The purpose of the Understanding Residency Agreements series is to provide you with a working knowledge of the contract you’ll likely face should you choose assisted living for your loved one. The contract we’ll use as an example is from a major corporate assisted living company. Many of these contracts can be found by searching Google, but I believe this agreement serves as a good example.
Part 5 of the series will discuss maintenance and use.
VIII. Maintenance, Repairs and Alterations
This section defines the rules to be followed regarding redecoration, alterations and basic housekeeping. It also defines to what extent the assisted living community will be responsible for maintenance and repairs, as well as the resident’s responsibility for damages.
I think most people will find this section to be reasonable and consistent with renting a house or apartment. However, you should read it closely to be sure there are no unreasonable requirements in the contract.
Some things to be aware of:
- You and your loved one will likely want the new apartment to feel like home, and therefore may want to redecorate. While our sample agreement provides for things like paint and wallpaper, you should ask specifically if you intend to do something not mentioned. If the community agrees with your request, get their approval in writing during the contract negotiation. Similar, if you are already a resident, all redecoration plans should be approved in writing before the project begins.
- Similar to redecorating, should you wish to make structural or non-structural alterations to the unit, make sure you get written permission during the contract negotiation. Usually, the cost for non-structural alterations like fixtures, toilet items and shelving are the responsibility of the resident. If your loved one is disabled, the community should make reasonable efforts to accommodate their needs. In our sample agreement, this language is very vague. Make sure you articulate your loved one’s needs and get in writing the community’s intent to provide those alterations. You should also insist that these alterations are completed prior to your move-in date.
- Most communities provide some housekeeping services and things like routine carpet cleaning. Some facilities charge extra for additional housekeeping. If you intend to have an outside housekeeper visit your loved one’s unit, make sure this is allowed for in the agreement.
- Damages are often ambiguous in many lease agreements, and residency agreements are no different. Ask the facility to define damages versus normal wear and tear and to give examples. Some questions to ask may include: Who conducts the repairs? Are costs based solely on actual material cost or do the residents pay for associated labor as well? How do residents resolve situations in which repair costs appear to be abnormally high? If the resident can repair the damage on their own, how much time do they have to complete the project?
IX. Use of Unit
The purpose of this section is to clearly define how and for what the unit can be used. This section normally addresses issues like pets, parking, guests and storage of materials. The language in this section is usually specific, so make sure to ask questions about items you don’t see in the text.
Some common questions to ask:
- Is parking included? If not, is there an additional fee?
- Can your loved one have overnight guests? Are there restrictions on how many nights they can stay? Are there additional costs associated with those visits?
- Are pets allowed? How many? Are there optional services available such as dog walking, grooming, etc? What are the additional fees associated with pets?
- Can there be joint occupancy? This is particularly relevant if spouses want to live together in an assisted living community. How does this affect the cost? Is there a cost benefit to joint occupancy? How do the costs change if one resident leaves? For example, at my mother’s facility, a resident’s wife spends the night several times a week, but maintains her own home down the street. How would a scenario such as this be treated under the agreement?
- Are caregivers considered to be joint occupants? Are there fees or meal charges associated with live-in caregivers? At one local community, a monthly surcharge is assessed for caregivers which is nearly $1,000.