Elder Abuse in Residential Parks

This is another true story from the residential parks industry. It concerns a lone lady home owner 86 years old, a prime target for low life park operators.

This poor old dear purchased a home in a park south of Brisbane and after a couple of years decided to sell-up and move back interstate. She found a buyer for her home and upon inspection for the purchaser, it was discovered that the house had sunk in one corner due to the site substrate (land subsidence). Apparently, a previous home owner had discovered this problem and was told by the park operator to get it fixed, (now remember this the leased site problem and not the fault of the lessee) The previous owner supposedly fixed the problem at his own expense prior to our little old lady purchasing the home.

The problem had arisen again because of the substrate and to cut a long story short. Before the park operator would let this poor old dear sell her home, he insisted that she must pay for the repairs to the substrate. Seeing that she was very keen to sell, she paid for what belonged to the park operator. She phoned us with her plight and reasoned that she might not now have enough money to by into a residential park interstate, what should she do? I suggested that she avoid at all cost entering another residential park and just rent a small unit in a seniors complex which are available. This is a warning for all potential home owners contemplating living in a residential park.

One might ask, how can these thieving park operators get away with such behaviour? The answer is in the legislation. The Government legislates to give full protection to park operators in return for park operators making their land available. This was confirmed back in 2010 by the Office of Fair Trading.

David Paton

AER (Australian Energy Regulator)

ARPQ was given the opportunity to participate in the review of the “exempt sellers” regime better known to home owners as on-suppliers of utilities such as electricity and gas. To read our submissions please go to the “Special Bulletins” section of the website.

Also, now that ARPQ is growing in membership and affiliating with other seniors groups to strengthen our influence with government, we find it necessary to revise our constitution. This work is now in progress and on completion, a members  meeting will be called seeking discussion and approval.

Home Owners Committees

We receive many complaints from our members about the behaviour of some home owners committees. For the full explanation about this unfortunate state of affairs please go to our Special Bulletins page. All will be explained.

Here’s a New Angle on Calculating a Site Fee Increase

It is reported, and I have seen the evidence, that one multi park operator uses the comparisons of what other parks are charging as his calculations for a market review increase. This is how it works and this has got nothing to do with the costs of actually running his individual parks, no, perish the thought, his running costs are based purely on comparing the site fees charged in res parks over a  very wide area, even to using some of his other parks as a leg-up to establish his increases.

Now under section 69 (2) (b) of the Manufactured Homes Residential Parks Act which is a euphemism for fair trading, a park operator seeking to increase the site fees is required to show the calculations that would qualify the increase sought. Sounds reasonable does it not? How wrong can we be?

No, all that is required is for a quick squiz round the any area of his choosing, usually the top end of the market, establish what is being paid in other parks and “hey-presto, a calculation appears and what makes this more interesting, the department responsible for administering the Act finds this method of calculation more than acceptable. Then there is the bane  of all  home owners, that entity of all wisdom QCAT, with unbound discretionary powers to do whatever it likes in the decision making process confirming that virtually anything goes when it comes to site fee increases. In fact, it is a proven fact almost akin to a religion between park operator and QCAT, “ask and ye shall receive”.

The Lamb to the Slaughter

This is another true story emanating from the residential parks industry and the cruel legislation passed by the Beattie Labour Government that allowed this to happen.

We at ARPQ are well known for helping our members and one lady living a  residential park in Brisbane has asked for our help with certain issues relative to problems being caused in a park by the managers for new park operators. In discussion with this lady about the current problems, she was expressing her total displeasure of ever entering a residential park and told this story.

“I purchased my home in this park about seven years ago but was told by the then park operator that I could not move into my home yet because he, the park operator, was using the home I purchased as some kind of community centre and so charged her over $2,000.00 for Public Liability Insurance because she owned the home where others apparently gathered. Being an evil bastard, this park operator rented another home in the park to the lady for $250.00 per week plus charging her a site fee for the house she had purchased but could not occupy”.

This is not a made up story, this lady held a certain high position in her local church and thought that what she experienced at the time was normal practice. In part she was right, this whole industry is full of small time crims who spend their time under the current legislation thieving off of pensioners.

An update on the Residential Parks Industry

Some while back I told a story of “Yobo Park Operator’s”, well they are still at it. Their latest venture is to ask pensioner home owners to pay for the drainage of their sites. This comes about because these yobo’s do not understand their role as park operators particularly section 27 of the Act which in simple terms means that the successor in title to the park is subject to all the obligations of the site agreements and in particular, the Act.

Another park operator has stopped the pensioner home owners in a park from receiving utility rebates which adds another $24.00 per fortnight they have to find. This is all legal under Queensland legislation. Great isn’t  it?

Life in over 50s Resort Havens

More true stories of life in residential parks often advertised as “resort havens” for the over 50s. As we have said in previous blogs and newsletters all is not as it seems. We have to run the risk of deterring prospective home owners considering entering into these so called resorts because it affects those current home owners wishing to sell their homes and put a very bad experience behind them. To add a more positive note at this point it is appropriate to say that the concept of the advertised resort living is  great and could be an ideal existence for retirees but government inertia and political donations for special favours for resort operators to make more money numbs and clouds the already distorted political mind. Any person reading this blog can easily verify all that is said here by simply talking to their State MP representative. If you can extract a positive response, ask your elected member to put the positive response in writing and sit back and watch the bluster. One particular investment company buying up these resort havens admits publicly that they know nothing about running over 50s resorts, the interest is purely the money to be made from pensioners living in these resorts and all this is sanctioned by government. This whole concept and the legislation to provide resort operators with favourable cash flow returns was introduced by the Labour Government in 2003, favoured by continuous labour governments and fully embraced by the short lived LNP Government. As the old adage says, “when your on a good thing, stick to it”. Now that the very bad LNP government has been routed, what will be the future for these resorts? The answer is simple, if radical change is not made, the honey pot will soon be very empty and the resort havens will fade into oblivion, the only loser’s will be those pensioners that have invested their hard earned cash into a complete fabrication of the truth, a swindle and a scam. It is more devastating to know that it is a scam legislated by government. The only way to retrieve the damage already done is to scrap completely the current legislation, remove the pretence of protection for pensioners and replace it with real protection, install a strict regime of behaviour for resort operators and their staff and deal harshly with operators who flout the law. This revolting regime must be brought to an end.

