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Legal Rights for Residents
Legal protections for residents are a major policy issue at the federal, state, and local levels.
- In many cases these protections concern mortgages and other types of loans that have a direct impact on residents’ economic well-being.
- Civil rights are an important component of fair housing law. Without protections from unfair treatment on the basis of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation/gender identity, or disability, it may be difficult for some residents to remain in and active within their community.
The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 prohibits landlords from discriminating on the basis of disability in admitting or evicting residents or from otherwise limiting a tenant’s rights as long as the tenant complies with the lease. The act has potentially important implications for housing and residential care providers, including those requiring residents to move to a higher level of care when they need a walker or wheelchair, become incontinent, or need a variety of other kinds of assistance.
The “Housing-For-Older-Persons” exemption to the Fair Housing Amendments Act
In 1996 Congress amended the 1988 act to eliminate an unworkable provision requiring housing facilities to provide “significant facilities and services” in order to qualify as “housing for older persons” and exclude families with children. However, many states that enacted fair housing statutes mirroring the language of the federal law have not yet modified this requirement in light of the federal change.
While age restrictions have played an important role in creating housing solutions for older people, an increasing number of older people are caring for their children or grandchildren. Additionally, because the age at which females can continue to bear children has risen with improvements in health and medicine, older people may have their own children under the age of 18.
Common Interest Developments
Common interest developments (CIDS) collect fees and enforce community rules. CIDs include homeowner associations, condominium and cooperative associations, and manufactured home cooperative community associations. Many basic rights are not guaranteed within CIDs unless specifically addressed by state laws governing such organizations. AARP estimates there are approximately 12 million households residing in CIDs, of which nearly half are headed by someone age 50 or older. CID members should enjoy the rights to security against foreclosure, mediation, disclosure of rules and charges, peaceful advocacy in association matters, well-defined voting rights in the association, and oversight of officers.
Two types of laws establish tenants’ right to have assistive animals and pets. The federal Fair Housing Act requires that landlords allow service animals as reasonable accommodation for people who have a disability, such as a seeing eye dog. Housing law requires that older people in federally subsidized housing be allowed to have a pet, subject to the reasonable rules and regulations of the housing sponsor. Advocates of pet companionship point to evidence that older people who have a pet live longer, go to the doctor less often, recover more quickly from illnesses, and have a more positive outlook than those who do not have a pet.
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