Retirement village disputes

Learn about retirement village disputes and the application process.

There are more than 250 retirement villages throughout Queensland. To live in a registered retirement village, you must enter into a residence contract and pay a one-off contribution. In return, you have the right to live in a village unit and access one or more services for an ongoing charge.

QCAT can consider disagreements that occur about the residence contract between residents and retirement village operators. The below information will assist with understanding retirement village disputes and the process for making an application to QCAT.

What do you need to know about retirement villages?

Below you will find information about retirement villages and when a dispute may arise under the law.

Retirement villages are premises where a community of retired persons or seniors live in individual living units or serviced units and share common facilities and amenities under a retirement village scheme.

Retirement villages provide services for retirees and older members of the community who can live independently.

Retirement villages are regulated by the Retirement Villages Act 1999 (Qld).

retirement village scheme is a scheme under which a retiree or senior:

  • enters into a residence contract; and
  • pays an ongoing contribution under the residence contract to acquire a right to reside in a retirement village; and
  • pays relevant charges and then acquires a right to receive one or more services in the retirement village

retirement village scheme operator controls the scheme’s operation.

(For further details view the Retirement Villages Act 1999 (Qld))

resident of a retirement village is a person who has a right to reside in the retirement village and a right to receive one or more services in relation to the retirement village under a residence contract.

residence contract is a written contract about residing in a retirement village between a person and the retirement village scheme operator.

(For further details view the Retirement Villages Act 1999 (Qld))

If there is a dispute between a resident and a retirement village operator in the village, about  rights and obligations under a residence contract or the Retirement Villages Act 1999, the parties can take steps to resolve the problem informally.

If unsuccessful, a party can apply to QCAT to resolve the dispute through mediation or a hearing.

If you are a former resident, you can also bring a dispute to QCAT.

A group of residents can also make a joint application to QCAT if the dispute relates to the same or similar facts or circumstances.

The three-step process for managing complaints and resolving disputes is outlined below.

An application can be made to QCAT for an order about disputes relating to retirement villages including:

  • contravention or failure to comply with the Retirement Villages Act 1999; and
  • contravention or failure to comply with a residence contract, including:
    • accommodation
    • resident’s contributions
    • operator’s payments to residents
    • village land
    • facilities
    • mandatory funds
    • resale and buy back process including exit entitlements; and
    • other matters
  • extending the time by which the scheme operator pay exit entitlements of a former resident and purchase of former residents property under the residence contract

(For further details view the Retirement Villages Act 1999 (Qld))

Under the Retirement Villages Act 1999 specific resident-operated retirement villages can be declared exempt from the mandatory buyback requirements in the Act. A list of the current retirement villages exempt from mandatory buyback requirements can be found here.

If your retirement village has been granted an exemption from the mandatory buyback requirements, at the date the exemption is granted, any buyback contracts that have not been completed are ended.

If the scheme operator paid an amount towards the purchase of the former resident’s property, the scheme operator may give the seller a notice requiring repayment.

Where compensation of the buyback contract was required to occur before the exemption was granted, the exemption does not prevent a former resident from seeking compensation from the scheme operator for noncompletion of the contract.

The Queensland Government website has comprehensive information to assist you in understanding retirement villages, your rights and responsibilities as a resident or scheme operator, and information on resolving disputes informally before making an application to QCAT. You can find further information here.

You can also access Caxton Legal Centre's Queensland Retirement Village and Park Advice Service (QRVPAS) which is a specialist service providing free information and legal help. It offers this service for residents and prospective residents of retirement villages and manufactured home parks in Queensland.

Contact QRVPAS online or via 07 3214 6333.

What is the retirement village dispute process (the three step process)?

If a dispute arises, QCAT has a simple three step process you must follow to help resolve a retirement village dispute. There are certain disputes that are excluded from the three step process as outlined below which you can apply directly to QCAT for a hearing.

You must first try to resolve the dispute within the village. You should:

Write to the parties

Write to the other party stating your dispute and nominate a date for a meeting to discuss the dispute.