This was no Lady

This is a story that must be told. A pensioner home owner living in a residential park, a returned service man who spent much time in the Middle East fighting and unknown enemy was treated very contemptuously by a female claiming to be a Registrar in a suburban Court House in Brisbane.

This pensioner was there because QCAT made a decision that it did not have jurisdiction to make, it didn’t even have the jurisdiction to hear the case but pensioners living in residential parks are fair game at any time. The matter revolved around a certain residential mixed park of some notoriety that failed to abide by section 29 of the Act and did not give the pensioner home owner the disclosure documents for the park when he moved in.

Certain costs were levied against our pensioner that he did not and does not understand and is contrary to the Act. Our man refused to pay the charges levied against him and in short was dragged off to the suburban Court House. He tried to explain his case but the claimed Registrar was having none of it, it was reported that she was extremely rude, aggressive and refused to listen to our pensioner who finally, in disgust, walked out of the room.

now whether this female was having some kind of mid life crisis is not known, maybe she had domestic problems or it may have been the wrong time of the month. Regardless of her personal problem, she needs to remember her manners and if she can’t control herself, should perhaps get herself a job as a prison warder.

Yobbo Park Operators

This is a very recent true story that emphasises the yobbo element that exist among residential park operators. Imagine if you will yobbo’s trying to sell a residential park in the greater Brisbane area to other yobbo’s well known in the industry for buying up parks and screwing pensioner home owners and generally making their lives a misery.

Imagine further these yobbo’s conjoined and wondering around the park trying to look intelligent and important, obviously some sort of a cameo act.

Our yobbo’s enter the Community Hall where a number of elderly lady home owners were innocently having a yoga lesson and all were laying quietly on the floor of the hall as is sometimes required of yoga practice.

Enter yobbo’s. Totally ignoring the ladies in their relaxation and pleasure and just walked through and over the reclining bodies to the other side of the hall without a word, no “excuse us ladies” or any apology what so ever, and meandered to the other side of the hall and sat and held a meeting. One could only imagine the intellectual conversation that took place between such cultured  minds. One can also speculate about their parentage assuming of course they knew their parents.

This behaviour should encourage many retirees to reside in a residential park and will certainly stimulate the governments intention to encourage the growth and viability of these parks.

 

The Protection Racket

Here are two situations that prove beyond all reasonable doubt that home owners living in residential parks have no protection by way of any legislation.
Case 1. The dreaded site fee increase. We know of home owners living in a residential park, faced with an excessive site fee increase who had professional help in preparing their submissions only to have Tribunal member totally ignore the home owners submissions and base the questionable decision only on the park operators submissions. Needless to say full protection is guaranteed for park operators. Even an appeal prepared by a competent lawyer was denied by the Appeals Tribunal for the home owners. So as an exercise to test home owner protection, the group of home owners who had used the park operator’s own figures over the years supplied to the Tribunal were able to prove that certain questionable practices had taken place that left no doubt that the park operators figures had been fudged quite extensively. For certainty and accuracy, the home owners work was checked by two separate accountants and the home owners were proven correct.
As an exercise, the home owners sent their work off to the ACCC who reported back that while the home owners work appeared correct, the ACCC could only record the findings but could not take any action against the park operator because the ACCC claims it does not have dispute resolution provision in its legislation and advised the home owners to contact the Office of Fair Trading (the OFT). On contacting the OFT with the material and reply from the ACCC, the OFT claimed it does not have dispute resolution in its legislation and that the home owners should apply to the Tribunal who fudged the decision in the first place thus completing the circle of injustice.

Case 2. Someone produced a DVD of a reported incident televised on “today tonight” (TDT) back in 2006. This segment showed a very well known park operator reportedly of ill repute and known to the ALP government at the time and to the LNP government currently in power for ripping off pensioners and denying them their right to sell their homes. This is achieved by making life a living hell in his park for pensioner home owners who are desperate to get out of the park. One aged pensioner was forced through health problems to enter a care facility authorised  the park operator to sell her home for her. From all accounts as reported on TV, the park operator did nothing to sell the home and why would he, he was still getting his site rent and his practice it is reported as doing nothing to sell homes because he wants them for himself for cheap. However, the pensioner in question, desperate to sell, advertised the home herself and within a week had sold the home for a reported $110,000 but just two days prior to settlement, the park operator issued a “termination notice” on the pensioner so she could not sell her home. Now the Act says that a park operator cannot “reasonably” interfere with the sale of a home. By an unusual circumstance, the Tribunal actually agreed with the pensioner so the park operator took the matter to Brisbane District Court of Appeal which upheld the Tribunal decision. Not satisfied, our gallant park operator took the matter to the Magistrates Court and still the decision was upheld. The park operator reportedly took the matter to the Supreme Court and won the day, the pensioner lost out and her home so Justice Michael Kirby was right when he retired from the High Court and reportedly said “Australians get the justice they can afford”.

So next time the reader hears a politician say that home owners living in residential parks are protected from unfair practices, ask him/her to explain what those protections are. As a final note. At the end of the TV segment the announcer said “the government has said that it will take action to stop this sort of thing happening and we will let you know when we hear back from the government”. We are still waiting!