Overview of the good practice protocols for retirement village operators

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The Victorian Government worked with peak bodies representing the retirement village industry, and residents, to develop protocols managers can use to address common issues in the state’s retirement villages.

From July to December 2011, Consumer Affairs Victoria brought together a working group that met monthly to develop these protocols.

The representatives were:

  • Retirement Village Association (and member representatives)
  • Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria
  • Aged and Community Care Victoria
  • Council on the Ageing
  • Stockland
  • Housing for the Aged Action Group.

Purpose and evaluation

We welcome feedback on these protocols. They may be updated or expanded as circumstances change, and issues are identified.

These protocols provide a benchmark of good practice to guide retirement village managers, residents and Consumer Affairs Victoria in addressing common issues.

Protocols are different from codes of conduct. Protocols specify agreed, good-practice measures that can be applied by an industry’s members. While protocols are not legally binding, there is an expectation that they will be applied.

Codes of conduct set out specific standards of conduct for an industry about the manner in which its members deal with each other and their customers. Codes of conduct may be legally binding.

These protocols specify measures that retirement village managers can take to prevent common issues from causing friction in villages. The government and Consumer Affairs Victoria expect that managers will work to implement the protocols in their villages. The purpose of the protocols is to prevent disputes arising and to promote good relations in villages to enhance the experience of residents.

If a dispute comes to us for conciliation, we will look to see if the protocols have been followed.

General principles


The common theme in these protocols is the importance of communication between village managers and residents in reducing and resolving disputes. Good communication channels build strong relationships and may prevent such situations arising.

It is good practice to have a policy about day-to-day communication with residents, which includes how and when to contact the manager and what to do in an emergency. This policy should be given to all new residents and be displayed on a notice board.

If a resident raises an issue, communication is best achieved by:

  1. talking to the resident
  2. putting your message in writing (which allows the resident to consider and discuss with others)
  3. meeting the resident (so you can answer questions and allay concerns).

Handling a complaint

Good complaint-handling procedures work in partnership with good communication. The Retirement Villages Act 1986 and the Retirement Villages (Records and Notices) Regulations 2005 set out detailed procedures for formal handling of complaints about management and disputes between residents. For more information, view our Internal dispute resolution guidelines for retirement villages section.

If a village has an owners corporation, the Owners Corporations Act 2006 sets out a separate three-step process to deal with grievances with lot owners. For more information, view our Complaint handling in your owners corporation page.

Resolving a complaint

If a complaint is made, try to resolve it quickly because the longer it goes on, the more likely it will escalate and become intractable. Good practice for handling complaints includes:

  • not becoming personally involved
  • listening carefully to the complaint and re-stating it for acceptance
  • identifying and calling upon independent witnesses (where necessary)
  • taking action according to the statutory procedure
  • rescheduling the meeting with the resident to the next day if they are too angry or distressed to work through the issues in a calm manner
  • seeking assistance from us, if appropriate.

Training in managing disputes is available through the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria.

Residents’ role

If a resident has an issue with the running of the retirement village or the manager, they should first seek to resolve it within the village. If that is unsuccessful, they can seek assistance from us. If the resident is still not satisfied, they can consider going to the courts or to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Any decision to proceed to litigation in the courts or in the Tribunal should be made bearing in mind the possible effects on the parties and the village generally. Litigation can be costly and time consuming. It can disrupt the village and take a mental and emotional toll on the parties.

Therefore, alternative approaches to the issue that will help to maintain ongoing village relationships should be carefully considered, and consultation with other residents is recommended.

Handling disputes between residents

Communication between residents should be encouraged. Advise residents to discuss their complaint with the other resident - simply talking the issue through may lead to a solution.

If you, as manager, become involved in disputes between residents, follow the points set out previously, but also:

  • be fair to both parties – don’t take sides
  • come up with several options and let the residents decide on a solution
  • advise the parties that they can contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria for free, independent conciliation (we cannot conciliate disputes between residents).