Watch Out for Legal Pitfalls with 55-and-Older Communities
The federal Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA) exempts 55-and-older communities from the prohibition against familial status discrimination in housing. But some of these associations fail to comply with the law’s strict, and ongoing, legal requirements, leaving them vulnerable to discrimination claims.
As an example, to qualify for the exemption from familial discrimination liability, a community must have at least one occupant who’s age 55 or older in at least 80 percent of the units — what’s known as the 80/20 rule.
“We encourage our clients not to allow families with children or residents that violate the 55-and-older rule on their face, says JoAnn Burnett, an attorney in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., office of Becker & Poliakoff who focuses her practice on fair housing and discrimination claims.
“That way, they can grant exceptions when needed and still be 80/20 — for example, when a spouse dies and the surviving spouse isn’t 55.”
Some associations might not understand that this requirement focuses on who’s actually living in a unit, not the name on the title. “It’s an occupancy requirement, not an ownership requirement” she says. “I’ve had some clients that don’t understand that someone under 55 can purchase the unit but just can’t live there alone.”
Remember, too, that state and local laws with fair housing laws that are “substantially equivalent” to federal fair housing laws may have more stringent requirements. In California, for example, 80/20 won’t cut it.
Read the full article now and learn more potential tripwires to steer clear of:
55-and-Older Communities: 3 Legal Landmines to Avoid