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Over 100 people evicted from senior care facility due to bankruptcy

Financial troubles at Unisen Senior Living in Florida date back years, and some of the residents being kicked out invested hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Residents evicted from senior living
Posted at 7:59 AM, Apr 26, 2024

More than 100 senior citizens in Tampa, Florida, are scrambling to find new homes after their senior living facility declared bankruptcy.

Scripps News Tampa has uncovered financial troubles at the facility date back years, and some of the residents being kicked out invested hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I’m pretty upset about it”

“This is the letter from the lawyers,” said Jim Powell, showing us a bankruptcy notice he received in the mail earlier this month.

Unisen Senior Living filed for bankruptcy in early April

Powell, who is 94, and his wife Mona, who is 91, received their first-ever eviction notice. They paid a $100,000 entrance fee four months ago to move into Unisen Senior Living, less than a mile from the University of South Florida campus.

The Powells are among dozens of senior citizens who are now being forced to find a new home.

“We came home from dinner that night and there was an envelope in our door. We just sat down and looked at each other. I can’t believe this. How could it happen so quickly?” Mona Powell said.

She said many of her belongings haven’t been unpacked since the couple moved from the home where they lived for more than 50 years.

All the elderly residents of the 491-unit complex will have to vacate in the coming months because Unisen declared bankruptcy.

A 2022 IRS Form 990 filed by the nonprofit indicates financial problems date back years, with annual losses that year of more than $13 million. The bankruptcy filing says the company’s debts are between $100 million and $500 million.

“I would say I'm pretty upset about it,” Mona Powell said. “I know it’s stressful for anybody.”

Two senior care bankruptcies at the site since 2016

“They were told they were being evicted. The building was closing. Go find someplace else,” said Laura Vitale-DeRosa.

Her father, James Vitale, has lived at the facility since 2016.

Laura Vitale-DeRosa

“The only friends really that he has left are the ones living here, and now they’re all gonna be dispersed,” Vitale-DeRosa said.

Vitale paid a $75,000 entrance fee when he moved into what was then University Village. That company went bankrupt after a state investigation showed financial mismanagement by the former owner.

Vitale paid $82,500 in 2021 as a deposit for a new assisted living apartment, but it was never completed.

Since the announcement, Laura and her dad have been trying to find him a new home.

“Most of these places on this list are two times at least what we were paying here,” she said.

And in Tampa, most of the places on the list Vitale was given are full.

“The others are Dunedin, Palm Harbor, two in Lakeland and one in Bradenton,” Vitale-DeRosa said.

Many of those facilities are an hour’s drive from Unisen Senior Living.

13 residents loaned the company big bucks

Realtor Lynnette Ramsey is helping a former client, whose home she sold two years ago.

Lynnette Ramsey and her client Andrea on the day they sold her home to move into Unisen

“She doesn’t have any family here. Her older brother lives in Atlanta. So my family has become her family over the years,” Ramsey said.

So far, Ramsey’s had no luck finding a new place for her friend and her dog.

“Three hours, four hours yesterday calling around. Can we put a fence up? Can she bring her dog? What's included in the monthly costs? They were like no, no, and not a lot,” she said.

Thirteen of the residents are among Unisen’s 20 largest creditors, each loaning the company between $292,000 and $675,000.

13 of Unisen's top 20 creditors are residents, who loaned the company between $292,000 and $675,000

Unisen’s executive director declined an interview but said in a statement, “This decision was not made without a vigorous attempt at keeping the community viable for our residents. Ultimately, it was with their best interests at heart that we made the choice to pursue bankruptcy.”

The Powells found another nearby apartment, where they’ll move next month. They hope this time it will be their last move.

“It's just a rotten thing to do to people. They knew it. They can’t say they didn’t know it. They've been cooking this up for months and months,” Mona Powell said.

Others, some in their 90s, don’t yet know where they’re going.

“When something like this is handed to you, it just kind of turns your world upside down,” Ramsey said.

Residents we talked to say they will each get $25,000 moving allowances to help them relocate.

This story was originally published by Adam Walser at Scripps News Tampa.

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