, today, emailed the accompanying letter to [the statutory supervisor] alongside the signatures of 93 residents. We very much doubt that we will be listened to but you just have to try anyway!”

Our advice was to file a ‘formal complaint’ with the operator (which had not happened – even with the residents petition). Under the Code of Practice, submitting a formal complaint specifically relating to the build and lack of communication/consultation as to why the residents submissions for the toilet appear to have not been considered would;

  1. Require the operator to acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 5 working days.
  2. Require the operator to stop any action associated with the build (if it is not to the detriment of the majority of the residents) until the complaint is resolved ’to the residents’ satisfaction. The formal complaint need only be from one person – however, several individuals can also file the same (or similar) complaint.
  3. Require the complaint to be resolved within 20 working days – to the residents satisfaction.

We were delighted to hear back from the residents a few weeks later with the following;

I wanted to thank you for your good advice to [our] Residents’ Association. Our Formal Complaint had a good outcome as the plans were put on hold. The Operational Manager advised us that an adjustment had been made to the existing plan and a toilet accessible from our smaller hall was added. A plan was sent to the manager who photocopied it and put it on display last Friday. Tomorrow the Operational Manager is coming to a meeting (they called) to discuss the matter.

 I think that the Management was amazed that 93 residents out of a total of about 130 had signed the letter. I’m sure we would not have had such a good result if you hadn’t told us of the magic words “Formal Complaint!”

Thank you again for your help and keep up the good work!”

Note: A formal complaint is as simple as an email or letter with the words “Formal Complaint” at the top and a brief description of what has happened, how it impacts / impacted you and the outcome you would like and then dated and signed.

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