Retirement village disputes

The law that applies to retirement villages is the Retirement Villages Act 2012.

ACAT can make decisions about some disputes within a retirement village operating in the ACT.

Disputes may be about:

  • the rights of residents (e.g. disputes over access to information, or renovations)
  • the obligations of operators in relation to maintenance and financial matters (e.g. disputes over budgets or replacement of capital items)
  • the involvement of residents in village management (e.g. disputes about village rules)

This is not a complete list. Check the Retirement Villages Act 2012.

Before you apply

Before you make an application:

  • review the information about retirement villages in the ACT available at Access Canberra
  • talk or write to the person who you are having a dispute with (if you haven’t already done so), to see if you can negotiate an outcome
  • consider whether or not to get legal advice about the dispute
  • review the fee you need to pay for a retirement village application
  • check the information you will need to give ACAT on the retirement village application form [PDF 116KB]
  • check what orders you will ask ACAT to make (as set out in the Retirement Villages Act 2012).

How to apply

You may be able to make a retirement villages application if you are:

  • a current, prospective or former resident of a retirement village
  • the operator of a retirement village
  • a residents’ committee of a retirement village.

However, not everyone can bring every type of application – you will need to check the Retirement Villages Act 2012.

Make sure you clearly set out on your retirement village application form [PDF 116KB] what you want ACAT to do in the case and why.

There are a range of orders that you can ask ACAT to make, depending on your type of issue or dispute.

For example, ACAT can make a binding order, including that residents or operators comply with the Retirement Villages Act 2012 by requiring performance, demanding payment or restraining action. ACAT can also set aside or amend any retirement village contractual provision which conflicts with the Act.

To make an application you need to:

  • fill in the retirement village application form [PDF 116KB]
  • attach any relevant documents
  • lodge the form, ensuring all details are completed in full
  • tell us the times and dates you are not available to attend ACAT, for example, you are overseas or having a medical procedure
  • pay the fee, unless you have an exemption, waiver or deferral.

If your application is urgent, you will need to lodge an application for interim or other orders form [PDF 56KB] at the same time you lodge your retirement village application form. Tell us why your application is urgent (for example, if the village is not safe and there is an imminent risk to residents).

You can get legal advice about your case. ACAT staff can provide you with procedural advice, but cannot give legal advice.

You and any other parties can be represented by a lawyer at ACAT, but it is not necessary and generally, ACAT cannot make orders about payment of legal costs. You can also be represented by someone other than a lawyer if that person is authorised. Any authorisation should be provided at the time the application is lodged.

What to expect after an application is made

After your retirement village application is received, ACAT will determine the best way for the case to proceed. Generally, ACAT will:

  • ask one or both parties to provide further information or
  • schedule the case for a directions hearing.

When the case is scheduled for a directions hearing or you are required to attend ACAT, a notice will be sent to all the parties in a case stating the date, time and location to attend ACAT.

Responding to an application

If you receive a notice (letter) that you are required to attend ACAT in relation to a retirement village application that you did not commence yourself, you are a respondent. This notice will tell you when you need to attend ACAT.

ACAT will determine the steps that will occur in the case, and give you information about what you need to do and when. Often, your first attendance at ACAT will be for a directions hearing.

ACAT will give you a copy of the retirement village application. The application will have information about:

  • who are the named parties in the case
  • the contact details for the parties and any representative they have
  • what orders or declarations are being sought
  • why those orders and declarations are being sought.

You can get legal advice about your case and the issues that are being raised. ACAT staff can provide you with procedural advice, but cannot give legal advice.

You and any other parties can be represented by a lawyer at ACAT, but it is not necessary and generally, ACAT cannot make orders about payment of legal costs. You can also be represented by someone other than a lawyer if that person is authorised. Any authorisation should be provided at the time the application is lodged.

Resolving your case

Even after an application is lodged, it is a good idea to continue to talk to any other parties or their representative to see if an agreement can be reached. If you reach an agreement, the ACAT application can be finalised (see our information about resolving your case outside ACAT).

Some cases will be scheduled for a conference or mediation.

If you do not reach an agreement at a conference or mediation, directions will usually be made. These will tell the parties what they need to do before a hearing. All parties will be required to prepare for a hearing by complying with any ACAT directions that are made.

Find out more about hearings.

Appeals

If you think ACAT made an error when it decided the application, you can appeal the decision within 28 days of the decision.

More information

Find out about:

Glossary and terms

Glossary and terms

ACT Civil and Administrative TribunalA tribunal established under the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. It may also be referred to as ACAT or Tribunal.

Adjourn (or adjournment)To suspend or postpone a preliminary conference, mediation or hearing and reschedule it for a future date.

Administrative reviewACAT has jurisdiction to review some administrative decisions made by the ACT Government. Find out about Review of ACT Government decisions.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)Also known as dispute resolution. This is a way of resolving disputes without a formal hearing. It may involve a preliminary conference or mediation. ADR is used to help parties resolve cases by agreement.