Give notice of the meeting

You must give notice of the meeting to the parties of at least 14 days.

Provide a response

The other party must respond to the dispute in writing within 7 days of receiving the notice of the meeting.

If required, nominate another date

The other party can nominate another date for the meeting to discuss the dispute, but it must be within 7 days of the first nominated date.

Attempt to resolve the dispute

The parties must then meet in the retirement village to resolve the dispute.

You may also contact a Dispute Resolution Centre, which offers free confidential and impartial mediation services to assist in resolving your dispute.

If you cannot resolve your dispute informally through negotiation as set out in step 1, you can apply to QCAT to refer the dispute for formal mediation.

The law states that a mediator cannot mediate a dispute about an issue that is already the subject of arbitration (including an arbitration award), is an exempt provision, or is court proceedings (including a final decision by a court).

If this is not the case, QCAT will organise the appointment of a mediator and give notice of the date, time and location of the mediation. The mediation is held in private.

If an agreement is reached at the mediation, the mediator records the agreement in writing, it is signed by the parties, a copy is given to you and QCAT and the matter is finalised.

You can proceed to step 3 in the retirement village dispute process if one of the following occurs:

  • an agreement is not reached at the mediation; or
  • a party to the dispute does not attend, or withdraws from, the mediation conference for the dispute; or
  • the dispute is not settled within 4 months after the dispute is referred for mediation; or
  • the parties reach a mediation agreement and the party making the application claims the other party has not complied with the agreement within the time stated in the agreement or if no time is stated, within 2 months after the agreement is signed

The steps for making an application to QCAT for a hearing are set out below in step 3 with further details to assist when you apply to QCAT.

If a retirement village dispute is not resolved at mediation as set out in step 2, you must apply again to QCAT for a hearing before a QCAT decision-maker.

When you file an application for a hearing, QCAT may:

  • issue directions to the parties. Directions are instructions to the parties involved on how the matter will proceed. The directions will include time for filing of evidence, other material and joining of further parties if required
  • list the matter for a directions hearing or further dispute resolution proceeding to assist the parties to reach agreement if required
  • ask the parties to gather and file their evidence to support their side of the argument.
  • list the matter for a hearing, after the parties have filed their evidence
  • after the hearing, QCAT will then make a final decision based on the law and the evidence provided by the parties

What other information do I need to know about the dispute process?

In some circumstances only, you can apply to QCAT for a hearing without participating in steps 1 and 2 of the process.

These include when a scheme operator:

  • threatens to remove or actually removes a resident from the retirement village
  • threatens to deprive or actually deprives a resident of the right to live in the retirement village
  • threatens to restrict or actually restricts a resident’s use of the retirement village land
  • gives a resident false or misleading information or documents to the financial detriment of the resident
  • fails to fulfill requirements regarding exit entitlements and unit resale, and you are materially prejudiced by the failure

Also, a party to a building work dispute or mandatory buyback dispute may apply to QCAT even if the parties to the dispute have not first attempted to resolve the dispute informally or via formal mediation.

To apply for a hearing at QCAT in relation to these matters please go to the application section below.

When QCAT decides a retirement village dispute, the QCAT decision-maker can make any orders it considers to be just to resolve the dispute. This may include:

  • an order for a party to the issue to do, or not to do, anything (an enforcement order)
  • an order requiring a party to the issue to pay an amount (including an amount of compensation) to a specified person (a payment order)
  • an order that a party to the issue is not required to pay an amount to a specified person
  • an order setting aside the mediation agreement between the parties to the dispute; or
  • an order giving effect to a settlement agreed on by the parties to the dispute.

(For further details view the Retirement Villages Act 1999 (Qld))

There are some key steps you need to take as the respondent in a retirement village dispute. You must:

  • read the above information about retirement village disputes and understand the three step process for resolving disputes
  • participate in the mediation process steps to try and resolve the dispute; and
  • file a response to the dispute using the correct response form, if the dispute has reached step 3 and an application for a hearing is made to QCAT.

