Measures to improve the rights of homeowners living in retirement communities have been launched by representative body ARCO.
They include calling on government to adopt its ‘leasehold plus’ proposals in the Leasehold Reform Bill that has been earmarked for the King’s Speech this year. This would come on the back of the recently launched older people’s housing task force to be chaired by Professor Julienne Meyer of City University.
The leasehold plus model would extend the reach of consumer protection; improve dispute resolution mechanisms; and include flexibility to tailor leases. The model was first outlined at ARCO’s annual conference last summer.
‘Integrated retirement communities have long led the way on consumer protection, and our proposals will set a new benchmark for the rights of residents who share communal facilities,’ said Sally Ireland, director of legal and compliance at ARCO.
‘Our proposals would give the strongest protection of any form of tenure to residents in integrated retirement communities and people living in communal buildings more widely.
‘What we are proposing will not cost the government anything, and we are calling on the government to incorporate the proposals into the Leasehold Reform Bill that is expected to be announced in the King’s Speech.’
Older people’s housing has risen up the government agenda in the last 18 months, with three different white papers committing to its expansion.
At present, only around 0.6% of the older population in the UK live in IRCs, which provide housing with care and sit between mainstream dwellings and care homes. The average age of residents is 83.
ARCO said greater consumer protection is one of the key policy changes needed to grow this type of provision, which lags behind other countries. Provision is 10 times higher in New Zealand, Australia and the US. In New Zealand, strong consumer protection was central to the 2003 Retirement Villages Act that has spurred the sector’s growth.
Kyle Holling, partner at Trowers & Hamlins, said: ‘Leasehold plus presents an exciting opportunity to strengthen the rights of older people in integrated retirement communities.
‘Building on the ARCO consumer code, the proposals put consumer law right at the heart of the integrated retirement community sector.
‘Following the example of countries like New Zealand, where consumer protection has been pivotal to the expansion of this form of housing, we hope the new proposals will spur great growth in the UK.’