Skip to main content

9 Your right to choose where you live

You have the right to choose where you live. As you grow older, your housing needs may change. For example, you may become less independent, choose to downsize, or have a desire to live closer to family. Know your rights in each of these situations. This chapter provides information about the different housing options available in retirement.

9.1 Staying at home: finance options

If you would like to remain living in your existing home but do not think you can afford this, there are alternatives to selling that may help you to keep your home. Be aware that these options may affect your Age Pension. They may also affect how much tax you pay.

The following three options may provide additional income for people who would like to stay in their home:

  • Dual occupancy: It may be possible to convert your home into two residences. You can then rent out or sell the other half of your home.
  • Boarders and lodgers: It may be possible to rent out rooms to boarders. These arrangements may affect your Age Pension and how much tax you pay.
  • Reverse mortgages: A reverse mortgage allows you to borrow against the equity in your home whilst still living at home. A reverse mortgage will reduce the equity that you have in your home. Read chapter 4.9 for important information on reverse mortgages.

Where to go for more information

For information about accommodation for older people and how different options will affect your income support payments, contact Centrelink’s Financial Information Service (FIS) on 13 23 00 and ask to speak to a FIS officer.

Where to go for help

Speak to a financial adviser for advice about the tax implications of generating income from your home. For help finding a financial planner you can contact:

  • The Financial Planning Association on 1300 626 393;
  • The Association of Financial Advisers on 02 9267 4003; or
  • CPA Australia on 1300 73 73 73.

9.2 Staying at home: home modifications and maintenance

Modifications to your home can help you remain independent. Modifications can include installing grab-rails in the bathroom, lever taps or access ramps.

Maintenance services can help you with tasks like gardening and lawn mowing. You can also install personal and medical alarms. Compare the cost of renovations and modifications against other options such as moving elsewhere, especially if your needs will soon change. Plan carefully to reduce the number of moves you may need to make.

Where to go for more information

Read the Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ booklet Accommodation Choices for Older Australians and their Families: What Older Australians and their Families Need to Know. To order a copy phone 1800 050 009 or view online at www.fahcsia.gov.au.

Where to go for help

Independent Living Centres Australia provides advice on renovations, equipment and aids that can make living at home easier. Phone their National Infoline on 1300 885 886.

Commonwealth aged care programs provide services to help you stay at home including home modifications and maintenance. Call the Commonwealth Home and Community Care (HACC) Program on 1800 200 422 or the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 022.

Some states and territories offer additional assistance:

NSW
Home Modification and Maintenance Services
02 6622 8386
NT
Community Adult Health Team
08 8922 7180
QLD
Home Assist Secure, Department of Housing and Public Works
1300 880 882
VIC
Archicentre Home Services, Home Renovation Service
1300 136 513

9.3 Selling your home

Some older people consider selling the family home because they need a smaller residence or because they want to move to a retirement village or a residential care home. Some older people move in with family members for additional support. Selling the family home can provide some financial benefit because it may free up the equity in the family home.

Selling your home may affect your Age Pension entitlements. When you qualify for the Age Pension, your home is not counted as an asset. However, if you make a profit when you sell your home and downsize to a cheaper option, some of the profit may be taken into account when Centrelink calculates your Age Pension.

Between July 2014 and June 2017, pensioners over Age Pension age who ‘downsize’ their home will be exempt from the assets test on some of the profit from selling the family home.

Eligible pensioners must:

  • Downsize their home between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2017;
  • Have had a minimum residence period in their former home of 25 years before sale; and
  • Invest either $200,000 of the excess proceeds OR a minimum of 80 percent of the excess proceeds subject to a maximum of $200,000 in a special account.

‘Downsizing’ refers to situations where the price of the new home in Australia is lower than the sale price of their former home in Australia.

The funds invested in the special account and any returns would not be counted under the pension means test for a maximum of 10 years.

Pensioners who sell to purchase another home may be exempt from the asset test for up to 12 months if money from the sale of the family home is being used to purchase a new home.

Sometimes it is necessary to free up the income in the family home by selling it; even if this affects your Age Pension. Everyone’s circumstances are different. Make sure you seek advice about how selling your home will affect you.

Where to go for more information

Contact the Centrelink’s Financial Information Service (FIS) on 13 23 00 and ask to speak to a FIS officer.

