On April 11, 2023, the court entered a consent order in United States v. Albright Care Services, et al. (M.D. Pa.). The Fair Housing Act complaint, which was filed on April 6, 2023, alleges that a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania refused to grant a reasonable accommodation to allow the son of a resident with disabilities to live with her as an aide, which was necessitated by the fact that the community barred external visitors to the community due to COVID-19 restrictions. Asbury Communities, Inc. is also named as a defendant in the case. The case was referred to the Division after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) received a complaint, conducted an investigation, and issued a charge of discrimination. The consent order requires the defendants to pay $215,000 in damages to the HUD complainants and to adopt reasonable accommodation policies in all of their CCRCs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Tennessee.
Press Release (4/12/2023)
Case Open Date: Thursday, April 6, 2023
Case Name: United States v. Albright Care Services (M. D. Pa.)
Tags: Asbury Communities; Asbury Riverwoods; Fair Housing Act; Fair Housing Amendments; disability; aggrieved persons; retirement community; personal care; continuing care retirement community; CCRC; skilled nursing
Industry Code: None
Component: Civil Rights Division
Civil Rights – Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Complaint – United States v. Albright Care Services (M. D. Pa.)
Consent Order – United States v. Albright Care Services (M. D. Pa.)
This case involves a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) and its policies regarding guests and live-in aides during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. A resident at the Defendant’s community had a cognitive impairment that limited her ability to perform activities of daily living. Her son, who was also her POA, arranged to have a third-party caregiver assist her for several hours each day. Third-party caregivers are permitted under Defendant’s policy in lieu of paying for additional in-house services that are available for independent living apartments.
In mid-March 2020, the property was locked down due to the pandemic, allegedly not permitting any family, visitors, or aides to enter the building. It is alleged that Defendant was not able to provide the resident with in-house services at that time due to a lack of available providers. Therefore, the resident’s son immediately began residing with her in order to provide assistance. He allegedly notified Management that this was occurring but never received approval.
It is alleged that two months later in May 2020, the resident was informed that she would be evicted if her son did not vacate her apartment. After a formal request to make an exception to the overnight guest policy to permit the son to reside there as a live-in aide, Defendant allegedly denied the request. Both the resident and her son subsequently moved out of the property.
Thankfully housing providers’ policies have been able to shift back from the modified rules implemented during the pandemic. However, during that period of time, although there was a legitimate health and safety reason for restricting visitors, this never permitted a housing provider to cut off residents’ ability to receive disability-related care. Certainly, strictly enforced safety precautions were warranted, but a 100% lockdown was not viewed as “reasonable” under the Fair Housing Act if a resident required assistance. (This is, of course, acknowledging that housing providers had no precedent to rely on in creating such policies during that time.)
Also, although there may be situations where a family member should not be approved as a live-in aide due to improper motivations (or other reasons), it is not a good idea to generally prohibit family members from being a live-in aide. Live-in aides should be considered on a case-by-case basis, just as any other reasonable accommodation is. This case continues to highlight the need to check with a fair housing lawyer when determining policies, especially when navigating through unchartered waters.