New assisted living rent law isn't retroactive

A practice senior advocates consider reprehensible continues despite legislation many thought had banned it.
April 17, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
7 On Your Side first brought this story to light. It involves some assisted living centers who are charging an additional 30-60 days rent after someone dies. It's a practice senior advocates consider reprehensible and it continues despite legislation many thought had banned it.

7 On Your Side is closely following this story. A little-noticed clause in many contracts requires tenants to give notice when leaving an assisted living center. That clause has been enforced by some homes even in the event of death. Legislation banning the practice went into effect January 1st. Despite that, we're learning the practice at some homes continues.

San Jose resident Wendy Bush cares for her father Chu Liang at her San Jose home. She brought her father up from Southern California after her mother Chen died. Both were staying at Emeritus in Alhambra outside Los Angeles. Chen died after a fall at the assisted living center.

"It all came very sudden. I wasn't prepared," said Bush.

Bush said she was told as she was moving her father out that she would have to pay an additional 30 days rent for both her mom and dad. Her contract required that the family give notice before moving out.

"I thought it was very distasteful, especially when I talk to them face to face," said Bush.

Patricia McGinnis is with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. She says her office has already received four other similar complaints from upset families since January 1. That's when a law, unanimously passed by both houses of the Legislature, went into effect banning the practice.

AB 261 reads "A residential care facility for the elderly shall not require advance notice for terminating an admission agreement upon the death of a resident."

The bill was sponsored by the industry trade group CALA, or the California Assisted Living Association, and authored by Assemblyman Wes Chesbro of Santa Rosa.

"We urged consumers to support this bill because we thought it was going to take care of this problem. And now we find out that fact, the industry had no intention whatsoever to have this apply to people who are currently in facilities," said McGinnis.

The Department of Social Services sent out a memo stating the provisions of the new law were not retroactive. CALA and Assm. Chesbro say they agree and never intended for the bill to be retroactive.

"We should've known that they were going to try to pull some kind of trick," said McGinnis.

CALA told us by email that its understanding is that the Constitution does not allow the law to be retroactive, but it also told us, "CALA has consistently encouraged our members to be transparent and to embrace both the intent and practical application of the law in their admissions policy."

Emeritus now says it billed Bush's parents in error. The family will not have to pay the bill.

"I felt comforted that people agree that this is unfair. And trying to do something about it," said Bush.

The Department of Social Services says its original memo was just to get implementation of the bill started. It says full implementation will take 18 months and that it plans to send out another memo making AB 261 retroactive. That means families of those in assisted living centers shouldn't have to give notice before their loved ones die.

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