Elderly Tenant Moved into Assisted Living - Now what

16 Replies

Got a voicemail today from an elderly tenant's son-in-law saying after several hospital visits, they have moved her into an assisted living facility and she won;t be returning to her apartment.

She just renewed her lease in Oct. of this year for a year.

She is a sweet little old lady and we are sorry to have her leave but also understand why.

It's winter here, and this will put us at 3 vacancies. If it weren't for the fact that all 3 of these units need new carpet, paint, etc., I wouldn't be too worried. I would just let her go.

I do not see any laws regarding breaking a lease when moving to a care facility. Can I offer them a penalty for breaking the lease rather than trying to make them pay the remaining portion of the lease? Maybe 3 months rent? Just to get me through the worst part of winter. I also don't want to rent this unit out without the renovations I feel it needs, plus I can get a little more money for it.

Of course, I could just let it go. It's Christmas, right? 

What would you do or what have you done in similar cases?

remmy, I would get it turned around and let it go at that. Try and reduce the vacancy and use it as an opportunity to improve the unit. Your only damages are until you rerent anyway, so weigh that, too.

You would have to research your state contract law or see a legal professional , but impossibility or even impracticability can be reasons to let someone out of a contract in some cases.. 

Here the person sounds literally unable to live there alone...so they might point to that... Plus, probably lots of emotional issues for that family anyway...and you would look shady in a court going after old people who can't live on their own anymore....I like your Christmas idea and playing the Scrooge at the end of the story (after he sees the light) not the  beginning sounds the best route....

I've never run into this exact situation (I have had elderly people pass-away while in a lease agreement).

I do remember chatting with the owner of a collection company about a tenant (wasn't my tenant) about a similar situation.

To make a long story short an elderly tenant left, broke the lease, owed the money and got turned over to collections.  The collection company decided to pursue a civil action in court to get a judgment that they could then tap her bank account with.

The judge called him a "despicable person" and said there was no way he was granting a judgment against an elderly person with ailing health.

They no longer pursue civil judgments against similar tenants.

I share this not to try to make you feel bad, but to let you know, even with the law on your side there could be obstacles in actually pursuing this.

Take it with a grain of salt as I am sure other judges would have ruled other ways.  And this should not be construed as legal advice in any way.

I would agree on a situation like this with an elderly person you have to have compassion. All of us are getting closer to that position every day. Maybe consider keeping the security deposit but tell them you will return a prorated amount if you can get it rented. If she was a young person just moving to move, I'd go after them. In this situation, no.
Paint and flooring should be done in a week and a half or two. No, you won't rent it before Christmas but it should be ready January 1. Life goes on.

@Remmy Vernon

I would double check your state laws. Many states (like here in Nevada) have specific laws which govern situations like this. Additionally, as @Sarnen Steinbarth pointed out, even if you legally could seek a judgement, it's unlikely that a judge is going to grant you one. 

From the tone of your post, it sounds like the bigger issue here is that you have having issues being an effective landlord. High vacancy and inability to afford turning a unit is a sure fire recipe for eventual disaster. I would focus on what you can control and look to improve your effectiveness as a manager or look for a property manager that can turn things around.  

-Christopher

From my experience in working with the senior community during the past 3 plus decades you'd be much better off just sucking it up, licking your wounds, fixing up your vacancies and moving forward. 

Trying to get money from an aging and infermed senior citizen is like pulling hens teeth. You will get no real traction from a judge and/or jury should it ever evolve to that level which I don''t think it would. Plus you won't get much sympathy from anyone else in any sector either. In fact a lot of folks would consider you heartless if not a bully.

Sometimes it's just better, as my Dad always used to say, to  "Give it the light touch". You're in the Real Estate and Property Management biz and you're a professional. You're going to have setbacks like this from time to time. 

There's no getting around it in this biz. This won't or shouldn't be a career changer for you and it certainly shouldn't BK you or put you into financial straights  If it does then you're stretched to the limit and should consider delevreging to a more liquid position or bringing on a partner with some skin.

My 3 cents adjusted for inflation.

This is a reasonable reason for breaking a lease. Let her go without penalty. You will have the opportunity to do your improvements and re-rent soon enough. Do what you can to make the transition go smoothly for the family.

If you choose to use long-term leases, include a clause about breaking the lease that is compliant with the landlord-tenant law for your jurisdiction. Don't try to make it up as you go along. Also, be flexible when the situation warrants.

I agree with the other posters here as far as just letting it go with the lease.

Another suggestion: when you go to work on the apartment, take a few minutes to search through the place really well.  Use a flashlight, stepladder, etc as required.  Sometimes elderly people will stash valuables and other things in strange places, and the kids may not have found everything when they moved out her stuff.  My grandmother had a bank account that worked fine, but Dad also found rolls of banknotes in the refrigerator, in the kitchen cabinets, etc.  If you find anything, return it to the family.

