From 2016 residents were ‘verbally’ told that plans were underway for a new facility with apartments and care and that once this was built that they would likely be demolishing the old poorly insulated cottages. Over the next 5 years they were given multiple verbal assurances that they would be looked after, as in, offered alternative accommodation either in the new apartments they were building or at one of the operator’s other facilities. Some residents passed away, some were relocated, leaving 2 single, elderly lady residents (late 70’s/ early 80’s) remaining in ORA/Unit Titles (and 3 residents in rentals). On March 5, 2021 the remaining residents were given letters detailing the specific arrangements for transferring to the new apartments built on the same location. This required them to supply their solicitors details to the operator, which they did. Five weeks later the operator requested individual meetings with the residents. The residents had no idea about the actual content of the meeting other than it was to discuss “ongoing developments”.
At that meeting the new CEO advised that the opportunity of moving to the new apartments was no longer financially viable (The operator is a publicly listed company with a market capitalisation of just under $1 billion). Instead they could ‘have the opportunity’ to stay where they were and the operator would wipe the $80 per week fee. Simply put, the operator would forgo collecting $8000 per year from both ladies so it could then market the 2 apartments at over $1.5 million combined and collect twice the amount in weekly fees. The residents were totally stunned, stressed and angry. One said “It felt like I had been punched in the stomach and all the wind taken out of me.”
Not knowing where to go or what to do, an RVRANZ village contact raised the concern with the RVRANZ and a local rep met with the ladies. When the RVRANZ made contact with the operator – they disputed the matters raised, and said that residents (and family) were ‘adamant they wanted to stay onsite – in their existing situation’. This could not have been further from the truth. After much advocacy from the RVRANZ, the CEO, finally, verbally agreed to honour the original letters – then had the ladies escorted off the premises only hours later when they tried to view their new apartments.
At this point, the RVRANZ involved the Statutory Supervisor and cc’d in the CFFC, RVA and Registrar of Retirement Villages. The operator then tried to rush signatures from both ladies (after hours) after the RVRANZ advised the operator that the residents would need time to consider seeking legal representation and/or family involvement. The RVRANZ’s position was that the operator had not shown good faith and there were clear grounds for ‘specific performance’ of the March 5 letters, which the RVRANZ made the operator well aware of. The operator told the media that the RVRANZ should not interfere… but who else will?