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Retirement village residents still out of pocket

Christchurch retirement village residents who lost their homes to earthquake damage are still fighting for compensation despite law changes to stop a repeat.

Changes to the Retirement Villages Code of Practice 2008 which took effect yesterday mean retirement villages will no longer be able to take a cut when paying out occupants of units damaged or destroyed by natural disaster.

The move follows a recommendation by Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan in March.

However, the law change has come too late for many elderly unit owners left out of pocket after the Canterbury quakes in 2010 and 2011.

Under the Government’s original code of practice, residents who had bought a licence to occupy a unit for life were only reimbursed their original purchase price after losing their homes, less a portion held back by the owner.

Some were left with less than half the value of their homes, despite having paid insurance levies.

Joe Hollander’s mother, Kate Sheppard Retirement Village resident Grace Hollander, lost her unit to earthquake damage.

Hollander said the law change was “too little, too late” for those left homeless or out of pocket.

“The stable door’s been closed after the horse has bolted,” he said.

Rest home owners who had taken a chunk from the payout were “hiding behind the contracts”, he said.

“They’ve just got the money, got the insurance, and scarpered.”

Hollander said ex-residents of Kate Sheppard and their families had petitioned the finance and expenditure select committee for compensation, but they had heard nothing since a hearing in August.

Grey Power president Roy Reid said the organisation began lobbying for residents’ compensation in July 2012, but there was no timeframe for a decision from the select committee.

“We’re disappointed it’s taken [the] Government so long to process, because unfortunately some of those former residents have since died,” he said.

Building Minister Maurice Williamson said the ministry wanted to “make sure this couldn’t happen again and owners were protected in such situations”.

“We needed to ensure that retirees were not paying maintenance charges for future work on buildings that no longer exist or are not inhabitable due to events beyond their control.”

Age Concern chief executive Simon Templeton said the changes were a good thing, but it was “very disappointing to see that they [Kate Sheppard residents] have been so negatively affected and have not been covered by this”.

He urged those looking at buying rest home units to get legal advice before signing a contract.

_Tess McClure reporting for The Press