A new consumer code launched by ARCO (the Associated Retirement Community Operators) assures retirees that all fees and charges will be disclosed before they move into a retirement village and that the controversial event/exit fee is fully explained
At the launch, held in the House of Lords, keynote speaker Law Commissioner Stephen Lewis focused on the importance of clear disclosure of event fees which are charged by many villages that offer extensive facilities. This fee is payable upon the sale of a property and calculated as a percentage of the sale value.
“Transparency and clarity are vital in order to protect consumers in this sector,” he said.
The Code applies specifically to properties for rent or purchase in those retirement communities operated by ARCO’s 24 members which represent over 400 villages and 50 per cent of all housing-with-scare schemes in the UK.
These developments go beyond housing provision and include additional services such as dining and leisure activities alongside optional care services and even spas and swimming pools as provided by Audley Retirement, whose newest village Chalfont Dene in Buckinghamshire is pictured above.
Demand for housing-with-care is growing as more and more older people seek inspirational downsizing options which enable them to live active and independent lifestyles.
To ensure that standards are met, external assessors will conduct independent reviews of services against the Consumer Code on ARCO’s behalf.
David and Mavis Tunney, both 74, live in Shenley Wood Retirement Village (right) in Milton Keynes, run by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust (an ARCO member). They moved in three years ago from a large five-bed detached house which had outgrown their needs.
David, a former tax consultant (pictured left) and now chair of the village’s residents’ association said: “You read too many stories about greedy agents and developers, and the last thing we wanted to worry about was being taken for a ride.
“But the ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s open system means that is unlikely to happen in our retirement village. We found the process very clear so that we could make our own decision.
“One element in the Trust’s business plan is a 1% annual deduction (max 10%) made at the end of a lease based on years of occupancy. It was explained at the start and we liked the certainty it gives and the fact that the deduction forms the sinking fund for long term repair/renewal of the building.
“We were lucky that we chose a good operator. If ARCO and its members start promoting openness and transparency across the board, that can only be a good thing.”
Richard Davis, Chair of ARCO, said: “Deciding to move into a retirement community gives many people a new lease of life. But we understand that any move can be a big decision. Our Consumer Code is designed to give older people further peace of mind that the operator they have chosen has committed to maintaining high standards.”
Michael Voges, ARCO’s executive director, added: “The introduction of the Code marks the culmination of two years of work to agree a common set of high standards for the sector. We have now embarked on an ambitious timetable of assessing members against the Code, and we look forward to working with our members under the new compliance framework.”
The full ARCO Consumer Code can be downloaded here
What is ARCO?
It is the main body representing the retirement community sector on the UK. These communities can also be referred to as retirement villages, independent living, very sheltered housing, extra care apartments, assisted living schemes or close care apartments. All ARCO’s member communities offer care.
ARCO members include:
Anchor, Audley, Berkeley Healthcare Ltd., Family Mosaic, Genesis, Guinness Partnership, Hanover, Housing & Care 21, Jewish Care, LifeCare Residences, MHA, Middleton Hall Retirement Village, Midland Heart, One Housing, Rangeford, Renaissance Villages, Retirement Security, Retirement Villages, Richmond Villages, Sanctuary Home Care, St Monica Trust, The ExtraCare Charitable Trust, The Orders of St John Care Trust, and Trafford Housing Trust.