A LEASE in a retirement home is the same as any lease you take on; it’s a legal document which binds you to certain things, and ensures you’re in receipt of others. So it is not something that should be signed without full review and without the opportunity to ask questions to make sure you’re fully aware of its contents and your responsibilities.

Your agreement is a requirement for both the Residential Tenancies Act (2006) and the Retirement Homes Act (2010) as they both provide rights for seniors living in licensed retirement residences.

Here are some other important things to understand:

A permanent move – any stay at a retirement home for more than 30 days is considered a long term lease. Any stay less than this is a guest stay and so there is no lease, only an agreement.

Leases in a licensed retirement home are always month to month, with a 30 day written notice of your intent to move. Equally, leases in a licensed residence are similar to those of an apartment and still fall under landlord/tenant law, but they  are considered “care homes” which means that you only need to give 30 days’ notice at any time during the month at any time during that lease.   

In independent senior living communities that are not licensed, management may ask for 30-60 days notice and follow more traditional landlord/tenant multi-residential laws of notice.  Make sure you understand the terms of termination before you sign. You have a five-day reprieve in which you can decide not to move ahead with the lease/move, after you have signed it. If you are admitted to hospital, you will still be required to pay your rent.

Contents – your lease should provide a full breakdown of costs outlining the monthly rent, services, accommodations and extra charges. It will tell you when this money is expected and how to pay. The lease locks in your accommodation portion or your occupancy fee for the year. After a period of 12 months as a tenant, the residence can increase your rental rate, in line with the provincial guidelines. They must give you 90 days written notice of this. Unfortunately, the landlord/owner of your retirement home can increase the  care and services portion of your occupancy fee as many times as they like, and by as much as they like, as long as they give you 90 days written notice of their intent to do so.

Governance – unlike in a regular landlord/tenant lease, a lease in a retirement home goes above and beyond the standard Residential Tenancy Act lease. In this case, it will say that staff can enter your unit at any time for a wellness check (if they believe you are unwell/unsafe/unresponsive). Basically, they can enter without permission if they have cause to believe you’re not healthy or safe.

Documentation – before moving into a residence, you should be given a copy of the home’s CHIP which stands for the Care Home Information Package, as well as a RHIP, a Retirement Home Information Package. These documents will give you a breakdown of care that can be provided, costs of care, details on the home itself, who to contact in a dispute, ownership, staffing levels, and other pertinent information. You should receive these and read through them before signing your lease. If they aren’t offered to you, ask for them.  Ownership/management cannot increase the care/services portion of your rent if you have not received the CHIP.

Signature – the lease will be signed by the resident or if they are unable to, by their substitute signing authority or by their Power of Attorney for finance.

Termination – you are required to give 30 days written notice of your intent to terminate your lease and vacate your suite. In the event you move to a Long Term Care Home or if you pass away, notice is still required, and your family, Power of Attorney or substitute decision-maker can do this on your behalf.

If you are no longer residing at the home when you give your written notice, you will still be required to pay the prorated daily rate of the full occupancy fee for 10 days following your departure. After that, you should only pay the accommodation portion of the occupancy fee, prorated for the remaining 20 days. This may result in a credit owed to you. Ask the residence’s management team for a breakdown of the final invoice so you can review and see what may be owed (by either party).

Eviction – a retirement home may feel it has to proceed with an eviction process if they are unable to meet your care needs, both by utilizing their in house care team and available services from Home and Community Care (HCCSS formerly the LHIN). There are obligations the home will need to meet as well as a process to follow, which is set out in the RTA. Namely, the RTA allows a residence to apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to transfer a tenant out of a home (i.e. evict them). The home has to show that it has tried but cannot accommodate the level of care the resident/tenant needs, and that there is appropriate alternative accommodation elsewhere for the resident. The home has to help the resident/family in looking for this alternative.

For more information on understanding a lease or question on moving in to a retirement home, please connect with us for free at Solva; www.solvaseniorliving.ca  info@solvaseniorliving.ca 613-421-6073 or for Toronto 647-847-4719