QUESTION: My husband and I just retired. We've raised our children and helped to raise their children. We want to enjoy our retirement without listening to the happy sounds of little ones. I have heard of retirement communities that don't allow children. Isn't that housing discrimination?
ANSWER: Your are right that the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination against seven protected classes and one of these is households with children. There is, however, an exemption for senior housing.
Communities that are intended for seniors can legally limit residency to households without children. These communities are either occupied entirely by persons over 55 years of age or 80 percent of the occupied units have at least one person 55 years or older in residence. Not counted in the 80 percent are caregivers who live in the community as health-care providers including family members who serve this function. The "housing for older persons" exemption extends to rental properties in the communities also.
If a certain community meets all the state and local anti-discrimination laws and 20 percent of the units are occupied by families with children, special rules can be established for those families that include children. These families can lawfully be restricted from certain benefits of the community or otherwise treated differently than the senior households. Children could be restricted, for example, from using the community center or the pool during certain hours.
This exception from the Fair Housing Act should provide you with the peace and quiet that you are seeking in your retirement community but there are may other things to consider when shopping for a retirement home. If you are considering a condominium, review the condo documents and rules carefully before making a commitment. You may eliminate the sounds of small children but discover too late that your own family's pet is not allowed.
If you are not clear about what a community will or won't permit, consider seeking the guidance of a real estate attorney before making a final decision to rent or buy in a community that is considered senior housing.
Attorney Sylvia Heldreth is a certified specialist in real estate law. Her office is located at 1215 Miramar St., in Cape Coral.
This article is not intended as specific legal advice to anyone and is based upon facts that change from time to time. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting upon any matter involving the law.