More information is available from the Residents Committee Manual, Part 17 –Residents constitution.
An example of a comprehensive model residents constitution (with and without explanatory notes), in MS Word format for download and amendment to suit the specific requirements of your village, is available on the Residents Committee Manual page under the heading ‘Examples for download and use‘.
What is a residents constitution
The Retirement Villages Act 1999 (the Act) provides that the residents of a village may, by a majority vote of residents at a residents meeting, adopt a constitution (a residents constitution) (s 128).
A residents constitution is unlike a constitution for another group, body or organisation, even though there are some general similarities. It is simply a set of procedures, considered appropriate by a majority of voting residents, for the participation by residents in the affairs of the village, namely:
- meetings of and voting by residents
- the establishment and operation of the residents committee and subcommittees
- amendment of an adopted constitution
- establishment of working parties for a specific purpose and advisory panels (e.g. a financial advisory panel for village budgets)
- administration and use of monies in the residents fund account.
Neither the Act nor the Regulation, specify matters which are to be included in a residents constitution but, it does state that the constitution must not be inconsistent with the Act (s 128(2)(a)). In addition, there are also certain parts of the Act (parts of Part 7 – Residents participation) which specify various procedures and therefore, would likely be included in a residents constitution. These cannot be amended by a residents constitution but they may be added to.
Put simply, a residents constitution should:
- reiterate various procedures prescribed in the Act; and
- provide additional procedures which a majority of voting residents consider appropriate.
A residents constitution must not include anything which would affect the lifestyle or the financial standing of any resident, or the running of a village. That is, it must not contain rules about resident’s lifestyle or the use of common facilitiesas these matters are the subject of residence contracts or village by-laws and would be addressed elsewhere.
Why is a comprehensive residents constitution needed?
The Act provides little or, in some cases, no direction for procedures relating to the affairs of the village. This is intentional as legislators recognised that residents in each village have different needs and views on how things are to be conducted. It is therefore up to the residents of a village to put together a comprehensive residents constitution which meets their specific needs. As such, a constitution will provide precise, transparent and consistent procedures which were decided by residents.
Residents constitution and the residents committee
A residents constitution is not a residents committee constitution hence, it is not ‘owned’ by the committee even though procedures relating to the residents committee may be included (ss 127(3) and 128(3). The residents constitution is developed by residents for residents and may include procedures for any appropriate matter relating to the affairs of the village provided those procedures are not inconsistent with the Act.
You will note in s 127(3) of the Act that, a residents committee may decide its own procedures, form subcommittees or decide subcommittee procedures but they do these things subject to the residents constitution. You will also note in s 128(3) that a residents committee must conform to the residents constitution.
Given the above, it is evident that the Act intends and encourages residents to include in their residents constitution as many procedures relevant to their residents committee, subcommittees and the like, as they see fit.
A residents constitution once adopted does not terminate on dissolution of an established residents committee nor when a new committee cannot be formed.
A village does not need a residents committee before a residents constitution is drafted, discussed and adopted. There simply needs to be a group of interested residents who wish to organise this enterprise. Interestingly, it is desired that a constitution be adopted before a residents committee is established. Of note – a residents constitution adopted using the manner provided by the Act would prevail over procedures previously decided by a resident committee (s 128(3)).
Amending a residents constitution
The Act does not specify procedures for amending a residents constitution even though a constitution must always be relevant to the needs of a village and remain so even when there are changes of circumstance or where there are short comings in the current version. It is therefore up to residents to decide these procedures in their constitution.
However, these procedures must not be overly obstructive as it may be impossible to make changes even when required. For example, it may not be prudent to provide that amendments may only be made by a special resolution. This is apparent because legislators saw fit to not include a law that requires a special resolution for such a purpose even though one is required for many other matters.