Eviction and the Rights of Residents in a California Long-Term Care Facility

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform have provided useful information regarding resident eviction from all types of California long-term care facilities and communities. This includes California assisted living communities. In this article, we provide you an overview of the information any assisted living resident needs in regard to the prospect of eviction from this type of facility. In this article, we discuss:

  • Causes for eviction
  • Understanding what is not a reason to evict
  • Written eviction notice requirements
  • Exception to general notice requirements
  • Readmission after hospital stay
  • New owner cannot seek new admission agreement
  • SSI residents and eviction
  • Eviction protections

Causes for Eviction

At this juncture in time, California law recognizes only five reasons for which a resident of a long-term care facility in our state can be evicted. These are:

  • Failure of resident to pay agreed upon rate for basic services within ten days of due date.
  • Failure of resident to comply with state or local law after receiving notice of the alleged violation. This includes such alleged violations like assault, illegal drug use, violation of probation, and so forth. 
  • Failure of resident to follow facility policies that are in writing, are part of the admission agreement, and are for the purpose of making it possible for residents to live together.
  • After formal assessment, the facility determines that it can no longer meet the resident’s changing care needs.
  • The facility changed its purpose. For example, a facility surrendered its license and will not operate as a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly pursuant to the provisions of California law. 

Understanding What Is Not a Reason to Evict

California law explicitly sets forth some specific reasons why an assisted living facility cannot evict a resident. According to California law:

  • A resident may not be evicted for refusing to sign a new admission agreement. Refusing to sign a new admission agreement is not one of the five legal reasons for eviction listed above, and facilities are prohibited from evicting residents for reasons other than those set forth in California law.
  • Please also note that it is illegal for an owner or employee of an RCFE to evict or threaten eviction of a resident in retaliation for the resident requesting an inspection or filing a complaint against the facility with the Department of Social Services or the Ombudsman Program. 

Written Eviction Notice Requirements

Pursuant to California law, the written notice of eviction from an assisted living community or any other long-term care facility in the state needs to contain specified information. If the information is not included in the eviction notice, it will be deemed invalid. These notice requirements are:

  • Reason or reasons for eviction. The reason for an eviction from a California assisted living community must be one or more of the 5 reasons stated above and nothing else.
  • Specific facts associated with each reason for eviction that include:
    • Applicable dates
    • Relevant places
    • Surrounding circumstances
    • Identification of witnesses
  • Effective date of the eviction
  • A list of resources available to assist in identifying alternative housing and care options, including public and private referral services and case management organizations
  • Information about the resident’s right to file a complaint with the department regarding the eviction, with the name, address, and telephone number of the nearest office of community care licensing and the State Ombudsman
  • The notice must include following statement required by California law:

In order to evict a resident who remains in the facility after the effective date of the eviction, the residential care facility for the elderly must file an unlawful detainer action in superior court and receive a written judgment signed by a judge. If the facility pursues the unlawful detainer action, you must be served with a summons and complaint. You have the right to contest the eviction in writing and through a hearing.

There are three instances in which assisted living residents are provided different types of notices to vacate the facility. These have different time-frames to vacate the facility. The circumstances when this can occur according to California law are:

  1. Health Relocation Order issued by the state licensing agency when a resident’s condition is prohibited from being treated in an assisted living facility. The notice of relocation is sent to the facility, resident and the resident’s responsible person (if there is one), and the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. The notice states the specific reasons for the Health Relocation Order. It also states the reasons for the order and the right to appeal the decision.   
  2. Facility will no longer be operating as an assisted living community.  When the alleged reason for an eviction is “change of use of the facility,” the facility is required to give residents a 60-day written notice.  In addition to the notice requirements discussed above, the notice must be made to the resident or the resident’s responsible person and include the additional requirements specified in Health & Safety Code.
  3. Facility closure when residents are evicted requires a 60–day written notice.

