While most people understand the term “Retirement Village” as meaning a form of unit accommodation, it often comes as a surprise to find that there are different ways of “owning” or “occupying” a retirement unit.
The most common forms of occupation are Licence, Long-term Lease, and Strata Title Ownership.
Rather than buy the unit, the occupier signs a licence agreement.
The developer remains the owner of the unit, but the occupier is giving the developer a form of long-term loan or donation in return for the right to occupy. Part of the amount paid by the occupier may be returned if the occupier leaves.
Some people prefer this form of accommodation because the cost of entry is low. The main disadvantages with this form of occupation are the fact that the unit is not actually “owned” by the occupier, and there is no capital gain accruing to the occupier.
Again, the unit remains the property of the developer, but the occupier is entitled to live in the unit pursuant to a lease, usually for 99 years. Leases are a more secure form of ‘ownership’ because leases are a property right giving residents an interest in their unit subject to the lease’s specific terms. The rights a obligations of the occupier and the owner are set out in the lease, and a separate “service agreement” sets out the terms and conditions regarding the services provided. Usually a trustee company is appointed to take care of village finances, and a manager looks after the day-to-day management of the village.
Strata Title Ownership
This is the most secure form of ownership, and is really the same as ownership of any other form of flat or unit accommodation. Each unit owner is a member of a body corporate, and has a direct say in the management of the village. While some will regard the security of outright ownership as important, other may see it as a burden and an unwanted responsibility. The cost of outright ownership is usually much higher than with a Long-term Lease or Licence, and stamp duty on the purchase adds to the cost.
It is most important that any person considering the move to retirement village living talks to as many people as possible, and particularly with members of their own family.
It is often the case that people commit themselves to the idean of moving into a particular retirement village, only to realise at the last minute that they can’t really afford to do so, or that problems with pets or visitor parking arrangements will severely affect their proposed lifestyle.
Always seek the advice of an accountant and lawyer before signing any documents regarding occupation of a retirement village unit.