The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Act Amendment Act of 1988 prohibit a wide array of discrimination when renting out a property. Unless you're offering senior housing, you cannot restrict who you'll accept as tenants when the applicants fall under any of the seven legally protected statuses. Technically speaking, senior housing is a rental property or community targeted at seniors above the age of 55. In some cases, you can ignore the family-protected status under the Fair Housing laws by restricting housing only to seniors. You have a number of rules to follow in order to properly qualify as senior housing; plus, you need understand how to make your rental appealing to this demographic.
How to Get Official Senior-Housing Status
You don't get to declare yourself senior housing out of nowhere, particularly if you're trying to set up a complete senior community. Senior housing, as defined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, requires at least 80 percent of the units to have a person 55 or older living in them. Properties receive audits to verify this requirement every few years, and your senior-housing community must keep documentation proving that you meet the requirements for senior housing. It's also important to keep the age range of your tenants mostly above 55 in order to foster the right image.
Staying on the Right Side of the Fair-Housing Laws
The essential part of getting started in senior housing is figuring out how to avoid crossing a discrimination line when you are marketing your apartments to seniors. You must target people who are ages 55 and older in order to avoid issues with discriminating against younger renters. While you can have 20 percent of your units rented by people younger than 55, including families, you can also choose not to rent to families with children as long as you meet the other senior-housing requirements. The primary purpose of barring families with children is generally to avoid disruptions in the peaceful and quiet senior-living community; furthermore, you're attracting tenants who are closer in age and may wish to do other neighborhood activities together.
What Do Seniors Want Out of Your Rental?
Seniors have different needs from your average renters, so appeal to your demographic before you start your marketing campaigns. Make sure your building and apartments are accessible for seniors with mobility restrictions such as wheelchairs. Consider converting your bathrooms into handicapped-friendly options with step-in tubs and hand rails. If possible, arrange for special events for tenants to get to know one another and foster a sense of community. You can increase your tenant retention and reduce turnover by making your senior housing into its own community instead of simply another place to live.
Looking into Local, State, and Federal Programs
You may have the opportunity for local, state or federal senior-housing programs that provide incentives for you to offer your apartments as low-income housing for senior residents. Many seniors live off Social Security and disability payments, so you have access to a large market segment if your property qualifies for these programs and you choose to participate. You also end up on senior-housing assistance databases run by these programs so that your marketing work becomes easier.
All in all, investing in a senior-housing community has lots of benefits; just make sure you're familiar with the Fair Housing Act laws before you get started.
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