By their nature, senior communities engage in permissible discrimination. Such discrimination is allowed by the federal government under the "Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995" (HOPA), which is overseen by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Demonstrate Intent. To maintain the right to exclude people on the basis of their age, HUD requires that senior communities meet the following criteria:
- At least 80% of the occupied units must be occupied by at least one person 55 years of age or older;
- The association must publish and follow policies that demonstrate an intent by the association to provide housing for persons 55 years of age or older; and
- The association must comply with age verification procedures designed to ensure compliance with 55+ requirements.
Verify Age. HOPA requires that a housing facility/community re-survey its lists of residents every two years to ensure that the 80% requirement is met. To meet age verification requirements, the following documents are deemed “reliable” by HUD:
- birth certificate,
- driver's license,
- immigration card,
- military ID, and
- any other local, state, federal or international documentation so long as the document contains information regarding the age of the person.
Identity Theft. To protect against identify theft members can either (i) send a photocopy of their driver's license, passport, etc. with license and social security numbers redacted or (ii) take the document to a board meeting where it will be examined but not copied.
Self-Verification. HUD also considers self-certification through an affidavit as a reliable form of verification. An affidavit is a sworn statement under penalty of perjury by an adult member of the household that at least one occupant is 55 years of age or older.
Uncooperative Occupants. If some occupants fail or refuse to cooperate with age verification surveys, the association can have a knowledgeable third party (a board member, manager, neighbor, etc.) sign a verification that at least one of the occupants is 55 years or older. You can also use statements indicating age in prior applications or government documents such as census data, i.e., household censuses conducted by cities or towns, to satisfy the requirement.
Further Information from HUD. HUD published a series of questions and answer regarding the final implementation of HOPA which can be viewed here.
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