Elderly renters require special care and consideration. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to accommodate older tenants and make sure you’re not breaking any laws.
Understanding Elderly Renters Rights and Anti-Discrimination Laws
As a landlord, you will encounter all kinds of tenants, from student renters to military renters. A particular segment of the renter population, though, — the elderly — is often neglected, even though they are growing in number. As elderly renters become more and more prevalent, landlords are surely going to encounter them more often. But, as with military renters, there are special federal and state protections in place for senior renters.
Here are the most important laws to protect the elderly that all landlords must know about.
Fair Housing Laws
Among the laws protecting senior citizens, the federal Fair Housing Act is perhaps the most well-known. Under this federal statute, housing providers (including landlords) are prohibited from discriminating against tenants based on their disability. That means you can’t refuse an elderly tenant or treat them differently because of physical or mental impairment. You can’t ask them to provide medical records either.
Another big one is the Americans with Disabilities Act. If an elderly tenant is disabled, you have to make the necessary accommodations to make their stay more comfortable and accessible. For instance, if an elderly renter requires a wheelchair ramp to get inside the apartment building, you will need to have one installed at your own expense. For reasonable accommodations within the unit itself, though, the tenant will typically be financially responsible.
While the FHA and ADA both work at the federal level, many states and cities have enacted their own anti-discrimination and reasonable accommodation laws. For instance, the federal FHA does not include age as a protected class — though, broadly speaking, it can be considered under familial status. However, in some states and cities, age is expressly stated as a protected class. One example is New York.
Right to Terminate a Lease Before Expiry
It is imperative that landlords understand the different senior citizen housing rights to avoid getting into legal trouble. One such right has to do with terminating lease agreements.
Under some state and local laws, elderly renters have the right to cancel their lease early and without penalty. Of course, certain conditions would have to be met to allow this to happen.
For instance, in Connecticut, tenants who are 62 years or older can terminate their lease before its expiry if they are accepted into state or federal housing. But, they have to give their landlord written notice 30 days prior. The same goes for disabled tenants.
A similar law exists in New York. According to NYS Real Property Law Section 227-A, tenants aged 62 years or older who will enter an adult care facility can cancel their lease without penalty. The same law applies if the tenant will enter subsidized low-income housing or move into a relative’s home.
How to Accommodate Senior Tenants
There are some things landlords should consider when renting to elderly tenants, such as:
1. Obtain Emergency Contacts
When renting a room to an elderly person, it is crucial that you ask for the contact details of a family member or friend living nearby. This serves as their emergency contact. If something happens to the elderly tenant, you can quickly get in touch with someone who can assist them.
Of course, not everyone lives close to their family or friends. In that case, you may want to obtain the contact details of their personal doctor or their hospital of choice.
2. Improve Safety Measures
Senior renters are more likely to get into accidents because of mobility and optical issues. As such, you have to go the extra mile to improve safety measures. This means installing handrails on all staircases, wheelchair ramps, and even panic buttons. You may also want to consider installing security cameras in common areas. Because of the possibility of slip-and-fall accidents, you should also make sure floors aren’t slippery.
3. Account for Technological Challenges
Elderly renters are not always tech-savvy. As such, what other tenants might deem convenient may be challenging to navigate for elderly tenants. For instance, installing smart devices may not be so smart. While younger tenants may find smart devices a plus, older tenants may only find them frustrating.
Another technological challenge is the payment method you use. Because older tenants are not usually good with apps and software, consider accepting traditional checks in addition to online payments.
4. Keep Noise to a Minimum
Elderly renters tend to enjoy quiet evenings and peaceful mornings. Thus, the last thing they want is to live next to noisy neighbors. A good way to accommodate seniors is to impose noise rules. For example, have quiet hours from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Noise rules are not only good for your senior renters but also for all other tenants.
5. Allow Pets
Because older adults tend to live alone, they like the company that pets bring. Pets bring comfort to people, both in the physical and emotional sense. As such, consider allowing pets in your rental property.
Of course, pets still pose certain risks, so it is a good idea to allow pets but impose pet rules. For instance, you might restrict the type or number of pets tenants can keep. You can also require tenants to pick up after their pets and keep them on leashes when outside of their leased units.
6. Expect Late Rent
Many seniors use their social security and pension to pay for their living expenses. But, these benefits don’t always arrive at the start of the month, which is when you would typically collect rent. As such, don’t be surprised if elderly renters are late on their rent more often than others.
7. Be Considerate
Beyond just complying with the housing laws of elderly tenants, it is vital to be considerate of them in general. Don’t immediately jump to eviction proceedings when an older tenant is late on their rent. There might be a problem with their SSI check or pension benefits. They could just be forgetful, as is the case for a lot of senior citizens.
If an elderly tenant is consistently behind on rent, you may want to help them look for a new home instead of deciding to evict them. You can also help them apply for aid from local charities.
Additional Considerations When Starting an All-Seniors Apartment
If you’re interested in starting an all-seniors apartment, there are two other considerations you must make in addition to those mentioned above.
1. Location Matters
Before purchasing a rental property, think about the location. Convenience is important to senior renters, so look for a place that is close to a lot of necessities and amenities. This includes grocery stores, pharmacies, and hospitals. A good location will not only benefit seniors but can also attract elderly renters.
2. Prioritize Accessibility
Accessibility is paramount when renting to senior tenants. When looking for or building an all-seniors rental home, prioritize wheelchair ramps, handrails, and panic buttons. You may also want to install stairlifts or elevators to make it easier for the elderly to get around.
Steer Clear of Legal Trouble
When renting to elderly renters, landlords should familiarize themselves with all applicable laws and considerations. This will help you avoid legal liability, which can result in hefty penalties.
If you need professional assistance managing your rental property, a property management company is the best choice. Start your search for property management companies in your area using Rental Choice’s online directory.
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