The Federal Fair Housing Act
As part of the Civil Rights Acts of 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act outlaws any discrimination on housing based on race, color, gender, national origin, family status, religion, and disability. However, an amendment to the act was created in 1988 as an exemption for housing for adults aged 55 and above provided that these communities should be designed to meet the social and physical needs of senior citizens.
Again, age isn't protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act. As such, developers have the right to set limits on who can or cannot buy or rent their properties based on age. Generally, states that offer retirement communities usually set a minimum age for residents. This is because there are various incentives for providing income-and-aged-based housing programs.
Exemptions to Age Restrictions in 55+ Communities
You necessarily do not have to be aged 55 and above to live in a 55+ community. This is per the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 (HOPA). It offers an exemption to family status but only if the communities meet the following conditions:
- At least 80% of the properties within the community must include one resident aged 55 or older.
- All residents must be aged 55 or older.
- The communities should show the intent of providing housing for seniors aged 55 and above. For example, the units, the corridors, and doorways should be wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers.
If the community meets these requirements, it can come up with its own age restrictions as long as they are within the stipulated state laws. Keep in mind that these rules may vary from one community to another and maybe more or less strict than HOPA regulations.
In short, you do not have to be 55 or older to live in a 55+ community. Each home or unit should, however, have at least one person who is aged 55 or older. Most states stipulate a minimum age of residents to be 18 or older. In other words, you do not have to be 55 or older to stay in a 55+ community. Instead, you should have a family member who is aged 55 or older and the rest must be aged at least 18 or over.
So do they allow Younger Residents?
While there are several restrictions placed on 55+ communities in terms of age, some residents still allow younger residents. Most communities ensure that younger residents are aged 18 or older as long as there's a senior aged 55 or older living in the home or unit. They, however, ensure that about 20% or 15% of the homes or units are left for younger households.
With that in mind, most 55+ communities do not allow young children to live there full-time. This, however, doesn't mean that you'll never see children in a 55+ community. These communities generally allow children to visit but the visits should be short term. While the rules regarding children's visitations may vary from community to community, they typically allow children for two or four weeks. It's, therefore, essential to find out about the community's rules to know what you're allowed to do.
The 80/20 Rule
If you've been researching 55+ communities, you've perhaps come across the "80/20 rule." This means that at least 80% of the units within a 55+ community must be occupied with at least one resident aged 55 or older. This doesn't, however, mean that the remaining 20% units do not have age restrictions. Instead, they are meant to offer some flexibility and diversity within the community, especially if issues that may disrupt the age-restriction put in place by the federal or state laws arise.
Here's a perfect example. Say a resident aged 64 moved in a 55+ community with his partner aged 45, the younger resident should be protected to remain within the community under the 80/20 rule if the older resident passes away.
What about Disabled Persons?
Disabled persons of the age of 55 or older can be allowed to live in a 55+ community. If anything, many 55+ communities are built for those who have difficulty moving around. Again, most 55+ communities also include assisted living facilities within their boundaries and even employ highly skilled nurses to take care of those who may need assistance in doing their normal duties such as cooking, bathing, and dressing.
So if you're a disabled individual, a 55+ community can be a great place for you and nothing should stop you from moving to these communities as long as you meet the age threshold. In short, disability should not hinder you from moving into a 55+ community. And even if you need assisted living, a 55+ community could be the ideal option. All you have to do is find out whether your preferred 55+ community offers the required amenities.
What's the Importance of the HOPA Act?
As we noted earlier, the Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) was put in place to regulate the 55+ communities and ensure that seniors aged 55 or older are not forced out by younger residents. This law clearly states that there should be at least one person in each household aged 55 or older. The fact that at least one person aged 55 or older is used as a threshold is to offer flexibility for those who have attained the age of 55 but still have younger spouses to live in these communities.
Are there Fees for Living in a 55+ Community?
There are generally no fees for living in a 55+ community. However, there are HOA and condo fees that you have to pay for living in these communities. You may also have to pay specific fees to access other amenities such as golf courses and other recreational facilities, though these fees are generally covered by HOA fees.
Do You Have to Pay HOA Fees if You Don't Want to Use these Amenities?
It doesn't matter whether or not you want to use the amenities within a 55+ community; you'll have to pay your HOA fees. The idea here is that you're part of that particular community and the HOA fees are meant to make the community much better. For example, a portion of the HOA fees is used to maintain the community and offer security for the residents.
As such, it would be unfair if those who use the amenities are the only ones expected to pay those fees, particularly if everyone has equal use. You should keep in mind that HOA fees are set by the individual communities and may vary from one community to the other. More importantly, each household is expected to pay the HOA fees and they won't be lowered for any household.
Using the Amenities
When it comes to using the amenities, rules may vary from community to community. There may also be rules that stipulate how these amenities should be used. For instance, there may be a gate pass for residents to access a golf course. Generally, your family members should be given total access to the amenities if they live with you in the community, and as long as they observe the rules regarding how the facilities should be used.
On the other hand, there may be restrictions for visitors. In most communities, visitors may be allowed to access the amenities if they're accompanied by a resident. Other communities allow visitors if they have a pass. It's, therefore, advisable to find out with the community manager what your guests should do to access these amenities, as well as any fees that they may be required to pay.
To this end, it's worth noting that 55+ community rules are generally the same, even though some rules may vary from community to community. It's important to know the rules and what is expected of you. It's also important to learn about these rules and see if they're a good fit for you.