Monday, March 27, 2023
Home Community Chicago Family Waits Years For $300K Retirement Community Refund. They’re Not Alone – NBC Chicago

Chicago Family Waits Years For $300K Retirement Community Refund. They’re Not Alone – NBC Chicago

by admin
0 comment

Getting older is getting complicated. The number of living options facing seniors nationwide are vast, with fees and contracts for those options oftentimes complex.

One of the most popular business models for senior communities is known by four letters: CCRC, which stands for Continuing Care Retirement Community.

CCRCs offer apartments and amenities often for a sizable entrance fee upfront totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the promise that up to 90% of those fees are refundable after a resident passes away or moves for other agreed-upon reasons.

That’s a huge draw for some families, but here in Illinois, there is no law laying out a timeline for when CCRCs have to pay back that refund, a frustrating fact for families trying to close their loved ones’ estates and grieve their loss.

That’s the case for the Century family of Hyde Park, who said they have been waiting nearly four years for a refundable portion of their late father’s entrance fee, totaling more than $300,000.

“We just never dreamt it would take this long,” said Jeanne Century, the daughter of the late Dr. Ted Century, who moved into a CCRC back in 2018.

But NBC 5 Responds found at least one other state, New Jersey, recently passed a law to prevent this exact kind of scenario from happening there, a law that the Century family feels Illinoisans need for protection.

At the age of 85, Chicago native Dr. Ted Century moved into retirement community Montgomery Place back in 2018.

Montgomery Place is located not far from Lake Michigan near the museum campus and boasts vibrant common areas and thoughtful amenities for its residents.

Dr. Century and his dog “Charlie” were known to all of the residents and staff.

“He loved his dog Charlie so much, and Charlie became a fixture there,” Jeanne Century told NBC 5.

Montgomery Place even used a photo of Dr. Century and his dog in marketing materials for the apartment units, some of which came with quite a financial commitment.

The Century family paid a $349,000 entrance fee to Montgomery Place when Dr. Century moved in.

The family’s contract noted Montgomery Place would refund up to 90% of that entrance fee “after [the] resident vacates the Apartment and Montgomery Place receives an equivalent Entrance Fee from a new resident for that Apartment.”

With certain Continuing Care Retirement Communities, sizable entrance fees are refundable up to 90% after a resident passes or vacates the unit for other agreed-upon reasons.

Dr. Century only lived there for nine months before passing away in March 2019. While his family has grieved their loss, they have also tried to recoup that refund for almost four years now.

“I started to feel a little powerless, surprised and annoyed and was wondering what was going on,” Jeanne Century said after contacting NBC 5 Responds for help.

The Century family’s frustration with this CCRC would not happen if it were located in the state of New Jersey, where former State Sen. Kip Bateman told NBC 5 he heard of the same problem happening with his constituents.

“These [CCRC] facilities would really basically market the new units, and by the time they got around to marketing the old units, sometimes families had to wait two or three years,” Bateman told NBC 5.

Bateman and other lawmakers there passed a law in 2018 preventing this kind of scenario — large refundable sums held captive — from happening.

The New Jersey law “limits the amount of time” that CCRCs can “retain refundable entrance fees” after a resident vacates, Bateman explained. 

Once a CCRC unit is vacated in New Jersey, families are assigned a “sequential refund number” in line among all of the available units.

When a vacant unit is occupied, the families awaiting refunds are automatically moved up in line, and once it’s their turn and a unit is filled, the CCRCs have 60 days to issue the refund.

Bateman said the law had bipartisan support and was an all-around win for the state.

“It really made a difference in people’s lives,” Bateman told NBC 5 Responds. “Families are getting their money in a timely manner. Sometimes the legislature gets it right. This was a good, consumer-friendly bill.”

Would that work in Illinois? Montgomery Place CEO Michael McGarry said that would need to be studied by lawmakers.

“Our legislators would have to take a look at that and do some analysis to see if it makes sense,” McGarry said.

McGarry agreed to sit down with NBC 5 Responds and explain why the Century family waited so long for their refund. While there’s “no easy answer,” he said COVID upended the retirement community industry in major ways.

“COVID impacted that wait drastically,” McGarry said. “We were shut down for a period of time and it took a period of time for people to get comfortable moving into senior living.”

McGarry confirmed at Montgomery Place, there are at least 19 families, like the Century’s, who are waiting for entrance fee refunds.

Figures from Montgomery Place, provided to NBC 5, show from 2019 to 2022, the CCRC has filled 70 units, including 41 units last year alone. But McGarry confirmed the unit that Ted Century lived in has been vacant that whole time, with prospective residents choosing other units over his.

“I think it boils down to people choose [units] based on floorplan,” McGarry said. “We don’t sell them apartments, we give them options that they can choose from.”

The day before NBC 5’s interview with McGarry, the Century family received the news they had been waiting for: A prospective occupant had signed a contract and paid a deposit for Dr. Century’s unit.

While not a done-deal yet, if it goes through, the Century family will receive 90% of Ted Century’s entrance fee: a refund of more than $314,000.

Until they receive that, the Century’s estate cannot be closed.

Ted’s daughter Jeanne feels New Jersey had it right, and local lawmakers should consider passing the same protections for consumers in Illinois. 

“I was going to do whatever I could so that what happened to us wouldn’t happen to anyone else,” she said. “There should be a law that obviously limits the time that a residence can hold an entrance fee.”

Have a consumer complaint? Call 1-844-NBC-RESP or click here to let us know, so we can help.

Leave a Comment