Illegal Under the Table Deals Prevalent at Senior Apartments


An Orange County resident, only identified by her initial A, submitted an application to enter a senior apartment seven years ago. Due to its affordability, there is usually a waitlist for elderly citizens who wish to move into senior homes.

Since about two years ago, the apartment’s manager has told A that she and her ill husband are now on top of the list. She was even told that she will soon be asked to move into the apartment.

However, the final call never came. A continued to wait patiently, but recently learned that her acquaintance who submitted the application later than her has moved in. Evidently and obviously, A was baffled.

“I asked the manager what happened,” A said. “He kept making excuses before asking me to meet him. When I met him, he asked for money under the table.”

A badly needed to move into a senior home as soon as she could as her husband remained ill. As she found herself helpless, she paid the manager $3,000 and moved in.

A’s story is a common procedure for many Korean-American senior citizens. Many of them are virtually forced to fork out money under the table to move into their apartments which are designed to be affordable and accommodating for the elderly.

The managers at those apartments call it “donation” as they continue to ask potential tenants for additional fees to be able to move in.

“Many seniors try to move in even by paying off the manager as it takes way too long for them to get on top of the waitlist,” said Sung-mok Lee (pseudonym), who works at a senior care facility in Orange County.

“For senior homes in Cypress and Long Beach, some even pay $3,000 to $5,000 to be able to move in,” Lee added.

The eligibility to move into a senior home varies depending on the neighborhood, but it commonly takes five to 10 years.

“It’s even more rampant in L.A. Koreatown than anywhere else,” said another employee at a senior care facility. “There have been cases when some people paid up to $7,000 to be able to move in. The waitlist became worthless as people started paying their way into the apartments. It usually takes at least seven to 10 years on the waitlist in Koreatown, but some people move in only a few months after they apply.”

Most of those under the table deals are brokered by people who go around searching for those interested in moving into a senior home. They then contact the apartment’s managers, who signs off the deal to manipulate the waitlist.

Those familiar with such acts say that it is difficult to enforce those types of illegal dealings as the transactions are made with cash.

“People do not report these cases as they fear the backlash,” one anonymous source said. “Most people who witness these incidents have families and children to look after.”

By Soo Yeon Oh