Money Seniors locked in battle with lifestyle village

07:26  05 january  2018
07:26  05 january  2018 Source:   msn.com

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There are new calls for an overhaul of Australia's retirement and lifestyle villages, after a contract technicality caught out seniors at a gated community in Geelong.

Charlie Sciberras has had a holiday unit at Pelican Shores for more than 40 years, but the 62-year-old recently decided to sell the property to help fund his retirement.

A manager from the village initially told him the site was worth around $140,000.

"I was quite happy with that," Mr Sciberras told A Current Affair.

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But a week later, the retiree received an email from the company which owns Pelican Shores – Hampshire Villages –  telling him there had been a mistake, and the property was worth next to nothing.

The company claimed a clause in the contract meant they had control over the unit, and Mr Sciberras couldn't sell it on his terms, even though it had been in the family for decades.

"At the end of the day, I think it was just an insult," Mr Sciberras said.

A fine detail in the contract stipulated an owner has to check with the lifestyle village – in this case Pelican Shores – whether the land can be transferred.

Lawyer Richard Mitry said the process has been "unfairly difficult and confusing" for Mr Sciberras.

"I mean, he's been told something by the owners. They've effectively said they'll allow him to try and sell the property for $140,000. Then they've basically completely reneged on what they've told him, turned around and said 'actually, no'," Mr Mitry said.

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A gated community promotes itself as a friendly and secure lifestyle village for over-55s, but residents say it’s anything but. © A Current Affair A gated community promotes itself as a friendly and secure lifestyle village for over-55s, but residents say it’s anything but. Mr Sciberras believes Hampshire Villages want to redevelop the site, and sell it alongside its newly renovated properties in the park, which are on the market for up to $490,000.

"They'll take this site so they can bring in one of these units and flog it for upwards of $350,000.", he said.

In a statement, Hampshire Villages maintained its contracts are fair.

"Mr Sciberras occupies his holiday cabin pursuant to an Annual Long Term Holiday Park Agreement. These are a simple type of agreement, widely used in the caravan park industry." a representative said.

"Mr Sciberras's right to occupy the site is for holiday use only and otherwise on the terms and conditions specified in his Agreement."

The company also claimed Mr Sciberras always understood the nature of his occupation right, however, it did concede a manager had made a mistake when advising him the unit was worth $140,000.

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Another resident, Bob Whitehouse, has been at Pelican Shores for around 30 years.

He recently developed serious health problems, and needs to move into a nursing home, but fears he'll have difficulty selling his unit too.

"They (Pelican Shores) just won't give you an answer." Mr Whitehouse said.

Town planner Bill Kusznirczuk says property contracts are far too difficult and confusing, particularly for retirement and lifestyle villages.

"You're at the end of your life cycle, now's the time when you should be enjoying life not reading over 120 page contracts."

He wants the Government to review the entire industry.

"I think it'd be prudent for the Federal government to initiate a review of retirement villages and lifestyle villages and how they can better improve the offer that's being given at the moment," he said.

Read the full response from Hampshire Villages here.

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