Be aware assisted living operators. The consequences of failure to make prompt refunds to residents or their estate are significant; providers will be fined three times the amount of the refund. Half of this fine will be given to the resident or his/her estate and the other half goes to the Health Care Trust Fund. If the refund is late, the person will not only receive the actual refund, but also one and one-half times that amount as a penalty to you.
The law requires that you put your refund policy in your contract. This should include the period of time the resident will be given to challenge charges against the refund (at least 14 days) and the period of time you have to send that refund (45 days). You are specifically permitted by law to charge the resident for damages to his/her unit above and beyond normal wear and tear. Spell that out in your contract.
The charges against the refund
The resident is entitled to the unused portion of monthly payment until the date of vacating the premises and removing all personal belongings; the termination date. Sometimes getting the resident to remove the property is problematic. If the unit is rentable without the property remaining in it, you can remove the property and place it in storage. You can charge the expenses related to the moving and rental space, not to exceed 20% of the regular rental rate for the unit. However, you must give 14-days-notice to allow ample time for the resident to remove the property. You may retain other charges to the refund so long as they are permitted by law and clearly spelled out in the contract. One thing you cannot do is require more than 30-days-notice of termination.
Timing is the critical part. You MUST make the refund within 45 calendar days of transfer, discharge or death. Death brings with it special problems, such as identifying the person to whom the refund is going. You cannot impose requirements on the resident that give you additional time for refunding the money. In some states, for example, the law allows the clock to start running on the refund after death when the center receives the death certificate. This is not so in Florida. You must determine in that 45-day window that the resident has truly died and to whom to make the refund. Speak with your company attorney if you are having difficulty determining where the refund should go. This is typically when facilities are fined. Even a single day past the 45-day limit can result in the fine discussed above. Be diligent; the penalty can be substantial when the refund is significant.
For more details, review 429.24, Florida Statutes.