Entering into a senior housing community is more like renting than buying a house. There are rules, regulations and possibly even hidden fees you should know about before you sign an admissions contract.

Be aware of these lease clauses and rules when considering your retirement community options:

Daily Rates

You might be impressed with what an assisted living community covers in its daily rates, but don’t let that keep you from taking a closer look.

“Know what the daily rate is, what it includes and what it doesn’t include,” said Robyn Grant, director of public policy and advocacy for the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

For example, if transportation is offered, don’t assume it’s unlimited. There could be a mileage cap or radius provided, with extra miles or an expanded radius meaning an extra fee. Communities will differ on what’s included.

“For assisted living, it can vary greatly,” Grant said. “It’s not comparing apples to apples.”

Ask about other extras, like more meals. See if all utilities are covered and if there are limitations to energy usage.

Arbitration Clauses

Some nursing homes may have a pre-dispute, forced-arbitration clause in their contract. By signing a contract with this clause, you waive your right to have a complaint heard by a judge and jury. Instead, a third-party arbiter will hear both sides of the case and make a decision.

While arbitration may be good in some circumstances, it’s not necessarily the best choice in all of them, according to Grant. Even so, not having the right to choose “before you even know what the dispute is, is unfair,” she said. For example, some complaints, like those about neglect or abuse, may be better suited for a jury to decide.

Arbitration clauses may be separate from an admission agreement, but they could also be buried within it, Grant said. Carefully examine the contract, and if you’re having trouble, go over the document with a lawyer. You may ask your housing community if the contract can be amended to remove the clause.

Causes for Eviction

Staying in a retirement home does not come with a guarantee for permanent residence. Breaking rules can be a cause for eviction or discharge. Some common examples may include:

  • Drug, alcohol and tobacco violations: For example, if your loved one continues to smoke in a non-smoking apartment despite being warned.
  • If the facility closes due to bankruptcy or its inability to pay for needed upgrades and services.
  • If the resident is endangering staff or other residents.
  • For nursing home facilities, if the community cannot provide the required level of care, or the facility decides the resident does not require nursing home care.
  • Failure to pay

Many states require retirement facilities to give advance notice of an eviction along with a letter clearly explaining the reason. If your loved one is met with an eviction, they may be able to challenge it in a court of law or with an arbiter.


Read the rest of our 7-Step Guide to Senior Housing:

1. Recognize If Your Parents Need a Change
2. Learn About Types of Senior Living Communities
3. Assess Your Financial Options
4. Tour Senior Living Communities
5. Know These Senior Housing Lease Clauses
6. Make a Senior Housing Community Feel Like Home
7. Manage the Emotional Toll of a Parent’s Move