When you move into a continuing care community or assisted living community, there are many things that you need to consider as you transition to your new living environment. This article will cover the impact the Residency Agreement will have on life in your new community regarding their policies on issues such as visitors, common space use, decorating, and additional services that may be available to you
A. Living Accommodations
This section of the contract describes the unit and common areas that you are leasing. The language in this section is fairly self-explanatory.
Some things to be aware:
1. Confirm that the exact unit identified in the contract is the unit you’ve agreed to rent.
2. Confirm that you, your friends and your family have the right to use common areas. These are areas of the community that are freely available to residents, although some communities put restrictions on who other than residents can use them.
B. Maintenance, Repairs and Alterations
This section defines the rules to be followed regarding decorating, alterations and basic housekeeping. It also defines to what extent the living community will be responsible for maintenance and repairs, as well as the resident’s responsibility for damages. This section of the agreement covers many of the same issues a standard landlord/tenant agreement may include.
Some things to be aware of:
1. You will likely want your unit to feel like home and may want to redecorate. You should ask specifically about what you can and cannot do with respect to decorating. For instance, can you paint or wallpaper the unit? Is there an additional cost assessed at the time you leave the unit for any changes you may make, etc.? If the community agrees with your request, get it in writing during the contract negotiation. Similarly, if you are already a resident, all redecorating projects should be pre-approved in writing before the project begins.
2. 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.
3. Most communities provide some form of housekeeping and services like routine carpet cleaning. Some communities charge extra for additional housekeeping. If you intend to have an outside housekeeper visit your unit, make sure this is allowed for in the agreement.
4. Damages are often ambiguous in many lease agreements and residency agreements are no different. Ask the community to define damages versus normal wear and tear and to give examples. Some questions to ask include: Who conducts the repairs? Are costs based on actual material cost or does the resident 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?
C. 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 and ask questions about items you don’t see in the text.
Some common questions to ask:
1. Is parking included? If not, is there an additional fee? Is there a place for visitors to park? Is there a fee for them?
2. Can you have overnight guests? Are there restrictions to how many nights they can stay? Are there additional costs associated with having guests?
3. Are pets allowed? How many? Are there breed or size restrictions? Are there optional services available such as dog walking, grooming, etc? What are the additional fees associated with pets?
4. Can there be joint occupancy? This is particularly relevant if spouses want to live together in the 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?
5. Are caregivers considered to be joint occupants? Are there fees or meal charges associated with live-in caregivers?
6. What happens if you need to leave the living community because of a change in your health or because of death?
7. What happens if you choose to leave the living community because you no longer want to live there?
D. Services and Services Plans
This section of the contract describes the basic services that are offered, what additional services may be purchased, and at what cost.
Some things to be aware of:
1. The contract should contain a statement of the basic services that are provided and a description of any other “service packages” or “levels of care” that may be offered. Make sure that you understand what is offered with respect to care options and ask questions if you need further clarification.
2. All rates charged to you including, but not limited to service packages, fees for service rates and all other non-service related charges must be clearly stated. In addition, a list of extra services and the cost for each service should also be provided.
3. There should be a list of services that the facility does NOT provide.
Tip: Some services, such as transportation, may not be provided at all and you should find out whether the facility helps you arrange for an outside transportation service, if needed, to get to your health care appointments or other places you need to go. When using a transportation service, it is important to know the fee schedule ahead of time.
Read our article Assisted Living Resident Agreements: Key Points to Know Before You Sign to learn more about the importance of an Assisted Living Residency Agreement.