Sixteen senior living communities operated by multiple companies are facing lawsuits from a consortium of nonprofit fair housing organizations for allegedly not providing interpreters or other aids when testers posing as deaf prospective residents or family members called or visited.

The National Fair Housing Alliance said that over the past 18 months, when testers called or made on-site visits to the senior living communities on behalf of the organization, pretending to be interested in learning more about the communities, staff members responded by:

  • Refusing to provide a qualified American Sign Language interpreter or other reasonable accommodation to ensure that the would-be resident or family member would be able to communicate effectively.
  • Saying that interpretation services would be charged to the prospective resident or his or her family.
  • Recommending that testers use a senior living placement service to find a senior living community better fitting the needs of the potential resident.
  • Stating that the community would not be a good fit for the prospective deaf resident.
  • Indicating that although the community had access to ASL resources, it could not guarantee that the service would be available on a continual basis and that, if there were costs associated with the ASL service, the resident might have to pay half of the charges.

The NFHA alleges that these acts violate the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing providers from discriminating against people with disabilities, including being deaf or hard of hearing.

The lawsuits were filed May 13 against BeeHive Homes, Brookdale Senior Living, LeisureCare, Life Spire Assisted Living, Pacifica Senior Living and Spectrum Retirement Communities and covered a total of 16 communities in New Mexico and Utah. (See the list of communities here.)

A spokeswoman for Brookdale, which has two New Mexico communities on the list, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the company “makes it a priority to treat all residents in a manner that enriches their lives and serves their needs with compassion, respect, excellence and integrity.”

“Brookdale disagrees with this filing, and we intend to strongly defend ourselves against this case,” she added.

Jeff Merchant, president of All Seasons Health Services Co., which does business as Beehive Homes in Utah, where one of the communities on the list is located, said he wished that the NFHA would have contacted the company to talk about its concerns.

“As an assisted living provider, Beehive Homes has always taken very seriously its responsibilities and obligations regarding people of all disabilities,” he said. “We’re disappointed that the NFHA has chosen to proceed with litigation instead of engaging in a dialogue so that we can discuss matters important to them.”

Beehive has residents who are hard of hearing, Merchant said. “We feel strongly that that’s part of our role as an assisted living provider,” he said.

A spokesman for Spectrum Retirement Communities, which had one New Mexico community on the list, when contacted, said the company had not been served with the lawsuit but added, “We take allegations regarding non-compliance with Fair Housing very seriously.”

Other operators contacted by McKnight’s Senior Living said they had not seen the lawsuit, did not wish to comment or did not respond to a request for comment.