AnorMeans ‘and another’. This term is generally used to name parties to proceedings when there is more than one applicant or respondent.

Appeal TribunalA tribunal constituted under section 81 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal 2008 to review a decision of the tribunal (not all ACAT decisions are appealable at ACAT – you may need to go to the Supreme Court).

AppellantThe individual or company that appeals an ACAT decision.

Authorising lawsA law that says an application (including referrals) may be made to ACAT. An authorising law may also set out the powers ACAT has in a case. Also see ‘jurisdiction’.

ApplicantThe individual or company that brings a case to ACAT, usually by making an application.

Calling a witnessA party or their representative will ‘call a witness’ at an ACAT hearing when they ask a witness to give evidence.

CaseAlso known as a matter, dispute, application or referral. Cases come to ACAT when ACAT has jurisdiction (power) to make a decision.

Cross-examinationThe process of asking a witness questions to test or check the evidence that the witness has given to ACAT.

Deliver a decisionAlso ‘handing down a decision’. This is giving a decision about an ACAT case. It may be done verbally or in writing (or both).

DirectionsInstructions that set out what each party must do (and when), often to prepare a case for hearing.

Directions hearingA short hearing where an ACAT Member or Registrar decides how to manage a case and what needs to be done before a hearing. Find out about directions hearings.

Ex parte orderAn order made by ACAT where one or more parties were not present.

Expert reportA written report from an expert that may be used as evidence.

Expert witnessA person with specialised knowledge based on their training, study or experience. An expert can give evidence at a hearing. Find out more about witness statements.

Final directions hearingSometimes ACAT will hold a final directions hearing prior to the final hearing of an application. The purpose is to make sure the case is ready to go to a hearing and give the parties a chance to ask questions about the hearing process.

Handed upGiving documents to an ACAT Member or Registrar in a hearing.

In chambersWhen ACAT considers something without holding a hearing.

Joined party (joined/joinder)A party who was not originally a party to the dispute but has later been added to the case.

JurisdictionACAT’s authority (power) to deal with, hear and decide applications (cases).

LeaveIf someone asks for leave, they are usually asking for permission to do something.

List (or listing)A schedule (or list) of cases to be heard at ACAT each day.

Listing noticeA letter or written document from ACAT that sets out when a conference, mediation or hearing is scheduled at ACAT.

MediationA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute, with the help of an impartial mediator (who is also an ACAT Member or Registrar). It is held under section 35 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008.

Non-publication and/or non-disclosure orderAlso called a ‘suppression order’. It is an order that requires certain information not to be published or disclosed. It is made under section 39 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. Find out about public hearings and confidentiality.

Notice to partiesA letter sent to the parties in a case that sets out the time, date and location for an ACAT conference, mediation or hearing.

Opening statementUsually means a statement made at the beginning of a hearing to outline the key points in the case. Sometimes parties are asked to give an opening statement at a mediation or preliminary conference.

Originating applicationAn application that starts an ACAT case.

Party or partiesAn individual or company directly involved in an ACAT case, for example an applicant or respondent. Find out how to identify and name parties.

Preliminary conferenceA private meeting where parties discuss ways to resolve their dispute with the help of an ACAT Member or Registrar. See section 33 of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2008. ACAT has different types of preliminary conferences.

RegistryThe administrative section of ACAT that accepts documents lodged by parties, handles enquiries and provides support for case management.

RepresentativeA person who represents or advocates for an individual or company at a conference, mediation or hearing at ACAT. For example, a legal practitioner or an attorney appointed under a general power of attorney.

Reserved decisionWhen an ACAT Member or Registrar reserves a decision (at the end of a hearing), this means they will give their decision later, either verbally or in writing (sometimes both).

RespondentThe party (or parties) against whom orders or relief is sought.

Short service orderAn order that authorises a shorter time for service (than the time otherwise required).

Serve/serviceA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.

Statement of reasonsA document that explains why ACAT made an order in a case. It sets out the law relied on by an ACAT Member or Registrar and explains how the law was applied to the facts of the case. You can request a written statement of reasons within 14 days after an order is made. Find out about statement of reasons.

StayAn order for a particular action (or decision) to be put on hold or suspended for a period of time.

SubmissionA document that sets out your side of a case or dispute and the relevant law. It is presented to ACAT either in writing, verbally or both. Find out about submissions.

SubpoenaRequires a person to appear at ACAT to give evidence or provide documents (or both). Find out about subpoenas.

Substituted service orderAn order that says how a party is to be served with an application or other documents related to the proceedings. In a civil dispute or a rental dispute, an applicant will need to consider asking for a substituted service order if they do not have a physical address for the respondent. Find out about lodging and serving documents.

WitnessA person who can give evidence at a hearing. Find out about witness statements.