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RCFEs: Theft & Loss

Residents have a right to a safe environment. A safe environment is a place where one’s personal belongings such as clothes, jewelry, cosmetics, eyeglasses, hearing aids and dentures are not lost or stolen.

Theft & Loss Policy & Program

  • Every Residential Care Facility for the Elderly must have a written policy and program on theft and loss.
    • The Theft and Loss Policy must be referred to in the Admission Agreement and be posted in the facility.
    • A copy of the policy along with the corresponding California Law must be given to each resident or her/his family member, agent or legal representative at the time of admission. A copy must also be provided to prospective residents upon request.

Inventory of Personal Belongings

  • It is the facility’s responsibility to maintain a current record of the personal property of each resident.
    • The facility must make a comprehensive inventory and carefully mark all personal items. This is particularly important for clothes, watches, dentures, eyeglasses and hearing aids.
    • Family members should bring to the attention of the facility any items that they are adding to or removing from the inventory in order to keep the inventory current.
    • All items in the inventory must be entered in ink, signed by the resident or family member, agent/legal representative and a representative from the facility.
    • Residents and family members should keep an updated copy of the inventory.

Protection of Personal Belongings & Money

  • The facility is required to provide a secured storage area for residents and, upon the resident’s request and expense, to install locks on cabinets or dresser drawers.
    • Expensive items or personal belongings of sentimental value should be kept with the family or agent/legal representative. If this is not possible, items should be kept by the facility or locked in a cabinet or drawer in the resident’s room.
    • In some situations, the facility might agree to handle the finances of a resident as a representative payee, e.g. for Social Security and/or SSI benefits. In order to provide this type of service, the facility must follow strict accounting procedures, (e.g., no co-mingling of funds), and be bonded.

Facility Duty to Report & Investigate

  • The facility must report to the resident and her/his family or agent/legal representative any lost or stolen items with a current market value of $25 or more.
    • The facility also has to document the lost or stolen item(s): giving a description, estimating a value, and indicating the date and time that the item(s) were taken, discovered or reported missing.
    • If the lost or stolen item is valued at $100 or more, then the facility must also make a report to local law enforcement.

Actions to Hold a Facility Accountable

  • The law states clearly that if a facility fails to make reasonable efforts to safeguard the resident’s property, the facility must reimburse a resident for or replace the lost or stolen items. It is up to the facility to show that they have taken reasonable efforts.
  • In order to protect your belongings, residents and/or family members should:

    • Maintain a comprehensive and current inventory. The law states that the facility is only liable for items identified on the inventory.
    • Write a demand letter requesting replacement or reimbursement including, whenever possible, receipts showing the value of lost or stolen items.
    • Sue in Small Claims Court for replacement value of article - up to $10,000. Order CANHR'S Small Claims Guide for RCFE Residents
    • Seek help from the Ombudsman Program or from Senior Legal Services.
    • Make a complaint to the licensing agency (See CANHR’s Fact Sheet RCFEs: How to File a Complaint).

The most pertinent laws are found in California Laws: Health & Safety Code, Sections 1569.152-1569.154,1569.60, 1569.601; Welfare & Institutions Code, Section 11006.9; Civil Code, Section 1668; and the most relevant regulations in the California Code of Regulations, Title 22, Division 6, Sections 87216, 87217, 87218, 87507(g), 87468 (a)(2), 87468 (a)(13).

Page Last Modified: March 2, 2020