Contract terminated carelessly

14 May 2018

Diane* had been her father Joe’s live-in carer at the retirement village for two years before he passed away. She was the main beneficiary of his estate and the executor of his will. Since she’d inherited the unit, which was his main asset, and was herself in her 60’s, she expected to be able to keep living there. But the village manager had other ideas.

Joe’s contract had a clause that said it terminated on his death – and the management didn’t care that it had been Diane’s home for years, or that she had been living off a carer’s payment and couldn’t afford to move. She wouldn’t see any financial benefit from her father’s estate unless she sold the unit, and she had nowhere to go in the meantime. She contacted HAAG’s Retirement Housing Advice Service when the manager told her she had to leave.

Carers living in retirement housing – often older people themselves - may have few rights and can face eviction at the whim of management, especially if the resident themselves passes away or moves into aged care. This can place additional burdens on residents or families considering the already tough decision about whether it’s time to move into residential care.

According to the ABS, almost 70% of primary carers are women. Their average age is 55, and their labour force participation rate (56.3%) is much lower than non-carers (80.3%). We know that caring for family – parents as well as children – tends to disrupt women’s careers much more than men.

This underrepresentation of men in care roles is just one reason that women enter retirement with about half the superannuation that men do – and one in three women retire with no super at all. And this is just one of a number of structural issues that lead to the growing problem of homelessness and housing stress among older women.

Unfortunately, Joe’s contract was clear and binding – Diane had no right to stay. But Chris from HAAG appealed to the manager to consider her circumstances and the high chance she would become homeless if evicted. Eventually, he convinced them to let her stay on – a fantastic result.

* Names have been changed for privacy reasons