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Chicago area residents flee from senior community after 300% increase in costs

Residents flee from Chicago area senior community after huge jump in costs
Residents flee from Chicago area senior community after huge jump in costs 03:14

SAINT CHARLES, Ill. (CBS) -- From lunch to happy hour, neighbors in the western suburbs love any excuse to be social, but one group of best friends is breaking up.

Their fight was not with each other, but with the new owner of their senior living community. CBS 2's Lauren Victory explained the situation.

The movers showed up, and Susan French was in shock. Her Saint Charles neighborhood became a bit of a ghost town over the last several weeks.

Victory: "What was your long-term plan in terms of living here?"

French: "Never to move again."

But her stuff was all packed up eight years after joining the River Glen Senior Living Community.

She's met some of her best friends in the community, like Ro Montgomery.

"We all just do things together and then suddenly, we get this notice," Montgomery said, referring to a letter informing neighbors of a change to their "residency agreement."

People like French paid a few hundred thousand dollars upfront to live in the community, then taxes, utilities, and a maintenance fee every month. In recent years, that maintenance fee has risen above $1,300.

"We thought that was outrageous," French said. "Little did we know what was coming."

What was coming was $6,150 a month, a more than 300% increase from new property owner, Jaybird Senior Living.

"Everyone in my family I spoke to said the same thing, 'Oh, they can't do that,'" French said.

Many of the now-former residents said they consulted with lawyers who said what the management company was doing was allowed by law.

Rental amounts are "based off fair market rates," Jaybird said in a statement. The new fee includes taxes, gas, and electric, unlike before.

Victory: "This $6,150 they told you now included utilities. Did it include meals and other activities?"

French: "No!"

French couldn't stomach the new rent. Neither could other socialites. Many moved.

"It's terrible," Montgomery said. "Very lonesome."

Montgomery, 95, is staying for now. She's on a different contract cycle and her monthly payment hasn't been affected yet. Buddy the dog is one of her only pals left.

"When I see the moving vans come in, I stay on this side of the house," she said.

Victory: "Because you don't want to see it?"

Montgomery: "I don't want to watch. One more gone."

CBS 2 checked with Jaybird's local and corporate administrators. No one agreed to be interviewed on camera. The CEO later told CBS 2 over the phone that the company's financial decisions weren't made with malicious intent.

Still, the damage was done.

"I looked at so many places, and then the bidding wars would start," French said.

Finding a new place in the current housing market wasn't easy. Even harder was packing up and leaving behind friends.

The Saint Charles seniors had 90 days to figure out their plans whether they'd stay or leave. CBS 2 learned all but four families moved out.

They received a portion of their buy-in free when they left. The changes Jaybird Senior Living made to rates were legal and allowed by contract.

You can read Jaybird Senior Living's full statement to CBS 2 here: 

Jaybird Senior Living_Media... by Alex Ortiz

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