Just an update. I spoke with them last night and they were expecting to have to pay the remainder of the lease. I did not feel good about that at all. I did not want all the money. We settled at one month's rent and they insisted we keep the SD because they are unable to come back and clean. This gives me time to make the renovations and get it back on the market. 

We had someone else break their lease because the husband could no longer take care of his wife and wanted to move closer to his son who would help him. This was in the summer, so I had no issues letting them go because I knew I could rent it out quickly, and I did. This one just scared me because it is winter here and I have 2 empties right now. (Lease ended and no renewal. One moved back home, the other needed more space)

Maybe it is for the better, because I don't like having a lease end in the winter/colder months. maybe this will allow me to get them leased in the months that are typically easier to find renters. 

Gotta look on the bright side! Thanks for the responses and advice.

Another thing to consider is the demographic you seem to be catering to. Should you keep rent/leasing to seniors you could be in for years of this type of activity. As we've all been hearing of late. 

There will be 10,000 Baby Boomers hitting retirement age everyday for the next 15 to 20 years. So if you're renting to them, and they are superb renters as long as they are healthy, you have to factor in an equation of downside to compensate for this type of activity. 

But as you said, "Look at the bright side", you could be renting to meth labs, druggies, gang members, or even college kids. I'd be thankful for my seniors and be target marketing for them from now on. Just factor in that loss equation.

Originally posted by @Remmy Vernon :

Got a voicemail today from an elderly tenant's son-in-law saying after several hospital visits, they have moved her into an assisted living facility and she won;t be returning to her apartment.

She just renewed her lease in Oct. of this year for a year.

She is a sweet little old lady and we are sorry to have her leave but also understand why.

It's winter here, and this will put us at 3 vacancies. If it weren't for the fact that all 3 of these units need new carpet, paint, etc., I wouldn't be too worried. I would just let her go.

I do not see any laws regarding breaking a lease when moving to a care facility. Can I offer them a penalty for breaking the lease rather than trying to make them pay the remaining portion of the lease? Maybe 3 months rent? Just to get me through the worst part of winter. I also don't want to rent this unit out without the renovations I feel it needs, plus I can get a little more money for it.

Of course, I could just let it go. It's Christmas, right? 

What would you do or what have you done in similar cases?

 I would pay it forward and release them from the lease and wish them the best. There are too many ways to save money without losing your compassion for your fellow human.

Originally posted by @John Arendsen :

Another thing to consider is the demographic you seem to be catering to. Should you keep rent/leasing to seniors you could be in for years of this type of activity. As we've all been hearing of late. 

 Tread lightly here, you could get yourself into an age discrimination case pretty quick...

To the OP, 

I had a something similar happen when a disabled vet I was leasing to was arrested on suspicion of DUI. Turns out he was not drunk, but had not been taking his insulin, and during medical evaluation was deemed unfit to support himself and placed into supervised care. 

I have a lease breaking cause, but the way I approached the situation with the tenant's fiduciary was that if they could help me in expediting the removal of his belongings and getting repairs made and paid for ASAP then I would likely be able to re-rent the place quickly. They really appreciated me going out of my way to help them, which in turn led to them helping me. I was able to turn the place within 3 weeks despite nearly $4k worth of damages

Your answer lies in your response to this question.

if it was your own mother, what would you do?  The average assisted living home is $3500 a month per person. Depending on your state it could be $4,000 to $5,000 per month for an average home.  That is a big number that the son is now likely paying.  

May I suggest that you consider getting into the senior housing business yourself instead. This could lead you on a whole new very profitable path.  That is what I do and it is very rewarding and lucrative.  

At least send her a card telling her she was a great tenant and that she is missed.  If you have made changes to the unit tell her about it.  Share a little news about the complex in general.  It gets lonely in assisted living facilities and she will appreciate your thoughtfulness.  If she is talkative, she will share your card with a smile on her face.  

Your being kind and thoughtful - What could it hurt?  What could it accomplish? -  Maybe another tenant, maybe a good reputation in the community, or maybe just the good feeling of doing something right.

It only costs a little time but can have a huge impact.  There is so many ways to make this a positive experience for her and for you.  So make yourself shine!

Assisted living places have leases also.. So she is basically leaving you breaking the lease and entered a new lease at her new assisted living residence. she has lease obligations there also.

If she had died the estate is liable for normal lease term notice period.. 60 days usually, so use that as a guide.

She should have a penalty for breaking the lease and I'd work with her, and family to get it taken care of as soon as you can. 

Have them agree to clean the apartment and be out by the xxx date and give them a penalty of 1 months rent or equal to your security deposit.. 

Make them sign a lease termination agreement that also states that lease break penalty is $$$ and the security deposit will be used to cover that amount.

If she's incapacitated and can't sign it they'll need a Power of Attorney for her behalf.