What's an assisted living community fee and how much is it?

A fellow caregiver asked...

I'm looking for an assisted living home for my father and I keep hearing references to a community fee. What's a community fee for and how much is it?

Expert Answer

Megan Webster is communications director of the Assisted Living Federation of America in Alexandria, Virginia.

Most assisted-living communities charge an application or community fee to new residents. This is a relatively new concept, but it's become the norm. The community fee is usually a onetime payment that covers the administrative cost of moving your dad into the community, the cost of refurbishing his room, and maintenance for the common areas. How exactly the money is used depends on the community -- you should ask for specifics before signing an agreement.

Fees may range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It's often equal to one month's rent, which for assisted living runs from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on where you live and how fancy the accommodations are. The community fee is generally nonrefundable, but some assisted-living communities allow a prorated refund if your dad were to leave the community in the first 30 days. You should ask the sales office about these terms, when the fee is due, and if the community treats it as a deposit that gets refunded when your dad moves out, or if it's strictly nonrefundable.

Of course, sometimes residences need to flex their rules to fill their rooms. So if occupancy is low, you may be able to negotiate this fee. It's worth asking.