2020-10-05
AGE AND FAIR HOUSING

When buying a home, some (age) restrictions may apply

Consider the nest. I’m not talking about the popular smart home product that connects to your Wi-Fi network and lets you control your home temperature with an app from your phone. I’m talking about the home in a tree, generally built by a bird to put his or her feet up and relax; a place of rest, retreat or lodging.

Having experienced the new (and quickly getting old) world of COVID-19, many people have found past, immediate and future travel plans to have been altered. As a result, a number of us are traveling to our own backyards. While not necessarily a “stay-cation,” definitely a “stay-in-thesame- state-cation.”

This is exactly where we found ourselves a couple of weeks ago. Although there are countless outdoor activities to participate in where we are, we were wanting a change of scenery from our little pocket in the north end of this pretty great state. So we hitched up our wagon and we headed south to sunny St. George.

Technically, it was a business trip. It’s important to see what is happening throughout the state of Utah in the real estate market — and if anyone from the IRS asks, that’s exactly what we were doing. Truthfully, we did spend the good part of a day looking at real estate. While doing so, we decided to purchase some. We found a small condo in a newly developed community that would work well for both occasional business as well as recreation. Although I can represent myself as the buyers agent, most new construction projects have their own contracts, so we met with a sales agent and filled one out.

At the end of the process, she asked us for our driver’s licenses. I asked her why she needed this information.

It wasn’t standard practice for a seller’s agent to require a copy of a driver’s license.

“We just need to verify age,” was her response. Flattering. I promise I’m old enough to buy a house. “This is a 55-plus community and we need to be sure that you qualify,” she continued. Not so flattering after all.

“As you can see,” I replied, “I do NOT qualify. My husband, however, does. I guess I’ll have to ride along on his coattails, which, incidentally, is how I plan to get into heaven as well.” Fortunately, in this case (probably not in the latter, however), I can ride along on his coattails. Although the Federal Fair Housing Act, established in 1968, prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, religion, sex, national origin, familial status or disability, the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995 enabled certain types of housing to be exempt from prohibiting discrimination against familial status. In other words, if certain requirements are met and followed on an ongoing basis, age restricted communities can discriminate against families with children.

The biggest problem with this, besides the fact that 55 should, in no way, be put in the category of “older persons,” is that we still have an 18 year old and a 22 year old living at home. Also, I have high hopes that someday, perhaps, at least one of my children will decide to reproduce and I will want to hang around these hypothetical grandchildren on occasion.

Fortuitously, we can overcome at least two of the aforementioned roadblocks. Since this home will not be our permanent residence, we can take both the existing, as well as the suppositional children with us when we visit; and the concept of “visit” is not so loosely defined. A visitor is suddenly considered a resident, if the visit surpasses between 14-30 days depending upon the specific community.

This also does not necessarily mean that there is no flexibility. Part of this preclusion in the exception is the 80/20 rule. This means at least 80% of the population must be 55 and up. This does not mean that 20% of the units can house families with children, it simply means that if Billionaire F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, 81, bought a place with his 35-year-old wife,

Fabiana, and he passed away, she could continue living there. I’m sure she would be extremely relieved to hear that.

Incidentally, I received a call this morning from a neighbor of one of my listings in an HOA community. She asked if the people buying the home had small children because she didn’t want kids running around the community making a lot of noise. Besides the fact that I don’t have any idea about the buyer’s familial status since I am the seller’s agent, I pleasantly informed her that she didn’t get to pick that, since she is not in an age restricted community. However, I do know of a place in St. George.

Jen Fischer is an associate broker & Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com

Jen Fischer

Guest columnist





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