Information for retirement village residents and operators about staying safe during COVID-19
On 14 May 2020 the COVID-19 Emergency Measures laws commenced.
The legislation includes increased emergency measures as part of the NSW Government’s effort to address COVID-19 in retirement communities.
What the changes mean
During COVID-19 retirement villages, operators and residents may be exempt from certain requirements in the Retirement Villages Act 1999. These exemptions will be outlined in Ministerial Orders.
This will allow emergency measures to be put in to place that are in line with Public Health Orders, but don’t breach the Retirement Villages Act.
These changes are important to help slow the spread of the virus and relate to:
- use of village facilities
- village rules
- budget processes
- how residents consent and meet
General COVID-19 information for retirement villages
Retirement village operators should ensure processes are in place to limit the number of non-essential visitors.
Operators should be mindful of residents and families’ needs and consider the following measures:
- place signs at the entrance advising all visitors to sign in prior to their visit
- limit visits to a shorter duration
- limit the number of visitors in the village at any one time
- encourage visitors to practice social distancing at all times
- monitor advice from NSW Health on the current status, preventing exposure, medical treatment, and testing.
An operator can put up signs around the village to ensure residents are aware of health warnings around group gatherings and social distancing.
These notices should be placed in common areas and outside shared facilities, and updated when necessary.
For villages that offer a meal service in a dining hall, consider having meals delivered or advising residents to pick up their food and eat in their units.
Consider providing extra support to vulnerable residents via phone or email check-ins, and provide practical assistance where suitable.
- Some residents may need help to access online shopping for groceries and medicine.
- Connecting residents to social services may also be helpful. This is especially important for residents without family or who are more isolated.
- Keep residents up to date if normal functions or services are limited or cancelled.
The provision of services and functions may be limited as a result of the national response to the COVID-19 situation.
The approach taken in each village will be different.
Where possible, operators can help ensure residents can access phone and/or video calls, email or apps so they can maintain communication with family, friends and other residents.
It’s important to minimise contact and meetings, including village budget meetings, which shouldn’t be held in person.
Village operators and residents should work together to decide on an alternative approach to meetings and voting.
Alternate arrangements to in -person voting include votes in writing, by email, teleconference or other technologies.
Residents may decide to use a combination of voting methods, if this is more suitable to their needs.
COVID-19 has created exceptional circumstances that have disrupted ordinary retirement village operating procedures.
While we continue to develop advice for the industry, we encourage residents and operators to be patient, flexible and work together to protect residents’ health.
Where possible, villages should implement the new processes that allow them to continue providing essential services and facilities.
Frequently asked questions
What information is there for retirement village residents and operators?
This Government Fact Sheet provides information and advice for Australians living or working in retirement villages and will be updated regularly.
As a village operator, can I disclose a positive COVID-19 diagnosis to other residents and staff?
The NSW Information and Privacy Commission, together with other Privacy Commissioners and Ombudsmen around the country, has released a joint statement outlining how personal information should be used and treated to help address the COVID-19 public health crisis.
This advice states that privacy laws allow critical information in these circumstances to be disclosed.
These laws also require personal information is handled in a way that is reasonably necessary to prevent and manage COVID-19 and is protected.
If a resident or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, village operators must continue to comply with privacy laws and ensure any personal information is protected and only disclosed where reasonably necessary to prevent and manage COVID-19.
To make an evaluation on what information is necessary to disclose, operators should use short-form Privacy Impact Assessments, as suggested by the Privacy Commissioners and Ombudsmen.
Tools to conduct an assessment are on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
You may also seek your own legal advice to ensure you don’t unintentionally breach a person’s privacy.
The full statement from Australian Privacy Regulators can be found here.
Are open homes or inspections allowed for residents selling their unit?
On Wednesday, 25 March 2020, the Australian Government prohibited open homes.
Many businesses are now using virtual tours to minimise risk to staff and the community.
This is consistent with health guidelines minimising contact and maintaining physical distancing.
Private property inspections can be arranged by appointment only, provided physical distancing rules are maintained.
What happens with annual contract check-up meetings?
Meetings should be conducted by electronic means only.
However, where this is not possible, operators should continue to provide residents with a written summary of a resident’s current village contract information (as defined by section 69A of the Retirement Villages Act). Face-to-face meetings should not occur.
Residential land lease communities
Do I need to change the community park rules to reflect the NSW Government advice about COVID -19?
No, the measures introduced by the NSW Government under the Public Health Act are temporary and will take priority over any rules made in the park about use of facilities and how people interact in the Park.
Residents and operators should work together to ensure that everyone in the park complies with the social distancing measures.
In addition, an operator could put up signs around the park to ensure residents are aware of the health warnings and messages. For example, these could be placed in common areas and outside other shared facilities.
Consideration should be given to how resident and visitor activities are structured. For example, games events and other social activities should be cancelled, if they cannot be conducted within the health guidelines.
What if I need to change the community rules for any other reason?
The normal requirements apply to change the community rules.
This includes giving 30 days' notice of any changes in the rules and they must be clearly expressed and reasonable.