ROC managers and board members in "55 and over" communities know that the Fair Housing Laws and the Housing for Older Persons Act require that at least 80 per cent of the homes in the community must be occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older. This requirement is often referred to as the "80/20 rule".
Communities that qualify for the "55 and over" exemption do not violate Fair Housing Laws by denying occupancy to underage individuals.
Every so often, a ROC manager or board of directors is confronted by one of the following situations:
- A prospective resident who is under the age of 55 claims that the 20 percent referred to in that "80/20 rule" must be reserved for underage persons–in other words, individuals under the age of 55 years.
- A prospective resident who is under the age of 55 but is disabled claims that he cannot be denied housing in the community because he is protected under the disability provisions of the Fair Housing Laws.
The rules governing the "55 and over" exemption clearly state that "at least" 80 per cent of the homes in a "55 and over" community must be occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older. It’s the ROC and not a prospective resident that determines how the "20" in the "80/20" rule is to be used. I’ve always advised ROC managers and board members to be very careful in allowing any portion of that 20 per cent to be considered "underage" housing in order to protect against the loss of the "55 and over" exemption.
A community that qualifies for the "55 and over" exemption can deny housing to an underage person who has a disability as long as the community can establish that the basis for the denial was not the disability but rather the fact that the applicant was not 55 years of age or older. Again, the community and not the applicant determines how the 20 per cent is used and as long as the denial is based on the applicant’s inability to meet the requirement that he be at least 55 years of age, the discrimination–which is based on age and not the disability–would not violate Fair Housing Laws.
Of course, every situation is different and several other factors are involved in the determination of whether a community is qualified to be protected under the "55 and over" exemption. I would strongly advise any ROC to contact its attorney when faced with any question about Fair Housing Laws and the "55 and over" exemption..