55 and Older Communities

How to Comply With Fair Housing Law in Senior Communities - 7 Rules You Need to Know

 

Fair housing law generally prohibits discrimination based on familial status, but there’s a limited exception that applies to senior housing communities that qualify as “housing for older persons.” To qualify, senior housing communities must meet strict technical requirements. Unless they satisfy those requirements, communities may not enforce “adult only” policies or impose age restrictions to keep children from living there.

The focus of this article is on federal law, but it’s important to check the law in your state governing senior housing communities. The specifics may vary, but you could draw unwanted attention from state enforcement agencies if you exclude families with children without satisfying legal requirements to qualify for the senior housing exemption.

Example: In January 2019, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced a $10,000 settlement in a fair housing complaint alleging familial status discrimination against the owners of a six-unit rental community and a residential real estate brokerage firm that managed the property.

Fair housing advocates filed the complaint, alleging that the property was advertised online as an “adult complex” and included a restriction of “maximum 2 adults.” During a follow-up call, the property manager reportedly told a tester that children weren’t allowed. DFEH found that the complex wasn’t a senior citizen housing development and that there was cause to believe a violation of state fair housing law had occurred.

“In California, senior housing developments can, with some exceptions, exclude residents under 55 years of age if they have at least 35 units and meet other requirements,” DFEH Director Kevin Kish said in a statement. “All other rental properties violate the law if they categorically exclude families with minor children. By identifying such policies through testing, fair housing organizations such as Project Sentinel play an important role in ensuring that families with children have access to housing.”

In this month’s lesson, we’ll explain what the law requires to qualify for and maintain the senior housing exemption. Then we’ll offer seven rules to help avoid fair housing trouble in senior housing communities. Finally, you can take the Coach’s Quiz to see how much you’ve learned.

 

55 & Older Communities - A Review

The Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) went into effect on March 12, 1989.  That Act amended Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin in the sale, rental, or financing of residential housing.  The FHAA added two additional protected classes; (1) persons with disabilities and (2) families with children.  Children include persons under the age of 18 years.

Maintaining an Age-Restricted Community: A Refresher on the Housing for Older Persons Act

If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the millions of baby boomers at or near retirement. Although you might not care for the moniker, the government has officially designated you as an "older person." If you own property designated as housing for "seniors," you should periodically refresh yourself on the state of the law protecting "older persons" and to avoid the mistakes of other property owners.

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