Questions: A Story About a Senior Housing Lease

My primary goal with writing this post is to get input from readers. We had an experience a few months ago with an Independent/Assisted Living home, and I would be interested if anyone can shed some light on whether our experience was unusual or not.

I’m going to skip through some of our ongoing story to reach the heart of the issue.

We have found a home for my 89-year-old mother Ginny. She was under a deadline to move by the end of the year, and an apartment opened up mid-September in an excellent home. It all came up suddenly. Since my sister Hailey (mom’s primary caregiver) happened to be away on an extended trip, I was happy to take the lead with back and forth questions and coordinating with the salesperson and researching and booking movers. The change was happening.

Since I live a couple of hours away, I was sent photos of the place and my sister-in-law Betsy drove Ginny over to see it. They both had positive reviews. It was currently being “updated” too.

Of course, the salesperson wanted us to sign the lease immediately assuring us that “we won’t financially start the lease until the last day of the month, because the apartment isn’t ready yet.” I was also told that by signing now (or up until the 30th ), we would be guaranteed the current incentive of a reduction in the one-time community fee and one month free in 2020.

It was not feasible for us to rush over immediately to sign it, but I did agree to pick up mom and be at the lease signing at 11:00 am September 30th. There was no question that we were excited; especially Ginny.

 I was already brainstorming that morning about bringing some clothes in the car on their hangers, a few of mom’s artwork pieces and head to a hardware store to make duplicate keys. We could move some of her boxes too. With Hailey away, the primary move would have to wait a couple more weeks, but I could still do several things in my few days there.

We were escorted to a room to first meet with the move-in coordinator. Her job was to welcome mom to the community and ease the transition of the move with a lot of useful information and phone numbers.

My first moment of confusion came when she left and the staff member handling the signing of the lease appeared. She started on page one going through the paragraphs and finally I asked “aren’t we going to see the unit?”

I had not yet seen it in person, plus I felt I had to “dot the i’s and cross the t’s” that all the work was completed. I had assumed that we would be going there first before the paperwork was officially signed.

I completely threw her off guard.  “Oh well, if you would like to see it, um, I could go see if the salesperson is available um, I have 3 signings after you” and she left.

Our salesperson appears. She is clearly not happy. As we take the walk down the long hallway, she is walking so far ahead from us, her displeasure is palatable.

In fact, she is so flustered she initially takes us to the wrong apartment next door. When she does open the correct door, we know why we didn’t get to see it. It’s not done. Granted, it’s being updated which is a wonderful thing, but there is a new refrigerator sitting in the living room and the old carpeting has not been removed yet. The master bathroom is a mess. The faucets are missing and they have removed the glass shower door which has left an ugly mark.

I just sort of stand there, speechless. As referenced, our plan was to start the move TODAY.

The salesperson is trying to explain that we had to sign the lease on September 30th (and pay for Sept. 30th too) so that we could receive those particular incentives I referenced earlier. They change monthly.

I try to explain that we were agreeing to sign the lease because we assumed the unit was ready. The work had been underway since at least mid-September and her email inferred (if we had signed it in mid-Sept.) that they wouldn’t financially start the lease until the 30th because the apt. wasn’t ready, like they understood it wasn’t appropriate to charge for something that wasn’t ready.  Isn’t that the universal principle of rental space anyway? That the lease starts on the day a unit is habitable?

I still stood there, looking around, my brain simply not absorbing that it was okay to ask for rent starting that day.  She softened a bit when she heard that I had I already had stuff in the car and that I didn’t live close-by.

“You could place the things you have in her storage unit” she offered. I declined.

We moved ahead with the lease signing and payment that day. I only had to take one look at my mother’s face and understand that there was no way I was going to back out. She didn’t understand. She just wanted that apartment.

It was a massive failure of communication. Although I feel it was reasonable for me to assume it would be ready, I didn’t ask. And they didn’t keep in touch regarding the progress because, for them, the lease was being signed at the end of the month regardless of whether it was actually ready or not. It’s business. But I really didn’t appreciate their making me feel like I had just grown a third head when I requested to see the apartment. I will always remember the salesperson walking way ahead of us down that hallway.

They contacted me at 4:50 pm Oct 9th confirming the apartment was ready. And although it’s true that we would not have been able to move Ginny until the second half of October anyway, that would have been our choice. There were projects I could have handled in those first few days.

Has anyone else had this experience? Is there a reader who works in this field who could offer insight? Life may have moved on, it had to for Ginny’s sake, but questions remain about the ethics.  Do you agree or disagree?


2 thoughts on “Questions: A Story About a Senior Housing Lease

  1. Unfortunately, I think your story is probably more common than one would expect. It’s horrible that the staff person was so disrespectful and demeaning to you. The fact that she mentioned she had three other signings shows an attitude of “you should be grateful.” Family members are going to be experiencing a certain amount of angst, and they should provide comfort—not make you feel like you are imposing by asking. Wanting to see the place is a no-brainer, and she should have been more accomodating. I remember when we walked around to look at different rooms, the person showed us the unfinished room Mom would be in. She was kind enough to take us to finished rooms to show us what it would look like when finished.

    It seems that this condescending attitude becomes more prevalent when businesses know they have others waiting in line for their services. I’ve found the same manner with some of the general contractors I’ve worked with over the years. They don’t communicate, show up regularly, or keep you in the loop as they should. This experience might not be a deal-breaker for you, especially when your mom is so positive about the place. If I were in your shoes, I think I’d send a letter or call someone to communicate how that lady’s unprofessional demeanor made you feel. Perhaps her boss may not know of her attitude. In addition, you are letting them know that you are going to be the kind of daughter who is paying attention to your mom’s care. Good luck, Melanie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete. You know, I wasn’t even going to write this story originally. It left such a sour taste in my mouth that I didn’t want to think about it again. But it just came out the other day. I think I truly wanted/needed to know if it’s common and you confirmed that it probably is. We did reach out, and the response was anemic, but at least they know. Mom LOVES it there so I knew I had to let it go. Thanks for your comment Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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