The Retirement Villages Act 1999 outlines the process for managing complaints and resolving disputes between residents and operators. The Act does not cover disputes between residents or disputes relating to how the retirement village body corporate operatres.
There is a three-step process for resolving disputes regarding residence contracts in retirement villages.
Step 1: Internal negotiation
First try to resolve the dispute within the village. Write to the other party stating your dispute and suggest a date for a meeting. Give them at least 14 days notice.
The other party must respond in writing within seven days of receiving the notice. Then you meet to resolve the dispute.
We advise operators to establish processes for resolving disputes internally. This information should be in the public information document.
You may also contact a Dispute Resolution Centre, which offers free confidential and impartial mediation services to assist in resolving your dispute.
Operators - how to deal with complaints fairly
- Make it easy for a resident to raise problems with you.
- Treat residents with genuine empathy, courtesy, patience, honesty and fairness.
- Respond to the problem quickly and tell the resident how you will handle it and when you will give them a response.
- Understand the full nature of their problem - listen carefully, ask questions, clarify the situation and summarise the situation back to them.
- Tell the resident what will happen next and ensure they are happy with how the process will proceed.
- Inform the resident regularly of progress.
- Promptly complete all promised action.
- Clearly tell the resident the outcome of their problem and action you will take to stop the problem happening again.
Step 2: Mediation
If you cannot resolve your dispute through internal negotiation, you can apply for mediation through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
- complete three copies of Form 3 - Dispute notice for referral to mediation (from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal website)
- pay the filing fee
- lodge the application (see the form for lodgement options).
The Tribunal will appoint a mediator within 14 days and give you seven days notice of the meeting´s date, time and location.
The mediation conference is private and no record is kept.
The mediator uses an informal process to help you resolve your dispute.
Lawyers may represent the parties if the mediator approves. Other people may also join the mediation if the mediator believes they have relevant interest in the dispute.
If both parties reach an agreement, the mediator records the agreement, both parties sign it, and the mediator gives a copy to the Tribunal.
Step 3: Tribunal hearing
You can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a hearing if:
- parties cannot reach agreement
- one party does not attend mediation
- the parties cannot settle the dispute within four months
- one party claims the other has not complied with the mediation agreement within the specified time (or two months of the agreement if no time is specified).
- complete three copies of Form 31 - Application for a tribunal hearing (from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal website)
- pay the filing fee
- lodge the application.
Once the Tribunal registers the application, and gives a copy to the other party, it sends a directions hearing notice to the parties.
At a directions hearing, the Tribunal considers preliminary matters, including a timetable for the parties to prepare their statements and documents for the hearing. Parties can attend the directions hearing by phone.
The Tribunal then sends a hearing notice to the parties with the hearing´s location, time and date.
Both parties must attend, and the Tribunal can hear evidence without a party.
Afterwards, the Tribunal notifies both parties in writing of the outcome and any orders it has made.
In some circumstances, you can apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a hearing without going through internal negotiation or mediation.
These include when someone:
- threatens to remove, or actually removes, a resident from the retirement village
- threatens to deprive, or actually deprives, a resident of the right to live in the village
- threatens to restrict, or actually restricts, a resident´s use of the retirement village land
- gives a resident false or misleading documents to the financial detriment of the resident
- fails to fulfil requirements regarding exit entitlements and unit resale.