Fighting Unfair Housing Practices and Housing Discrimination Against Seniors
Making the choice to move into assisted living as a senior citizen or moving a loved one into a nursing home can be a difficult choice. It may not be something you anticipated doing, or perhaps the need came earlier than you thought it would. Either way, there’s nothing easy about taking the step towards assisted living.
Getting used to a new environment when you don’t know anyone can be quite challenging for anyone, but this can be compounded by difficult emotions surrounding moving into a nursing facility as well as cognitive issues that are normal for aging citizens.
Usually, families and residents hope that the facility will work out in the long-term and don’t have plans to move or transfer facilities in the near future. Unfortunately, nursing homes and assisted living facilities have the power to evict residents under specific circumstances.
That said, many facilities take this too far and conduct discharges or evictions that are discriminatory or against the law. Here’s what you should know and how you can get in touch with an experienced housing discrimination lawyer in Massachusetts or New Hampshire.
Evicting Senior Tenants
In some circumstances, evicting a senior tenant is a form of housing discrimination. This depends on a number of factors, including the primary stated reason for the discharge and if there is evidence supporting a different, discriminatory reason for eviction. The law surrounding fair housing laws for senior citizens can be difficult to understand, making a seasoned fair housing attorney a valuable asset.
HOPA Amendments to the Fair Housing Act
Housing laws under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 were amended to include the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA), which specifically addresses senior citizens. This act removes the stipulation against age and familial discrimination in housing for communities designed for residents aged 55 and older.
If fewer than 80% of the community’s residents are under this age threshold, the facility may lose their age-restricted status. In the context of senior citizen evictions, HOPA may come into play if a resident is discharged from an age-restricted community for a discriminatory reason.
Here are two examples of facility discharges and when they may or may not be legal.
Nursing Home Evictions
A nursing home may only legally evict patients under the following conditions:
· The patient requires advanced medical care that the facility cannot provide
· The patient’s physical safety is at risk if they remain at the facility
· The patient’s presence puts the safety of staff, visitors, and other residents of the facility at risk
· The patient is late on their payments or has not paid
A nursing home cannot discharge a patient that is unsatisfied with their care, is uncooperative with staff, does not participate in group activities, speaks ill of the staff or facility, or files a complaint with a state or federal agency regarding the conditions of the facility or an experience the patient had there.
The facility must provide a minimum of 21 days written notice of eviction, except in the cases of an emergency or other unforeseen extenuating circumstances. In these instances, the facility must still provide a written notice, but it does not need to be delivered a certain period of time in advance.
An eviction from a nursing home outside of the above valid scenarios may be housing discrimination.
Assisted Living Facility Evictions
Assisted living facility evictions are somewhat different from nursing home evictions due to the fact that most seniors in an assisted living situation have greater cognitive ability and do not need round-the-clock care.
Typically, residents sign a contract prior to moving into an assisted living facility that outlines the terms for evictions, much like a rental lease. However, senior citizens living in these facilities are protected by the same fair housing laws as nursing home residents. If a resident is evicted for a reason other than what is outlined in the contract or what is allowable by law, it may not be legal.
When to Contact an Unfair Housing Practices Attorney
If you believe yourself or a loved one have been the victim of unfair housing practices or housing discrimination as a senior citizen, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced consumer protection attorney as soon as possible.
Filing an Appeal
Residents who are being evicted and/or their family members or representatives may appeal an eviction from a nursing home or assisted living facility. Typically, this occurs via an in-house administrative meeting or hearing, however, this can differ significantly between states and even specific facilities. It’s best to work with a fair housing attorney who can assist you with the appeals process to help you understand the laws that apply to you or your family member and how best to exercise your legal rights under the Fair Housing Practices Act.
Mazow | McCullough, PC – Your Trusted New Hampshire & Massachusetts Consumer Protection Lawyers
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we understand how difficult it can be to face your eviction or the eviction of a loved one from a nursing home or assisted living facility designed for senior citizens. We understand the special protections that the Fair Housing Act and other state laws afford senior citizens and can help protect you or your loved one from losing your home and the care you need on a daily basis.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your rights against housing discrimination as an elderly individual, or if you’re a family member, to learn what you can do to best help your loved one. Call now at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.