LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — In many ways Carolyn Kuhlman knows she’s lucky. When COVID-19 forced the lock down of her senior retirement community Aberdeen Village, she was able to move to her daughter’s home where she still is today.
What’s frustrated her is that for more than a year she has been waiting for a $107,000 refund from Aberdeen Village.
“I think it’s unethical for them to keep that,” Kuhlman said, who officially vacated her Aberdeen Village apartment in August 2020.
According to the terms of her contract, Aberdeen Village, in Olathe, can keep her deposit until it rents the apartment to a new tenant.
Kuhlman, who is 88 years old, is starting to wonder whether she’ll live long enough to ever see the money.
There’s nothing she can do about it, according to the contract.
“I took exception to several things in the contract,” said Kuhlman’s daughter Leslie Ray. “You know we have no control over whether or not they rent the apartment.”
She tried to get Aberdeen Village to change the language in certain sections but it refused.
Ray contacted FOX4 Problem Solvers after Aberdeen Village failed to return her emails and phone calls.
What Kuhlman is experiencing isn’t unusual. Seniors across the country are fighting for refunds after moving out of retirement communities.
“The fact this is happening to people who have resources, who are resourceful, should be extremely alarming to everyone,” said Professor Harold Braswell, who teaches healthcare ethics at St. Louis University.
Braswell said some states have begun to address the problem through legislation. In 2015, Connecticut passed a law requiring senior care communities to return deposits within three years of someone moving out. Neither Kansas nor Missouri have a similar law.
Earlier this year, FOX4 Problem Solvers talked to Sandy Stiner who’s out the $167,000 that she paid to Kingswood Retirement Community.
Although, Stiner changed her mind about moving in before she even received the key to her apartment, she’s been waiting more than a year for a refund. She needs the money Kingswood is hanging on to pay for her own in-home care.
Unfortunately, since FOX4 Problem Solvers first spoke with Stiner last spring, Kingswood has begun the process of filing for bankruptcy.
Stiner will be an unsecured creditor, giving her little hope of ever seeing her money again.
“This issue is not going to change unless there is political change because we are talking about a multibillion dollar industry,” Braswell said.
But there is some potentially good news for Kuhlman.
Aberdeen Village’s Executive Director Tim Allin blamed the delay on Kuhlman’s refund on COVID-19, which shut down the facility from potential new tenants for months. He said in a typical year most refunds are returned within six months.
Although Allin said Aberdeen Village is actively searching for a renter for Kuhlman’s apartment, he is hoping to return Kuhlman’s money to her even before that happens and plans to meet with her this month. Allin said one year is too long for anyone to wait for a refund.