Veterans Accuse Senior-Living Retirement Chain of Elder Abuse
PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) - A chain of retirement homes preyed on elderly veterans and their spouses by claiming a government pension plan would cover its expensive housing, then charging them thousands of dollars in deferred rent when the benefits fell through, the veterans claim in court.
Lead defendant Holiday Retirement operates more than 300 senior living homes in the United States and targets veterans and their survivors as prospective tenants, lead plaintiff Richard Dickinson says in the lawsuit.
Dickinson and three co-plaintiffs accuse Holiday Retirement of elder abuse, unlawful trade, breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation, in Multnomah County Court.
They claim Holiday's high-pressure tactics are designed to "induce veterans and their surviving spouses to move into its facilities whether or not they can afford the monthly rent."
"Plaintiffs are low-income elderly war veterans or low-income elderly surviving spouses who currently reside in senior retirement communities owned and operated by a network of companies using the name Holiday Retirement (collectively 'Holiday'). Plaintiffs allege that defendants deceived them as part of a scheme to increase occupancy rates and rental income at retirement communities operated by Holiday," the complaint states. "Holiday targeted war veterans and their survivors as potential residents and induced them to move into high-cost housing by misrepresenting a pension program administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (the 'VA') called Aid and Attendance and Homebound Status ('Aid and Attendance'). ...
"Each plaintiff is a victim of Holiday's deceptive practices. Each of them moved into a
Holiday retirement residence based on a promise by Holiday that they would receive Aid and Attendance benefits from the VA within a short period of time and in an amount that would substantially offset the rents charged by Holiday. Despite portraying that it was neutral in the application process, Holiday falsely represented that there was an increased likelihood of approval for Aid and Attendance benefits merely by moving into a Holiday residence. In addition, Holiday staff or agents promised to assist in processing plaintiffs' applications, assured plaintiffs their applications would be approved in a timely manner, and offered incentives or discounts to supposedly bridge the financial gap between their income and the promised Aid and Attendance benefits. Some plaintiffs were referred to and required to pay attorneys or other professionals selected by Holiday to process their application," according to the complaint.
The elderly plaintiffs claim they were pressured into signing lease agreements with confusing terms and told they must act quickly or certain discounts would expire.
"Holiday also engaged in predatory sales practices to close the deal, such as repeated telephone calls, solicitations to attend 'seminars' and open houses, suggesting the possibility that Holiday would reimburse certain costs, assuring prospective tenants that Holiday would pay for moving costs, offering confusing discounts and reduced rent and pressuring plaintiffs to immediately sign multi-page residency agreements and confusing addenda or risk losing the incentives offered by Holiday. Plaintiffs relied on these misrepresentations in deciding to move into a Holiday property and were wrongfully induced into agreeing to high monthly rent payments they could not afford," according to the complaint.
Plaintiffs Dickinson, Thelma Cramer, Shirley McClane and Martha Barney say they never received the promised benefits and that Holiday charges them "rent that is beyond their means and continues to increase."
They add: "Defendants knew or should have known that several plaintiffs were not eligible for Aid and Attendance benefits, that plaintiffs were not likely to receive the amounts of benefits represented by Holiday, and that there was a substantial backlog of benefit applications at the VA so that plaintiffs could not be approved for many months even if they were eligible. As a result, defendants failed to exercise reasonable care or competence in providing information to plaintiffs about the Aid and Attendance program."
They seek statutory damages, actual damages and damages for mental and emotional distress. They also seek declaratory judgment that the arbitration clause they allegedly signed as part of the lease agreement is "procedurally unconscionable."
They are represented by Andrea Ogston with Legal Aid Services of Oregon.
Here are the defendants: Holiday Retirement Inc., a Delaware corporation; Holiday Retirement Corp.; HRC Investors; Harvest Management Sub LLC, a Delaware company; Harvest Facility Holdings, a Delaware partnership; Parkrose Retirement Residence dba Parkrose Chateau; Vineyard Place Retirement Residence dba Vineyard Place; and Rockcreek Retirement Residence dba Rock Creek.