Yes, an assisted living facility can evict a resident in the United States. This action is not unusual. Across the United States, assisted living facilities can evict residents who they feel have grown older and frail, essentially saying that “we can’t take care of you any longer.”

In the United States, eviction tops the list of grievances about assisted living received by long-term care ombudsmen. In 2016 alone, 2,867 complaints of this kind, grievances concerning eviction, were recorded – a number that experts believe is almost surely an undercount.

However, there is practically nothing residents or their families can do about evictions. Assisted living is governed by states, and these regulations are more or less loosely drafted, giving facilities considerable flexibility in determining whom they admit as residents, the care they’re prepared to give and when an eviction is warranted.

Even though state regulations tend to vary, evictions are usually allowed when a resident fails to pay facility charges, doesn’t follow a facility’s rules or becomes a danger to self or others; when a facility converts to another use or closes; and when management decides a resident’s needs exceed its ability to provide care – a catchall category that allows for considerable discretion.

Note that unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities more or less don’t have to document their efforts to offer care or show why they can’t provide an adequate level of assistance. In most states, there is not an explicit route to appeal facilities’ decisions or a requirement that a safe discharge to another setting be arranged – rights that nursing home residents have under federal legislation.

Another source of frustration is that in several states someone can be evicted if their cognitive decline worsens. As anyone with experience dealing with Alzheimer’s disease can tell, this is what dementia does: It worsens. Therefore, in a state like New Jersey, where an assisted living home can evict someone whose decision-making has become too difficult, you might be constantly eligible for eviction because Alzheimer’s is progressive.

Also note that ownership and management changes in senior living communities are frequent, and can also come with policy changes. Any of the above justifications for eviction are on the table when a new leadership takes over, so it falls on you to be diligent about knowing who’s in charge at your loved one’s residence and what their policies are. New ownership has often led to families facing eviction.

How to Prevent Unexpected Evictions from an Assisted Living Facility

The most important thing is to understand why a person can be evicted from an assisted living facility. Here are few precautions to take to avoid getting evicted unexpectedly.

  1. Strive to understand what you will be paying up front. Note that not being able to afford the fees is one of the most common reasons for eviction. Almost every state in the United States requires new residents in assisted living facilities to receive a disclosure of all possible fees. File this document in case you need it.
  2. Do not forget to ask the right questions and to be clear on the eviction policy before moving in. What will it take for the facility to say you must leave? What are the particulars of that process? Specifics are important: The more vague a policy, the more likely it is to be used unfairly, and the more likely you are to be surprised by an eviction. Have it in mind that this may include getting a hard definition of “endangering behaviour,” which is a term used to justify many evictions.
  3. Take your time to review the admissions agreement yourself, then have an expert, like an elder law attorney, review it as well.
  4. Also note that any promises made by management should be put in writing. It remains the only way to be sure a promise will be kept.
  5. Always ready yourself against “dumping.” This is more or less when an assisted living residence (or nursing home) sends a patient to the hospital for a medical issue that cannot be addressed at the facility, then refuses to let them return, even going so far as giving away their room or bed to a new tenant. This is another important question to ask up front: How many days will your loved one’s bed be held if a hospital visit is required? Again, get it in writing.

Steps to Take After Getting Evicted from an Assisted Living Facility

Normally, residents are given a 30-day eviction notice. Transferring an individual back home, or to another residence, or to a nursing home takes a lot of time — usually 60-90 days to locate the residence, arrange care services and explore payment options. It is advisable you consider these options before hand, but if you haven’t, here are few steps to take.

  1. Check the agreement

Note that the very first step is to check your agreement with the residence, to ensure that the 30-day notice is in line with the paperwork that was signed when moving in. Normally, you have 30, 60 or 90 days to move out, but a residence may want your loved one out quickly, especially if they have a new resident waiting for the room.

  1. Arrange a meeting with management

You should also arrange a meeting with the residence management to ask if an issue like behavioural problems can be resolved without needing to leave. Here you can ask directly for an extension, requesting 90 or even 120 days. Let them know that you have done your research or that you will raise the issue on social media and review websites (such as Senior Advisor, Caring.com and Yelp), all of which are feared and respected by the senior living industry.

You can also let them know that you are considering filing a claim with a long-term care ombudsman or taking legal action. Although it is advisable you resist taking these actions immediately, but let it be known they are on the table.

  1. Seek external medical advice

Also consider bringing in an outside doctor to analyze and determine whether assisted living is still viable. Evictions more or less occur because a residence claims it can’t fulfil a person’s medical needs, so be very certain this is true by getting a second opinion.

  1. Legal action

Even though this approach is not always advisable, legal action such as retaining an attorney to fight the eviction is an option. However, note that this approach comes with some shortcomings. In many states, even if you win, you cannot recoup the cost of hiring an attorney. So, depending on your state, this may cost your family several thousand dollars or even more.

Also consider your opponent as well. A lot of residences in the United States are corporate chains that own many communities, and they retain a small army of attorneys and very likely are experts at dealing with evictions. However, if you decide to pursue legal action, there are a few options to fight back (and a lawyer may know more).

  1. Consider nursing care homes

Even though you may think your loved one does not require nursing home care at the moment, remember there is a reason why they were evicted in the first place. It is likely that their daily care needs exceed what can be provided, or they are exhibiting behavioural challenges. However, either of these reasons may qualify them for nursing home care.

When dealing with an eviction, it is imperative to analyze your loved one’s condition and progression and decide if assisted living facility is necessary and, if so, for how much longer? Another factor to consider is that nursing home care is not significantly more expensive than memory care, but there is greater financial assistance for nursing home care (primarily Medicaid).

Conclusion

Assisted living evictions are legal, provided the facility does not violate its own Admission and Retention policy. Even though you might really want your loved one to remain in this residence, and you may be angry because you feel the residence violated your agreement or at least the spirit of your agreement, but objectively it is time to consider if remaining in that facility is the right long-term decision for your loved one. Even though an unfair eviction can be devastating, and even insulting, it might actually be a time to consider other options.

Ajaero Tony Martins