Readmission After Hospital Stay

Assisted living communities cannot refuse to readmit a resident following a hospital stay. Even if an assisted living community believes one of the five reasons for eviction exist, the facility must readmit the resident until the facility has complied with all of the eviction requirements. 

New Owner Cannot Seek New Admission Agreement

If an assisted living community is sold to a new owner, there are certain restrictions on what the new owner can and cannot do. A new owner of an assisted living community cannot require or even ask current residents to enter into new admission agreements. The existing agreement does not terminate by reason of the sale of an assisted living community. In addition, a new owner cannot take adverse action of any kind against an existing resident for refusing to sign a new admission agreement. 

SSI Residents and Eviction 

California law states that private paying residents at long-term care facilities (including assisted living communities) cannot be evicted if they later qualify for Supplemental Security Income of SSI. It is common for low-income RCFE residents to qualify for SSI when they spend down their savings below $2,000, the asset limit for SSI. If a long-term care resident qualifies for SSI and is approved by the Social Security Administration, the facility should lower its rate for basic services to $1,211.77.

In some cases, a long-term care facility will try to claim that it is not an “SSI facility.” The facility will continue to bill the resident at the private pay rate. The reality is that there is no such thing as an SSI facility in California. A California regulation that applies to all long-term care facilities establishes a limit on charges to SSI recipients. This regulation in question states: 

If the resident is an SSI/SSP recipient, then the basic services shall be provided and/or made available at the basic rate at no additional charge to the resident.

However, be on the alert when care needs increase. This can be the basis for an eviction for assisted living in the state of California. SSI recipients are more vulnerable than private paying residents for eviction in this type of situation.

Eviction Protections

Evictions are serious proceedings and the potential for harm to residents is significant. If you face an eviction from a California assisted living community or some other type of long-term care facility, it is advisable to seek assistance from the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. You may also want to seek assistance from California Legal Services Programs.

Use the approaches listed below carefully. Make sure that the resident’s continuing care needs will be met throughout the process. It can be very detrimental to residents to remain in facilities that are either unable or unwilling to meet the resident’s care needs. These protections or defenses to an eviction from a California assisted living community include:

  • Do not act on a verbal statement by the facility that a resident must move. 
  • Demand a written notice setting forth the reasons for an move.
  • Make sure that the notice for eviction meets all the legal standards. For example, make sure it only states one of the five reasons for eviction discussed previously in this artcile. If not, the eviction is not valid and the notice must be reissued. This buys time for the resident to consider other options.
  • Challenge unreasonable facility policies as a basis for eviction.
  • Remedy the cause stated for the eviction. For example, pay the monthly fee or comply with the house rules. Then insist that the eviction be withdrawn.
  • Insist on a written relocation plan to ease the transition and to reduce transfer trauma. Negotiate for more time to make a good relocation plan.
  • File a complaint with the licensing agency over the process used by the facility.
  • Make an appeal of the licensing agency’s health relocation order. The appeal must be requested within three business days of the notice. Licensing’s decision will be reviewed by an independent team.
  • Exercise the right to a judicial hearing. In order to evict a resident, the facility must go to court first and get an order from a judge. An eviction from an RCFE is legally the same as an eviction from a house or an apartment. The resident must be served with a summons and complaint and has the right to contest the eviction in writing and through a hearing.
  • Assert rights when facility closes for a 60-day written notice. These rights include:
    • Relocation evaluation (and relocation plan approved by licensing when seven or more residents are affected)
    • Proportional refund of prepaid month’s rent, and refund of pre–admission fees over $500 paid in the past two years
    • File a complaint with assisted living licensing
    • Exercise the right to file a civil lawsuit covering costs and attorney’s fees

The eviction protections that are required by law are designed to ensure that an assisted living community will not trample upon a resident’s legal rights established by California law. They afford optimal protection to assisted living residents from arbitrary, capricious, retaliatory, and other illegal actions attempt to be perpetrated by an assisted living facility.