man resting his arms on a cane
Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA)

Assisted living operators would need to meet new requirements before evicting residents under legislation passed Monday by the Virginia General Assembly. The bill has been sent to Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) for his signature.

The bill, sponsored by state Sens. Lionell Spruill (D) and Ghazala Hashmi (D), would amend the Virginia code to give assisted living residents the same protections as nursing home residents facing eviction.

Susan Rowland, Spruill’s chief of staff, told the McKnight’s Business Daily that the legislation is meant to close a loophole in Virginia law that allows assisted living communities to evict residents with no legal recourse

If SB40 becomes law, assisted residents would have certain safeguards from being involuntarily discharged. Operators would need to provide a description of the reasons for eviction, such as that the facility no longer can meet the resident’s care needs, behavioral issues or non-payment. Facilities also would need to make reasonable efforts to resolve any issues leading up to the eviction. Residents would need to be given 30 days’ notice before evictions and also be notified of their right to appeal the involuntary discharge.

Further, according to the legislation, “Prior to involuntarily discharging a resident, the assisted living facility shall provide relocation assistance to the resident and the resident’s representative, including information regarding alternative placement options.”

Amy Hewett, vice president of strategy and communications for the Virginia Health Care Association / Virginia Center for Assisted Living, told the McKnight’s Business Daily that the association “appreciated the opportunity to work with the bill patron Sen. Lionell Spruill and advocates to take steps toward ensuring that both residents and providers have an understanding of the involuntary discharge process.”

Dana Parsons, vice president and legislative counsel for LeadingAge Virginia, said the organization “believe[s] this legislation is a positive step forward and will provide housing protections as well as stability and positive support to aging Virginians.”

Assisted living communities in Virginia are deemed non-medical in nature and, therefore, are not subject to the same regulations as skilled nursing facilities. Assisted living residents are also not covered by the commonwealth’s Landlord and Tenant Act. Geriatric homes are specifically excluded from eviction protections afforded other renters, “as these tenancies and occupancies are not residential tenancies under this chapter.”

Residents evicted from the state’s assisted living communities have had recourse to the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, which could attempt to mediate disputes, but there was no requirement for assisted living communities to cooperate, Director Joani Latimer told the Virginia Mercury.

According to the media outlet, Emily Hardy, an elder law attorney for the Virginia Poverty Law Center, told lawmakers in a hearing last month: “Licensure can say, ‘Yes, that was a non-allowed reason, you shouldn’t have discharged them, but it doesn’t have that hearing process or any way to enforce that ruling.”

“Under the final version of this legislation, facilities could only discharge residents for specific reasons, including repeated nonpayment or the development of new, more serious medical conditions that the facility isn’t licensed to handle,” Rowland said.