As Baby Boomers are aging, the senior population is growing. Over 17% of the United States is made up of adults age 65 and older. That’s around 60 million people – and they all need somewhere to live. Have you ever wondered what housing laws are in place to protect them?
The Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act protects all buyers and renters from discrimination. What does this mean for seniors? It means that older adults can never be lawfully turned away from buying or renting based on their age or disability.
It shall be unlawful for any person or other entity whose business includes engaging in residential real estate-related transactions to discriminate against any person in making available such a transaction, or in the terms or conditions of such a transaction, because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-19
What’s more, the Fair Housing Act includes “Housing For Older Persons” Exemptions, which make the comfort and safety of options like retirement communities or senior apartments possible.
What are the “Housing For Older Persons” Exemptions? They grant communities the ability to legally advertise themselves as age-restricted, for the comfort, safety, and well-being of seniors. Communities that seek this type of exemption are usually age-restricted to 55 and older, or housing that is “specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons.” The qualifications for exemption are:
- At least 80 percent of the units must have at least one occupant who is 55 years of age or older.
- The facility or community must publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent to operate as “55 or older” housing.
- The facility or community must comply with HUD’s regulatory requirements for age verification of residents.
HOPA Regulations at 24 C.F.R. §§ 100.300 – 100.308
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act says that any person who is disabled can not be excluded from programs that are conducted by government agencies. This includes all programs overseen by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). What does this mean for seniors? It means older adults can never be lawfully turned away from buying or renting based solely on their disability.
No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States. . .shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program, service or activity receiving federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency or by the United States Postal Service.29 U.S.C. § 794
The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) says that any disabled person has the right to partake in the same public services, programs, and activities as anyone else. What does this mean for seniors? It means seniors can never be lawfully denied services or the use of facilities based on their disability. This applies to any public or community housing regulated by state or local government.
No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.42 U.S.C. §§ 12132
This also includes commercial facilities and public accommodations.
No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation.42 U.S.C. § 12182
The Fair Housing Act, Section 504, and the ADA all disclose guidelines for accessibility. These regulations cover everything from the design process to actual construction, with one common goal: to help all Americans attain housing that is right for their needs.
HUD supports an initiative called Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST, in an effort to supply business owners, construction workers, and designers with all the tools and guidelines needed to create accessible housing. The ADA also provides a comprehensive section-by-section analysis of guidelines for new construction, as well as remodels.
Additional Housing Law Resources
Navigating the vast waters of housing laws can feel intimidating. Senior Resource is here to help! Know your rights and learn the laws with us! Visit our overview of senior living to start planning your retirement. Our section on elder law can get you started too!
Have a housing discrimination complaint? Start here.
For more information about senior housing and related laws, visit these great resources!
Accessibility Requirements For Buildings
US Department of Housing and Urban Development