Elder Law

Active Living Communities for Independent Seniors

Housing policies that selectively affect senior citizens can violate federal law. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act extend protection to seniors with age-related physical and mental conditions that affect their ability to live independently. A retirement community's policies cannot discriminate against seniors who need help conducting daily activities.

Federal Law Protects Housing Choices for Seniors

As people get older, they can develop physical and mental conditions that can make renting to them more difficult for property managers. Courts have classified these age-related conditions as disabilities under the law, and the FHA makes it illegal to deny a person housing on the basis of a disability. The law protects a senior's right to choose where to live without facing disability discrimination.

Independent Living Requirements in Senior Housing Violate Federal Law

Most retirement communities have an application process to ensure that a potential senior resident is a suitable match for the housing facility. Although management might feel that this is a sound business practice, requiring that a potential resident be capable of independent living is a violation of the FHA. As long as an older adult can pay rent, comply with residential rules, and not disturb others, the disabled senior cannot be barred from the community.

Questions About Medical History Can Violate the FHA

Some retirement community application processes violate the FHA. For example, trying to determine a senior's condition by including medical history as part of the application process is illegal. This is true even if the intention is to determine how best to meet the needs of the potential resident. Any practice that has the effect of identifying the existence of a disability or the severity of a condition can expose the managers of a retirement community to a discrimination lawsuit.

Local Level-of-Care Restrictions Can Be an Exception

If a retirement community is located in a state that requires it to obtain medical certifications based on the level of care offered to residents, the community may have a legitimate basis to turn a disabled applicant away. However, this type of exception can be difficult to incorporate into application procedures without running afoul of the discrimination laws.

An Elder Law Attorney Can Help

The law surrounding independent housing for older adults is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an elder law attorney.

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