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Grieving Family Hit With Extra Fee

By Anna Werner
June 22, 2010

John Hammerton has no complaints about how his mother-in-law was treated at Carlton Senior Living in San Leandro. 

"The care she got was exceptional," Hammerton says.

But, Hammerton's not so happy about what happened after 87-year-old Hatsue Ouye died back on April 25th.  The residential care facility billed Mrs. Ouye's family $4,895 for an additional 30 days care and rent in the facility's special Memory Care unit.  

"They were going to charge us because we didn't give them 30 days notice," Hammerton recalls.

Patricia McGinnis of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform says billing for any additional time after someone dies is "unfair," but adds there's nothing to prevent it under California law. 

"I don't think facilities should be doing that, but the fact is they are allowed to do it, they are allowed to get more money that way" McGinnis said.

There is a provision in the Carlton's contract that says the facility can charge for the extra 30 days. But, Patricia McGinnis said it's a provision consumers can and should ask to get out of when enrolling anyone in an a residential care facility. 

"Try to get the administrator to negotiate so that you do not have that in there," McGinnis advised.

After John Hammerton contacted CBS 5, we called Carlton Senior Living. The facility got in touch with Mrs. Ouye's family and offered a $2,000 refund. It says it "frequently" refunds the extra charge if a family asks. 

Under California law, nursing homes are not allowed to charge any additional rent after a patient dies, but residential care facilities can. Advocates for the elderly are trying to change that with new legislation, they hope will be introduced next year.

Consumerwatch called about a dozen assisted living places here in the Bay Area, and they had different policies about termination costs.