The former first lady of NSW Kathryn Greiner AO has been the official shoulder to cry on for residents of NSW retirement villages surprised and devastated when slugged with massive exit fees.
Their tears have not been wasted with the now NSW Retirement Village Ambassador visiting communities to explain to prospective and current retirement village residents legislative changes which will "better protect" them.
In Dubbo this week, Mrs Greiner advised prospective residents that product disclosure statements should be provided to them by operators "clearly spelling out your cash injection and what would happen if you left".
The woman who led the 2017 Inquiry into the NSW Retirement Village Sector also outlined July 1 changes to the Retirement Village Act 1999 including the introduction of "annual contract check-up meetings".
"From the first of July residents will be able to ask for an annual review of their contract," Mrs Greiner said at forums at the Macquarie Inn.
"They have to put that request in writing and we strongly recommend that they have a family member with them or whoever holds power of attorney.
"In the contract check-up they can ask questions like 'If I left tomorrow what would my villa be worth and what would the amount of exit fees I would have to pay?" Exit fees in some villages can increase annually.
Mrs Greiner said the 17 recommendations of the inquiry had been accepted by the state government.
Reforms starting on July 1 also cover emergency plans, annual evacuation exercises, display of key safety information and a new auditor appointment process.
Regulations are still being developed for reforms related to asset management, mediation of disputes and rules of conduct for operators.
Mrs Greiner is pleased that disputes between residents, or residents' associations and operators, will be mediated by NSW Fair Trading officers in the first instance, rather than progressing immediately to a tribunal.
The ambassador also reports of debate with industry on residents' cash injection into a unit being returned "at the very latest six months after they have left the village", even if it has not been leased again.
"Residents never actually buy unless it's a strata unit," she said.
Mrs Greiner said the state government was also looking at "capping at six weeks" maintenance fees paid by residents after they move out.
Chairwoman of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Ageing, Mrs Greiner said the reforms were addressing an act which had been "obscure to say the least".
"We are trying to bring about clarity and transparency," she said.