Phone the ASIC Infoline on 1300 300 630.

Where to go for help

You will need to seek legal advice if selling your home. The law society in your state or territory can help you to find a private solicitor or refer you to a community legal centre.

ACT
The ACT Law Society
02 6247 5700
NSW
The Law Society of NSW
02 9926 0300
NT
Law Society Northern Territory
08 8981 5104
Qld
Queensland Law Society
1300 367 757
SA
The Law Society of South Australia
08 8229 0288
Tas
The Law Society of Tasmania
03 6234 4133
Vic
Law Institute of Victoria
03 9607 9550
WA
The Law Society of Western Australia
08 9324 8600

 

9.4 Moving in with family

As you get older you may consider moving in with a family member, either in their home or in a granny flat on their property. You might also consider making a financial contribution in exchange for the right to live with family. A few simple precautions may prevent you from losing your money or your share in a property if things don’t work out with these living arrangements.

  1. Get it in writing: If you contribute money or assets to a granny flat that belongs to someone else, draw up an agreement as proof that you own part of the property.
  2. Get independent legal advice: Seek advice from a lawyer who is not also advising your family.
  3. Create a back-up plan: Think about what will happen to you if things go wrong, for example, if a relationship breaks down between you and your family or if there is a relationship breakup between your family member and their partner.
  4. Find out if your Age Pension will be affected: Changing your living arrangements may affect your pension entitlements. Centrelink has special rules for granny flat arrangements. Centrelink’s ‘gifting rules’ can apply if you contribute too much for your granny flat.

Where to go for more information

Read the Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ booklet, Accommodation Choices for Older Australians and their Families: What Older Australians and their Families Need to Know. To order a copy phone 1800 050 009 or view online at www.fahcsia.gov.au.

Contact Centrelink’s Financial Information Service (FIS) on 13 23 00 and ask to speak with a FIS officer.

Where to go for help

Contact Legal Aid in your state or territory for legal information, referrals, and in some cases advice.

ACT
Legal Aid ACT
1300 654 314
NSW
LawAccess NSW
1300 888 529
NT
NT Legal Aid Commission
1800 019 343
Qld
Legal Aid Queensland
1300 65 11 88
SA
Legal Services Commission of SA
1300 366 424 or 08 8463 3555
Tas
Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania
1300 366 611 or 03 6236 3800
Vic
Victoria Legal Aid
1800 677 402 or 03 9269 0120
WA
Legal Aid Western Australia
1300 650 579 or 08 9261 6222

The law society in your state or territory can help you to find a private solicitor or refer you to a community legal centre.

ACT
The ACT Law Society
02 6247 5700
NSW
The Law Society of NSW
02 9926 0300
NT
Law Society Northern Territory
08 8981 5104
Qld
Queensland Law Society
1300 367 757
SA
The Law Society of South Australia
08 8229 0288
Tas
The Law Society of Tasmania
03 6234 4133
Vic
Law Institute of Victoria
03 9607 9550
WA
The Law Society of Western Australia
08 9324 8600

 

9.5 Retirement village arrangements and fees

Retirement villages are communities of residents who live in individual premises sharing common facilities. Retirement villages may consist of self-care (Independent Living Units) or serviced units (Assisted Living) or both. Some have links with residential aged care homes. If you move from one type of accommodation to another you may have to enter into a new contract and this may have an associated cost.

The fees charged in retirement villages can be complicated. You are usually required to pay an entry contribution. This could be as much as the purchase price of a unit, or much less. Be aware that if you have paid an entry contribution, you do not necessarily own your unit or home.

You will also need to pay ongoing service charges for services and facilities. Make sure you know what you will have to pay and when these charges can be increased.

You may be required to pay an ‘exit fee’, ‘departure fee’ or ‘deferred management fee’ (DMF) to leave the village. This fee can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. You may also have to pay a refurbishment fee. The retirement village may also be entitled to some of the capital gains of your property if the residence is yours to sell. When you leave, the operator may also have to pay you ‘exit entitlements’ or refund your entry contribution. Find out what you will have to pay and what you can receive if you leave the village.

Moving into a retirement village may affect your Age Pension entitlements.

A retirement village transaction is usually different to an ordinary real estate transaction. You will only own your unit or home if it is a strata title retirement village. There are many different types of retirement villages and the minority are strata title.

