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.