Pines Living retirement village residents in ACAT spat with management
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Pines Living retirement village residents in ACAT spat with management

The operators of a Farrer retirement village have been criticised for what residents described as "unconscionable" attempts to increase their yearly fees.

Operators of the Pines Living retirement village pursued action in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal after 22 of 23 residents refused to agree to the proposed changes in their annual budget.

But the tribunal found in favour of residents in many instances, and roundly criticised Pines management for proposing fee increases with little or no supporting information.

In one case, the operators had attempted to include a $9000 budget contingency for legal costs, effectively asking residents to pay for management's legal action against them.

"The residents described it as 'unconscionable' that they should be required to fund Pines Management's claim against them," ACAT presidential member Geoffrey McCarthy noted.

"The residents' concerns were justified...I disallow the claim for legal fees."

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The tribunal also rejected management's claim of $20,500 for repairs and maintenance at the village, instead trimming this amount back to just $300.

"If Pines' management wants the residents to contribute funds for 'repairs and maintenance' separate from garden and capital maintenance, it is incumbent on Pines' management to produce evidence to them to substantiate this past expenditure.

"I can surmise only minor items such as replacement lightbulbs for repairs and maintenance that would not constitute capital maintenance. For this item I allow $300," Mr McCarthy said.

In another instance, operators tried to increase the budget for fire safety from $3436 to $6300, despite the absence of a strong reason for such an increase.

"If Pines Management wishes to set a figure in a proposed budget for an item of expenditure it needs to be based on evidence," Mr McCarthy said.

"It is the residents' money, not the operator's, that is to be spent."

Even when the tribunal accepted there was a justification for increasing the budget, Pines Living management were criticised for giving residents scant information.

"The claim for auditing fees ($3500) typified the residents' primary complaint about so many of the items in the budget," Mr McCarthy said.

"Pines Management has not disclosed to them any information or at least sufficient information to enable the residents to understand the basis for the proposed expenditure."

The ACAT hearing, which initially began last year, had to be adjourned until late last month because Pines management had not shown-up.

"Pines Management's apparent indifference to the tribunal, and implicitly the law, is troubling," Mr McCarthy said last month.

Pines Living did not respond to a request for comment.

Steven Trask is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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