Residents of a retirement village can form a ‘Residents’ Committee’ to oversee how the village operator spends money in the village. There are certain decisions that an operator cannot make without residents’ consent.

Get legal advice about the contract and disclosure statement. Find a solicitor who is familiar with retirement villages. They can explain to you all the fees and charges and whether you will own your property. Ask them to explain the pros and cons of your contract.

Many are happy with their decision to move to a retirement village and find the lifestyle very suitable. Ensure your decision is fully informed so you do not have the upheaval of moving again.

Where to go for more information

Read the Department of Families, Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ booklet Accommodation Choices for Older Australians and their Families: What Older Australians and their Families Need to Know. Copies are available by calling 1800 050 009 or online at www.fahcsia.gov.au.

Speak to the association for retirement village residents in your state or territory. These organisations represent the residents of retirement villages and are run by fellow residents.

ACT
ACT Retirement Villages Residents Association
02 6230 0460
NSW
Retirement Village Residents Association
1300 787 213
Qld
Association of Residents of Queensland Retirement Villages
0424 251 646
SA
South Australian Retirement Village Residents Association
08 8232 0422
Vic
Residents of Retirement Villages of Victoria
03 9015 8402
WA
Retirement Complexes Residents Association
0448 812 888

To find out how your Age Pension may be affected, contact Centrelink's Financial Information Service (FIS) on 13 23 00 and ask to speak with a FIS officer.

Where to go for help or to make a complaint

Each state or territory has its own legislation regarding retirement villages. To make a complaint or to obtain further information on dispute resolution, ring the service in your state or territory.

ACT
Fair Trading, Office of Regulatory Services
02 6207 3000
 
A.C.T. Civil and Administrative Tribunal
02 6207 1740
NSW
Office of Fair Trading Specialist Support Unit
1800 625 963
NT
Consumer Affairs
1800 019 319
Qld
Residential Services Unit, Department of Housing and Public Works
07 3008 5824
 
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal
1300 753 228
SA
Disability, Ageing and Carers, Department of Families and Communities
08 8204 2420
 
Residential Tenancies Tribunal
131 882
Tas
Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading
1300 65 44 99
Vic
Consumer Affairs Victoria
1300 55 81 81
 
Residential Tenancies List, Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
03 9628 9800
WA
Seniors’ Housing Centre, Department of Commerce
1300 367 057
 
Retirement Villages Disputes Tribunal
08 9219 3111

Find a solicitor with experience in retirement village contracts by contacting the law society in your state or territory.

ACT
The ACT Law Society
02 6247 5700
NSW
The Law Society of NSW
02 9926 0300
NT
Law Society Northern Territory
08 8981 5104
Qld
Queensland Law Society
1300 367 757
SA
The Law Society of South Australia
08 8229 0288
Tas
The Law Society of Tasmania
03 6234 4133
Vic
Law Institute of Victoria
03 9607 9550
WA
The Law Society of Western Australia
08 9324 8600

9.6 Moving into residential aged care

At a certain point, some people move to a residential care home in order to receive the care that is appropriate to their needs.

In addition to accommodation, residential care homes provide meals, cleaning, nursing and assistance with personal care like showering and dressing.

Your eligibility to enter residential aged care is based on your care needs as assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team.

Moving into residential aged care can affect your Age Pension payments. Generally, when you live in your family home, it is not counted under the Age Pension assets test. This exemption to the assets test continues for the first two years after moving to residential aged care. At the end of the two years, the value of your former home is included in your assets. In some circumstances, this two-year period can be extended.

If you pay a lump sum accommodation bond when you move into a residential aged care home, this bond is not counted in the Age Pension assets test. The bond is exempt until it is refunded to you, your estate, or when you leave aged care.

For more information on residential care see chapter 8.4.

Where to go for more information

Phone My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or visit the My Aged Care website at www.myagedcare.gov.au.

Phone Centrelink on 13 23 00 or go to www.humanservices.gov.au for more information.

Where to go for help or to make a complaint

Contact the Aged Care Complaints Scheme on 1800 550 552. See chapter 8 for more information on your rights in aged care and how to make a complaint.

COVID19 and Human Rights

All for one - hands stacked in unity
Rights Rights and Freedoms

What are human rights?

Human rights are the ground rules for how we should treat one another: with dignity, respect, equality and fairness.