Assisted Living facilities provide long-term or permanent care for residents, however, occasionally they are confronted with a situation which requires them to discharge a resident or terminate the resident’s admission contract.

As a resident, you have rights which protect you from being discharged without cause. Assisted Living facilities are required to manage difficult situations and are prohibited from randomly discharging residents because they have a difficult personality or challenging health care need.

If you or someone you know is facing an assisted living discharge that you believe is unfair, it may be possible to fight it. The legal rules, however, are often unclear, and vary a great deal from location to location.

In some states, for instance, an assisted living resident is considered a tenant just like any other tenant. So if the “landlord” tries to evict someone and the tenant refuses to leave, the landlord will have to go to court, and the tenant will be able to argue his or her side of the case before a judge.

In other states, it’s unclear whether landlord-tenant law applies, and if a tenant refuses to leave, the facility might be uncertain how to proceed. Either way, if the eviction really is unfair, the facility might be willing to find a compromise rather than go to court.

Some states have specific legal procedures by which you can object to a discharge. In these states, you might be able to file a complaint with the licensing board, or have a right to an administrative hearing.

In a few cases, it’s possible to claim that an eviction amounts to “disability discrimination.” Several federal laws say that landlords cannot discriminate against tenants on the basis of a physical or mental disability, and must reasonably accommodate them unless doing so would cause an undue hardship.

So, for example, if you’re being discharged because you’re now in a wheelchair and your assisted living apartment doesn’t have a ramp, you might be able to argue that the facility is required to install a ramp as a reasonable accommodation.

According to PA §2800.228, the only grounds for transfer or discharge of a resident from a residence are for the following conditions:

  1. If a resident is a danger to himself or others and the behavior cannot be managed through interventions, services planning or informed consent agreements;
  2.  If the legal entity chooses to voluntarily close the residence, or a portion of the residence;
  3.  If a residence determines that a resident’s functional level has advanced or declined so that the resident’s needs cannot be met in the residence under §2800.229 (relating to excludable conditions; exceptions) or within the scope of licensure for a residence. In that case, the residence shall notify the resident and the resident’s designated person. The residence shall provide justification for the residence’s determination that the needs of the resident cannot be met. In the event that there is no disagreement related to the transfer or discharge, a plan for other placement shall be made as soon as possible by the administrator in conjunction with the resident and the resident’s designated person, if any. If assistance with relocation is needed, the administrator shall contact appropriate local agencies, such as the area agency on aging, county mental health/mental retardation program or drug and alcohol program, for assistance. The administrator shall also contact the Department;
  4.  If meeting the resident’s needs would require a fundamental alteration in the residence’s program or building site, or would create an undue financial or programmatic burden on the residence;
  5.  If the resident has failed to pay after reasonable documented efforts by the residence to obtain payment;
  6.  If closure of the residence is initiated by the Department;
  7.  Documented, repeated violation of the residence rules; or
  8.  A court has ordered the transfer or discharge.

In general, fighting a discharge successfully is difficult, and it’s best to consult with a lawyer about your rights rather than trying to handle it on your own.