South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 19, 2008
ISSUE: Assisted living eviction complaints rising. Residents at assisted living facilities should have the same tenant-landlord protections as everybody else, plain and simple. They shouldn't be evicted from facilities without knowing the reason. And they should be able to file an appeal if they think they're being treated unfairly. But that's not happening in Florida, where no such protections exist for some of the state's most vulnerable residents, our senior citizens. Complaints about assisted living discharges made the top-10 list among issues filed with the state ombudsman's office in fiscal year 2005-2006, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently reported.
In 2006-2007, the complaints rose 25 percent, amounting to 93 statewide. Administrators argue their assisted living facilities are not licensed to care for sick residents whose conditions deteriorate, and they can't afford to keep residents who stop paying. Those are legitimate concerns. The issue, however, is not the decision itself but the paucity of information to support it. State Ombudsman Brian Lee is calling for legislation that would protect residents from unexplained, perhaps unwarranted, evictions. He also wants the state to establish an appeals process similar to the one at nursing homes, allowing evicted residents to file an appeal within 10 days. State Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Brandon, is pursuing a partial solution with a bill that would require facilities to tell residents why they're being evicted. That's a good start. But legislators need to go even further, adding the appeals component that Lee recommends.
Looking down the line, the state may also need to design a transitional program to help evicted seniors find the housing and services they need. That's a difficult request in a tough budget year, but lawmakers at least should provide a proper notification and appeals process.
BOTTOM LINE: Legislation is needed to explain why assisted living residents are evicted.