Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
Over 800 residents at Bayway Village at Port Stephens in New South Wales have received what is believed to be the highest rent increase this year to date. Some residents have received a $37.50 per week rent increase. The park owner Hampshire Property Group acquired the park in November 2010. The previous park owner raised rents by Cpi and residents that have lived in the park for more than 20 years have never seen a rent increase beyond CPi.

Hampshire state that "we understand that some residents will consider the increase as unfair". They further state that since acquiring the village in 2010, residents that have since moved in have been paying rent between $130 and $142. They then state that they believe that this amount reflects the market and reflects the conditions within the park.

In a statement by Mr Richard Black, the companies financial controller, he says " Whilst we are sympathetic to the financial constraints faced by many of our residents, we consider it reasonable and appropriate to increase rents for all other residents to a level that is closer to current market values."

Unfortunately the market that is created is false. Prospective residents that purchase into the park are probably not advised that residents within the park are paying a lower rent. ARPRA NSW will be meeting with Anthony Roberts, Minister for Fair Trading on Monday 25th July to seek full disclosure laws for prospective residents. If a prospective resident is not made aware that other residents are paying a lower rent, then they have no fair market choice and this in turn creates a false market rent created by the park owner.

The company has placed on offer rent deals based over a number of years, however these deals are often contingent upon improved amenities and services. The issue with these type of deals are that firstly they are not ratified by the Consumer Trader Tenancy Tribunal, secondly a resident may sign up to a deal over a number of years and those promised improvements are then not forthcoming. The resident has effectively signed away their rights to a rent increase challenge and said improvements never happen or at the very least are never completed.

In Western Australia, residential parks operate in reverse. All amenities and services are in place first, so that all residents can enjoy the service and amenities before paying an increase. Residents at Bayway Village claim that since Hampshire acquiring the park there hasn't been any increase in amenities.

In 2005 in a letter from David Hoffman, company director to residents at Jetty's By The Lake, another Hampshire owned park, “that plans were well afoot for the new community hall.” In several statutory declarations made by residents they claim that there is still no community hall and other other promised amenities, yet residents have faced rent increases over that period of time.

In yet another irony for residents living in villages owned by Hampshire Property Group, they advertise and market themselves as " Affordable Retirement Living", however in a recent Anglicare study that looked at rental stress in pensioner groups, anyone paying more than 30% of their pension in rent was deemed to be in rental stress. Many residents living under Hampshire Property Group would be considered to be in rental stress.Some residents will be paying more than 34% of their pension in rent, yet they own their own home.

Companies such as Hampshire often use the Federal Governments rent assistance as an argument for increasing rents, stating that a pensioner can afford that scale of rent because they get rental assistance. Take into account the mandatory requirement for public liability insurance, food, the latest 17% rise in electricity prices and the general cost of living, medicines and mobility aids and this type of living is not so affordable after all!

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Hampshire Property Group, Bayway Village, Crystal Waters Tuncurry, Jettys By The Lake Windang, Rest Point Nowra, pension rent increases



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