To learn more about what happens next in the process, how to respond and the forms you need please click here.

If you have considered the above information and your dispute falls within QCAT’s jurisdiction, you need to consider the costs that will be incurred and take these into account before you apply. These include:

  • an initial application fee for mediation and if unsuccessful an initial fee for a hearing
  • costs and time taken to complete the dispute process and attend proceedings; and
  • costs you may incur to comply with the tribunal’s decision or directions

You should consider if there are options to resolve the dispute informally without the need to make an application to QCAT.

The time for QCAT to finalise a case may vary depending on QCAT’s workload and the number of steps to be completed by parties as required by QCAT to resolve the dispute. The current average time to consider a retirement village dispute and finalise your case can be found on our expected timeframes page.

How do I make an application for a retirement village dispute?

To make an application, please select your case type from the list below:

Help and further information

Queensland legislation related to retirement village disputes includes the:

  • Retirement Villages Act 1991
  • Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009

The Acts are available from the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Counsel.

You can access a range of databases which keep records of previous decisions about retirement village disputes. This includes previous decisions made by:

  • QCAT and QCATA after 1 December 2009 which can be found in the other civil disputes of the Supreme Court of Queensland Library.

For Legal advice:

* Contact the private solicitor of your choice

* Use Queensland Law Society’s Find a Solicitor service.

* Contact Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88

* Contact Community Legal Centres Queensland for details on your local community legal centre on 07 3392 0092

For assistance in legal proceedings:

LawRight Court and QCAT Services

LawRight is an independent, non-profit community based legal organisation that coordinates pro bono legal services for individuals and community groups. Parties with proceedings in QCAT may be able to obtain assistance from LawRight’s Court & Tribunal Services to self-represent or in limited circumstances, be given representation.

If you are unsure if you are eligible for assistance from LawRight or wish to make an enquiry, contact the service by phone on 07 3564 7561 or by email at or by writing to PO Box 12217, George Street QLD 4003.

To apply for help from LawRight, please complete the application form here. If you are unable to complete the online form, contact LawRight to discuss alternative arrangements

Community legal centres

Caxton Legal Centre
The Caxton Legal Centre is an independent, non-profit community organisation providing free legal and social work advice, assistance and referrals to the general public. Please note that the Caxton Legal Centre does not provide advice about building or other business and commercial disputes.

Women's Legal Service
Women's Legal Service is a community legal centre that provides free legal advice and information to women in Queensland.

Youth Advocacy Centre
The Youth Advocacy Centre offers free confidential legal and welfare assistance to young people under 17 years who live in or around Brisbane. Telephone support is also provided to young people outside of Brisbane and throughout Queensland.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT)’s registry is here to administer your case and provide general information. Please see below what registry staff can and cannot do to assist with your case.

Registry staff can:

* answer questions about QCAT processes

* provide information about QCAT’s different types of forms that are available for your consideration

* provide you with information and support about how to lodge an application

* refer and/or process any request to access the QCAT register of proceedings (a publicly available list of QCAT cases) or the record of proceedings (the case files themselves)

* advise on fees and allowances, and how to apply for a waiver of fees

* guide you in checking your forms are complete before lodgement (e.g. signed in the correct places)

* give you information on legal organisations that could help.

Registry staff cannot:

* provide legal advice

* advise on whether you should submit an application and whether you are filing under the correct legal area (eg minor civil dispute – consumer or trader or minor civil dispute – minor debt)

* tell you if you should lodge an appeal or a counter-application

* recommend a specific lawyer to assist you

* instruct you on how to word your application, supporting documents or what to say at a proceeding

* contact a QCAT member or adjudicator directly on your behalf

* predict likely outcomes of a case or appeal

* help you prepare your case

* advise what orders or decisions you should seek

* explain what you should do to follow QCAT directions

* recommend your next steps regarding enforcing an order or tribunal decision

* advise on exact timeframes for resolution of a case – this depends on your individual case