An older woman stands at a window.

Case Study 1: Investing in a self-contained unit


After the death of her husband five years ago, Jan felt isolated and lonely living alone at some distance from her family. Janher daughter Marie and her son-in-law Paul discussed Jan moving closer to them and being available for her grandchildren after schoolgiven that Marie and Paul struggled to get home from work until later in the evening. Jan also had some health issues and she wanted to be living somewhere she could get support if required. 

Jan sold her home and spent $120,000 building a self-contained unit on the property owned by Marie and Paul. Marie and Paul also insisted that Jan give them $85,000 in return for them providing her with a home for life and care as required. Marie explained to Jan that by providing the $85,000 to them Jan would be complying with Centrelink rules and would not lose her pension 

Jan was concerned about the arrangement and the fact it was not confirmed in writing. However, she trusted her daughter and did not want to offend her family. 

At first the arrangement went well. Jan enjoyed being close to her grandchildren and having the security of Marie and Paul close by if she needed them.  

However, the relationship between Marie and Jan soured and Marie told Jan she must leave the property. Jan has no savings left and is reliant on the age pension as her only form of income. Jan has tried to sell the unit but the only offer has been $10,000 because the cost to remove the unit is high. Marie and Paul are refusing to give Jan any money because they say Jan’s unit does not add any value to their property. 

Jan sought advice from Seniors Rights Victoria. SRV’s advocates have been able to provide Jan with general support, links to housing services to find alternative accommodation suitable for a person of her age, and counselling to address the trauma Jan is feeling over the breakdown of the relationship with her only daughter. SRV’s lawyers have arranged for valuations of the property to be undertaken and have been able to negotiate with Marie and Paul for a payment to be made to Jan which, while not sufficient to buy another property, will enable her to maintain her independence into the future.