The President of one the many "55 and over" resident-owned communities we represent recently contacted me to discuss what is becoming an all too familiar situation:
The rules governing this community specify that at least one of the persons occupying a home had to be at least 55 years of age and that any other person occupying the home had to be at least 45 years of age. Many, if not most, "55 and over" ROCs in Florida have similar provisions.
During the past year, several residents in the community found themselves opening their homes to children who had lost jobs or were otherwise suffering financial hardships. This community’s rules were similar to many other ROCs and provided for a period of time (in this case, thirty days) where an underage person could occupy a home as a permitted "guest". Unfortunately, none of these underage children were able to find affordable housing within that thirty day guest period.
The residents had requested the Board for an extension of the "guest period" for their underage children and the Board had granted two separate extensions of ninety days and had advised each of the residents requesting these extensions that none of their current "guests" would be granted any further extensions.
All but one of the underage children found affordable housing during the final extension period. As can be expected, the members whose child was not able to secure housing outside of the community was now requesting that the Board grant yet another extension.
I suggested to the ROC President that the Board should consider a number of factors in deciding whether to grant this latest request:
- The "55 and over" exemption to the Fair Housing Laws was not an issue as the parents (both of whom were over 55 years of age) would remain in the home with the child.
- Since the "55 and over" exemption was not a factor, the real issue was whether the Board felt comfortable allowing a further exception to the community rules.
- The Board had expressly stated to the requesting members that no further exceptions would be allowed and the residents in the community could certainly view the granting of another extension of time as a sign of weakness or lack of concern with enforcing the community rules.
- At the same time, every member knows the problems that our current economic crisis has created and a Board refusal to grant an additional extension might be viewed as heartless and insensitive.
I offered some guidelines that might help provide a solution–an extension for a shorter time period (perhaps thirty days) with the understanding that each and every request for an additional extension be accompanied by documentation establishing to the Board’s satisfaction that the underage child was continuing to make good faith efforts to find employment that would provide him with an income sufficient to find housing outside of the community.
Clearly, there is no quick and simple answer for board members when considering requests based on the economic hardship of underage children of residents in the community. What is clear is that every community may find itself dealing with requests of this nature in the near future.