Residential park regulations need stronger protections and greater transparency

The wellbeing and financial security of residential park home owners and residents will remain at risk unless the NSW Government acts to improve regulation of the sector, warns Greens MP and spokesperson for Housing, Jan Barham.

“When the new legislation for residential parks was introduced to Parliament in November 2013, the Greens raised serious concerns about its impacts and the potential risks for residents. The Government has taken more than a year to draft these regulations yet they have still failed to include the necessary safeguards for owners and residents,” Ms Barham said.

When it commences, the new residential parks legislation would allow operators to offer “voluntary sharing arrangements” to home buyers that could commit them paying a share of the proceeds when they sell their home as well as entry or exit fees, in exchange for the possibility of reduced ongoing site fees.

“The voluntary sharing arrangements have caused great concern among residents that unscrupulous operators will profit at their expense by setting up complex and unfair agreements,” Ms Barham said.

“The regulations need to make sure people considering signing an agreement need information that is clear and consistent with the law. In many cases the law will require that they are also offered a “rent only” agreement. But the standard form of agreement hasn’t included any information about voluntary sharing arrangements, leaving it open for buyers to unwittingly sign up to an unfair or unlawful agreement.”

Ms Barham warned that some parts of the regulations risked seeing home owners facing unreasonable charges for utility services such as sewerage and electricity. She also noted that the regulations did not establish a clear, transparent and fair framework for mediation of disputes that would allow residents to challenge unfair fee increases and practices without risk of incurring additional costs.

“The Government needs to fix these regulations before the legislation commences. The lack of protections will affect many people, most of them older and with limited financial resources, who are looking to make their lasting home in a residential park,” Ms Barham said.

“I’ve consulted across the state and heard the concerns of park residents about the security of their chosen home. Many of these people fear eviction and homelessness if they can’t continue living in their current homes or can’t afford ongoing increases.

“Some of the residents I have spoken to are in great uncertainty, and some even don’t appear to have a clear existing agreement, which means they may need to establish one under this new legislation. Extra safeguards are needed for the sake of current park residents and for the people who would like to buy a home in one of these communities in the future.

“The lack of available affordable housing, particularly in popular coastal tourism areas makes residential parks a vital option for many people that need to be protected. The Government must ensure the rights of owners and residents are defined and fair,” Ms Barham concluded.

The Greens’ submission on the Draft Regulations

For Further Comment, please contact Jan Barham directly on 0447 853 891