Lawmakers discuss rent charged for dead relatives

May 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A 7 On Your Side report last fall into residential facilities for the disabled and the elderly is now getting action in Sacramento.

Our report back in November caused quite a stir within the assisted living industry. We reported that some assisted living centers were charging families as much as an additional 60 days rent after their loved one has died. That practice of requiring families to give notice before death, is about to end soon.

A dollhouse is one of many good memories South San Francisco resident Kathleen Boyle has of her mother, Marty.

"So this is the large doll house that my mom actually built," said Boyle.

What happened after Marty died is something her daughter would prefer to forget.

"I felt so foolish. I felt humiliated. I felt dumb," said Boyle.

She had learned of abuse at her mother's previous care home and quickly transferred her into an assisted living center. She remembers reading the contract, and even showing it to her lawyer, before signing the agreement. Nothing struck her as unusual.

"My main focus in my mind right then and there was to get my mom to a safe place," said Boyle.

Marty died 12 days after moving in on June 4th. Boyle did not want to tell us the name of the facility. It ultimately refused to refund any of the $5,500 monthly rent she had prepaid. She was stunned when she read the contract again.

"If you die in their facility, there's no refund," said Boyle.

The agreement stated, "the monthly fee is non-refundable under the following circumstances...termination of the agreement due to voluntary or involuntary reasons such as but not limited to death."

The same thing happened to Miranda Chu's family in Alameda, she ended up paying an additional $1,500 in rent after her cousin died.

"It's unreasonable. You know because the person already passed away. Everything was removed from the facility. There's no reason for them to charge anybody," said Chu.

Pat McGinnis is executive director of California Advocates of Nursing Home Reform.

"Say that your relative dies within the second day of the month. You could still be responsible for paying for the full month, or even another month, because you didn't give notice that your relative has died," said McGinnis. "And of course that was ludicrous."

The organization is calling this one of the biggest issues facing seniors today. After we exposed this practice last November, pat jumped into action, sharing our story everywhere.

"We sent it to everybody. We sent it to the assembly members, we sent it to the Assisted Living Association," said McGinnis.

She says the story had such a huge impact that the industry trade group, the California Assisted Living Association, is sponsoring a bill that would ban advance notice for terminating the agreement due to death. It also provides for refund of fees paid in advance within 15 days of belongings being removed. The bill has no opposition and passed unanimously in the assembly. It is now in the senate.

"I think you can do more with one story than we could do in two years' worth of work," said McGinnis.

"Of course 7 On Your Side did it again," said Chu.

The bill sponsored by Assm. Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, is now in the state senate. We'll keep you updated on what happens to it.


Load Comments