Queensland Government strengthens Residential Parks Act
The legislation governing all over 50s lifestyle communities and manufactured home parks in Queensland is changing on several key fronts following its first major review since 2003.
The State Government review of the Manufactured Homes (Residential Parks) Act 2003 was conducted in consultation with the public and key industry stakeholders between 2013 and 2017.
From this has flowed changes which fall into five main categories: behaviour and disputes, emergency plan, visitors, site rent and market reviews, and disclosure.
Minister for Housing and Public Works Mick de Brenni said the changes strengthened protections for seniors looking at retirement options as well as those who have already retired.
“These are landmark reforms that will see a new era of fairness introduced to the retirement sector in Queensland,” he said.
“These changes will ensure everyone is treated fairly, giving seniors support when they are planning retirement, and after they retire.”
Property lawyer Danielle Lim, of DSL Law, said the reforms gave the Act more certainty and transparency for home owners, park operators and those considering a move into a manufactured home park.
“The review was really aimed at tackling the lowest common denominator of the industry and targeting park owners who weren’t as diligent or weren’t operating at the highest possible standard,” she said.
“The changes that subsequently came out of the review will provide more protection and clarity for existing and future home owners in Queensland’s manufactured home parks.”
Ms Lim, who specialises in retirement living law, said the new behavioural obligations took effect late last year while the remaining changes were expected to be activated by mid-2019.
She said the already enacted behavioural standards for home owners and park owners were now clearly spelled out.
“Each party is required to respect the rights of the other and, in addition, there are obligations for home owners to respect the rights of each other.
“If there is a complaint or grievance, the park owner must provide a complete response within 21 days.”
In terms of disputes, these will be defined more broadly, including between home owners and between the home owners committee and the park owner.
Ms Lim said disputes would be managed in a three-step process starting with negotiation, moving to mediation before a QCAT-appointed mediator, and then, if the matter is not resolved, heard by QCAT.
“This is designed to resolve disputes earlier and lessen the burden on QCAT,” she said.
In response to some park owners conducting site rent reviews several times a year, park owners now will be restricted to one rent review per year using one method of calculation.
For market reviews, Ms Lim said park owners will have to arrange and pay for a valuer to consult with the home owners committee.
Meanwhile, the changes around park visitors mean a park owner cannot prevent a home owner having visitors in their home and in the common area if the visitor is providing health or community services such as counselling.
Park owners must also prepare an emergency plan for each park including procedures, testing of the procedures, and training and instruction for home owners.
And lastly, the changes to disclosure for sales and resales will see the Form 1 HOID replaced with a two-stage disclosure process.
Ms Lim said the first stage triggers disclosure at least 21 days before signing a Site Agreement, however this can be reduced to seven days if the buyer obtains a waiver certificate.
“The second stage disclosure documents must be given to home owners seven days before entering into the Site Agreement,” she said.
“Then, a cooling off period of seven days will apply.”
Ms Lim said all the review’s changes would be in place by the end of June next year.
KEY CHANGES TO THE ACT
- Behaviour and disputes – standards and obligations more clearly spelled out
- Emergency plan – must be prepared by park owner
- Visitors – park owner cannot restrict health or community service visitors
- Site rent reviews – limited to one a year
- Market reviews – park owner must arrange and pay for valuer
- Disclosure/resales – greater disclosure requirements