Overview of internal dispute resolution guidelines for retirement villages

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By law, all Victorian retirement villages must have an internal dispute resolution scheme. This is a general guide to managing your village’s scheme.

The Retirement Villages Act 1986 and the Retirement Villages (Records and Notices) Regulations 2005 set out detailed procedures for the formal handling of complaints about management and disputes between residents.

This section summarises what you, as the manager, are legally required to do (you can be penalised for not complying with the law). It also outlines actions that may not be required by law, but which we recommend as good practice.

If your 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 Complaint handling in your owners corporation.

General tips for handling complaints between residents

Good communication between village managers and residents is critical in reducing and resolving disputes.

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

  • do not become personally involved 
  • listen carefully to the complaint and summarise it to confirm it has been understood 
  • identify and speak to independent witnesses (where necessary) 
  • take action according to statutory procedures 
  • reschedule the meeting with the resident(s) to the next day if they are too angry or distressed to work through the issues in a calm manner.

Handling complaints between residents

Communication between residents should be encouraged. Advise residents to discuss complaints – simply talking about the issue may lead to a solution.

If you, as manager, become involved in a dispute between residents, follow the points set out above, 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 may contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria (DSCV) for advice on dispute resolution assistance.

Benefits of an internal dispute handling complaints resolution scheme

By law, all Victorian retirement villages must have an internal dispute resolution scheme.

Such a scheme benefits both residents and managers, as it:

  • provides a clear, dedicated avenue for residents to pursue any issues they may have with management 
  • means disputes can be dealt with efficiently and effectively within the village, often without involving an external dispute resolution body 
  • is accessible to all parties 
  • means minor problems can be addressed early, which helps prevent major disputes 
  • helps managers improve communication and build strong relationships with their residents, which helps prevent future disputes 
  • promotes a harmonious living environment, where residents’ concerns are taken seriously, and are addressed appropriately and impartially.

What the scheme covers

A complaint is the reporting by a resident of an issue, problem or grievance that is affecting their quality of life at the village. It may relate to behaviour (an action or a failure to act) and/or the physical environment.

The dispute resolution scheme applies to:

  • disputes between residents, including complaints about another resident’s (or residents’) action or inaction that affects the:
    • resident’s use and enjoyment of the village
    • use of village services
  • management complaints, including about the manager’s:
    • control or operation of the village
    • action or inaction that affects residents’ use or enjoyment of the village
    • provision or non-provision of services.

Essentially, a management complaint is an allegation that a manager has failed, or is failing, to meet an obligation. These obligations do not have to be contained in the resident’s contract, although many management complaints will involve contractual issues.

Note: Managers should not use the internal dispute resolution process to resolve disputes that involve violence. Either the manager or resident should report these matters to the police.

When to use the scheme

In the first instance, residents should be advised to try to resolve any complaints they have about management or other residents using the village’s internal dispute resolution scheme.

If this is unsuccessful, for complaints about management residents may contact:

  • Consumer Affairs Victoria for information and advice
  • DSCV for assistance with dispute resolution (note that parties in a dispute cannot be compelled to participate in dispute resolution through DSCV).

Residents may also choose to lodge an application at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). Although VCAT may offer alternative dispute resolution services within a proceeding, residents who lodge an application with the tribunal in these circumstances will generally be seeking a binding order.

For complaints about another resident, they may seek advice from the residents’ committee or DSCV.