Nursing Homes, Rest Homes, Retirement Homes, Homes for
the Aged — What's What?

As people age, they may need to live somewhere that offers them a variety of supports. But the choices available and the legal rights of residents can be very confusing. The majority of options fall into two main categories: long-term care homes and retirement homes.

This Seniors' Month edition of On the Radar explains some basic differences between these options.

Long-term care homes

Facilities that provide long-term care for people who need nursing and medical services used to be known by various names, including homes for the aged, nursing homes, and rest homes. Since 2010, they have all been governed by the Long-Term Care Homes Act and are known as long-term care homes.

Long-term care homes must be licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MHLTC). Along with personal support services and assistance with daily living, they are required to have programs of medical care and 24-hour nursing care.

Retirement homes

Retirement homes are just rental complexes that provide certain care services and living accommodation for older adults. They are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and residents have the same rights as other tenants, such as the right not to be evicted without just cause, and, in most cases, limits on how much and when their rent can be raised.

Because they provide care services, retirement homes also fall under the "care homes" sections of the RTA, so there are a few minor differences in the rules that apply to them compared to other rental units.

Despite the similarity in names, care homes, including retirement homes, are very different from long-term care homes, as they are not covered by the Long-Term Care Act, not regulated by the MHLTC, and not required to provide nursing or medical services.

Retirement homes that are occupied primarily by people 65 or older, and that have at least six residents who are not related to the landlord, are also now subject to the Retirement Homes Act.

This legislation is currently being phased in and requires retirement homes to be licensed by the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA).

Some other key differences

Cost: The MHLTC pays for the health services and regulates the accommodation rates in long-term care homes, with reductions for residents whose income is very low. In retirement homes, tenants pay for their chosen care services according to the landlord's fee schedule, and the starting rent is whatever the landlord and tenant agree on.

Admission: To be admitted to a long-term care home, people must apply through their local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC). Retirement homes can set their own admission criteria and prospective tenants apply to them directly.

Discharge: Long-term care homes cannot discharge residents against their will, except in very limited circumstances, and the home must find them suitable alternate accommodation. A retirement home can apply to the Landlord and Tenant Board to evict a tenant for any of the reasons set out in the RTA. And unless the reason is that the tenant's care needs cannot be met, the Board can order an eviction even if the tenant has nowhere else to live.

Level of Care: Long-term care homes must monitor residents' medical and care needs and continue to meet those needs unless their health care needs require them to be transferred to another health facility. Retirement homes only have to provide the care set out in their agreement for services with each tenant.

For help and to make complaints:

Advocacy Centre for the Elderly: 416-598-2656
Long-Term Care Action Line: 1-866-434-0144
Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority: 1-855-275-7472

This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.
June 2012

On the Radar is a monthly email alert from CLEO that highlights timely legal information.

The Spring/Summer 2012 issue of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) newsletter has several related articles on retirement homes and long-term care homes.


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