Retirement Warning

Reporter: Jackie Quist

It's meant to be the "easy way" to spend your Golden Years - retire to a village and relax. But, a warning to make sure you know what you're paying for. Retirement village residents give us an insight into the legal battles, the fees and the fine-print that can make retirement anything but blissful. If you believe the ads buying into a retirement village means your golden years are relaxed and worry free.

Attractive silver haired couples play golf, stroll on the beach and sip lattes, that's the glossy version of life in a retirement village. The reality can be very different. Tonight retirement village residents give us an insight into the legal battles, the costs and clauses that leave them trapped or worse, on the street. 70 year old pensioner Elizabeth Lyddy is mourning the loss of her husband ... now she's about to lose her home as well.

"It was the biggest shock of my life in fact I'm still finding it so hard" Elizabeth and Brian Lyddy had been married just two and a half years .. the second for both, they were overjoyed at the prospect of spending their retirement years together in Brian's unit at the Geelong Grove Retirement Village Their happiness was short-lived. In March Brian had a sudden fatal heart attack. Leaving his estate to Elizabeth, because he'd promised she would always have a roof over her head.

"I said to the solicitor about the you know the unit here and he said well it's yours cause its been left to you and then someone had sort of said oh it mightn't me because your names not on the contract and when I mentioned that, that's when trouble started.Turns out Brian didn't own the unit but rather had purchased a lifelong lease which ended when he died. He'd never added Elizabeth's name to the contract, and the lease on the unit can't be willed to her, in fact she was never really entitled to live there in the first place. Now if she wants to stay, Elizabeth must pay $215,000, market value, for a new lease on the home she thought she'd inherited from Brian.

"He'd be devastated because he always said you'd be right, you got no probs" she said. "the words used by the marketing and sales people when they are selling the unit to you or offering the unit to you is when you come in here you don't have to worry about a thing, we do everything for you," Howard Campey said.

Howard Campey is president of the group 'Residents of Retirement Villages Victoria', determined to change the retirement village fees, charges and contract clauses that make retirement anything but blissful. "nearly every resident that phones with a problem do not understand their contracts bc the contracts are so long and convoluted and they're 66 pages up to 100 pages so as a result it's very very difficult for them""as my daughter said mum it'll be really nice for you to go somewhere where you can be looked after and its, sorry, it just hasn't been like that" Jan Reilly said

Jan Reilly admits when she bought her one bedroom unit, she didn't pay enough attention to what's called a deferred management fee... which means that when a retirement village resident leaves a unit, up to 30% of the sale price goes straight to management. I am trapped here I am trapped here yeah," she said. "By the time I took out of it the money that I would owe them. I might have $120,000 left I can't buy anything else for that.

"the Deferred management fee is purely a profit margin for the owners we believe because the village is run by the people who are living in the village as a committee of management in 99% of cases," said Howard. He anger clear, at their annual forum.

Jan Reilly is in dispute with management over her weekly service fees , for things like garden and building maintenance, insisting she's overcharged almost $100 a month, she now has a lawyer. "Its not what I had in mind for my old age it really really isn't," said Jan."We would encourage all people who are proposing to enter into a retirement village contract to carefully read their contract," Claire Noone said.Dr Claire Noone is Victorian director of Consumer Affairs, tells all retirees to seek specialist legal advice before signing a retirement village contract.

"We'd also suggest that they do their homework and visit the village and meet some other people in the village to really get an understanding of what sort of community they're moving into," she said.Elizabeth Lyddy has decided to move on, she'll receive the proceeds of Brian's unit when the residence rights are on-sold, minus $75,000.00 in deferred fees "Its bad enough packing up his clothes after he passed away let alone doing this, its just devastating knowing you gotta go through this, I'm not looking forward to this at all," said Elizabeth.