Dead client pays rent

A deceased resident at a retirement village in Sydney’s Mosman has been charged $31,000 over three years while her unit sits empty, her sons revealed on ABC TV last night.

The Le Fevre brothers, Quinton and Reynold, are wondering why the operator, Aveo, is unable to sell the apartment in such a tight housing market. They shared their story on the ABC’s 7.30 program last night, quoting service fees of $400 per week. Philip Wheeler, the son of another resident who passed away last January says he, too, is concerned at the time it is taking to sell his mother’s unit, with $22,000 service fees accrued. It is unclear what, exactly, the fees cover given that neither woman is being accommodated, fed or cared for, but it does appear some kitchen renovations may be included.

An excerpt from a statement from Aveo which was provided to the 7.30 show, notes:

“Aveo Group is not the Strata Manager of Mosman Grove retirement village. This function is performed by a third party Strata Manager that is appointed by the village’s Owners Corporation….

Being strata titled serviced apartments with a service agreement in place with Aveo, financial responsibilities are shared between the outgoing owner and operator once an apartment is permanently vacated for more than 42 days. This is in line with the Retirement Villages Act 1999”

The families remain unclear what the fees cover and frustrated at Aveo’s inability to sell the units. “You can imagine a point where the apartment is worth nothing and you just walk away and give them the keys and say you look after it,” said Mr. Wheeler.

Watch the report here.

Opinion: You can’t take it with you

They say you can’t take it with you, but it’s a bit cheeky when a retirement village keeps billing you after you’ve passed away. Or so it seems has happened in the case of the mother of Quinton and Reynold Le Fevre.

The response from the operator that it is within the Retirement Villages Act (NSW) is a poor one. The glossy adverts for retirement villages promise security, support and a ‘latte lifestyle’. The website declares: ‘Aveo Live Well, the perfect balance of convenience, independence and an enviable lifestyle’

But glossy brochures and feel good statements do not necessarily translate into sincerity or humane treatment of residents or their families as the Le Fevre and Wilson children are finding out. Yes, technically, the retirement group probably is within its rights. But why would the staff or management not try harder to sell the properties in question, to provide ‘an enviable lifestyle’ to another resident, and allow the families in question to stop paying these exorbitant (still unexplained) fees and simply move on. Why aren’t they working with them to find a solution?

As COTA noted on last night’s program, this is not the same as buying a house and making money on that asset. There are many, many traps inherent in retirement village contracts, governed by state acts, and you need a very good lawyer to support you before you sign. If this sad situation means a light is being shone on retirement villages’ legislation and contracts, then we should applaud the families who were prepared to share their tale of woe.

What do you think? Is this retirement village operator within its rights to keep charging these families? Or is this a contract gone mad, lacking all sense of compassion and equity when one of their residents dies?

Written by Kaye Fallick