Consumer Affairs Victoria has filed a legal application in the Supreme Court of Victoria to recover in-going contributions paid by former residents of Berkeley Living Retirement Village in Patterson Lakes.
The retirement village closed in 2017, leaving many residents and their families who had paid in-going contributions out of pocket. We are seeking to sell the retirement village land to ensure they are repaid what they are owed.
Residents who pay a refundable in-going contribution for the right to enter and live in a retirement village are entitled to repayment when they leave.
The amount of their contribution is secured by a statutory charge over the retirement village land. This means that, if the village cannot refund residents' in-going contributions, the land can be sold to enable them to get their money back.
Consumer Affairs Victoria Director Nicole Rich said retirement villages had financial obligations towards residents, many of whom are vulnerable, and their families.
Ms Rich said her agency would continue to prioritise ensuring that the families of former Berkeley Living residents received their entitlements under the law.
On 1 February 2021, reforms to the Retirement Villages Act came into effect to remove barriers to enforcing these rights. The reforms also gave the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria the power to make an application to the Supreme Court for an order enforcing the charge on behalf of affected retirement village residents, where it is in the public interest to do so.
Consumer Affairs Victoria previously prosecuted the former manager of Berkeley Living, Stephen George Snowden, 53, of Ferntree Gully, who was found guilty in 2020 of breaches of the Retirement Villages Act.
Mr Snowden was found to have operated a retirement village while insolvent, and within five years of being convicted of an offence involving fraud or dishonesty punishable with a prison term of three months or more.
Under the Retirement Villages Act, a person must meet criteria before they can be involved in a retirement village’s management.
“Consumer Affairs Victoria has pursued this matter over several years,’’ Ms Rich said.
“We will continue to take action to ensure that retirement villages fulfil their legal obligations.”