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26 January 2024

Bupa retirement village risks misleading residents about weekly fees

Robert’s mother-in-law Vivien moved into a Bupa retirement village in 2013. In July 2023, she had to move to an aged-care facility.

Image of retirement homes

Robert and his family expected Vivien would move to the care home at Bupa, but that wasn’t the case.

“There was no space available and no other option was offered … [she] had been [at Bupa] for nearly 10 years and had been an active member of the village community.”

Vivien had to move to a different facility, away from her friends and family. She terminated her contract with Bupa and left.

After Vivien passed away in November 2023, her family had a lot to sort out.

One of the bigger issues was Vivien’s unit at Bupa. It had been nearly 4 months since she left it, and it still hadn’t sold.

In fact, the unit was still racking up $183 a week in fees.

Robert’s investigation

Robert went to Bupa’s website as a first port of call for information about the village. He found a section outlining the legal and financial processes for purchasing a unit at Bupa titled, “Things you need to know.”

There was a range of information on the page and a link to more information titled, “What happens when I leave the village?” Robert clicked on the link, where he read, “Bupa will market your home and on re-licensing, Bupa will refund the money you paid, minus the amenities fee and any other amounts owing.

“The Weekly fees stop when you terminate and vacate your home.

“Your capital is repaid when your unit is resold. If this doesn’t happen after six months, we will pay interest on your exit entitlement.”

Yet, if the website said the weekly fees stop on termination, why was Vivien still being charged?

Confused, Robert rang Bupa.

Bupa’s response

Robert said Bupa clarified the issue on the phone. According to Robert, it said it can still charge a weekly fee despite what it says on its website because of its contract with Vivien.

The contract, an occupation right agreement (ORA), contained a term that let Bupa charge the weekly fee even once the contract was terminated. Bupa doesn’t clarify on its website that the weekly fee will still apply if an ORA allows it.

Robert wasn’t convinced this was fair.

“They promote on their website that they do not charge the weekly fees after an apartment is vacated but in fact they do,” Robert told Consumer NZ.

“Bupa is using the statement on their website to promote a caring image which only applies if they haven’t got you legally.”

We were concerned that Bupa’s website was misleading, so we asked it why it continued to charge weekly fees when its website said it did not.

Bupa said,

“The part of Bupa’s website highlighted in your email is consistent with our current offer which provides that weekly fees cease to be charged when a resident terminates and vacates their home. The marketing information on the website is for prospective residents, not existing residents, and it is clear that it is referencing the terms of Bupa’s current ORA which are applicable to new residents only.”

But after receiving our question, the retirement village amended its website.

“At your request we have made this more explicit.

“For residents on previous versions of Bupa’s ORA, the fees are as provided for under the terms of their ORA.

“Bupa is confident we have not engaged in any misleading conduct and note independent legal advice is obtained by residents before entry into our villages.”

Stop unfair retirement village contracts

Consumer thinks everyone should be entitled to clear and accurate information about retirement villages, especially when it comes to contracts. Contracts often heavily favour the retirement village and can leave residents and their families in unfair situations when circumstances change.

We’re calling for:

  • laws that will better protect residents
  • independent advocacy support for residents
  • fair contracts that are not heavily weighted in favour of village operators
  • a more effective dispute resolution system.
Image of an elderly couple on a bench

Stop unfair retirement village contracts

Retirement villages promise the good life in your golden years, however, the contracts are often heavily favour the village. We are calling for a fairer deal for retirement village residents.

Learn more

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