Not Anyone Can Live In A 55+ Community, This is Why


Can anyone live in a 55+ community? It’s a frequently asked question among seniors and retirees who are focusing on moving to a 55+ community. In this article, you’ll find all the important information regarding living in a 55+ community.

As a general rule, not anyone can live in a 55+ community. The Fair Housing Act’s exemption for housing for older adults, allow 55+ communities to set age restrictions for their residents. To qualify for this exemption minimum 80% of the units in a 55+ community must have at least one occupant of 55+ or older. 

There are different rules for people who want to live in a 55+ community. When you want to move into a 55+ community, you probably have many questions about rules, living circumstances, housing amenities, and other things. I’ll share the answers to those questions in this article. Let’s find out more. 

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What Are The Rules For Living In A 55+ Community?

In general, to set age restrictions for their residents, a 55+ community must satisfy all the requirements of the Fair Housing Act’s housing for older persons exemption.’ However, specific house rules and policies can vary per 55+ communities.

As stated on the US Department of Housing and Urban Development website, “the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or familial status. However, it contains a limited exemption from the familial status prohibitions for housing for older persons.”

In other words, it is allowed for 55+ communities, senior communities, retirement communities, etc., to set age restrictions for their residents. To do so, they must qualify for all the requirements of this exemption. 

I quoted the following information for your convenience, which you can also find on the HUD’s website via this link

“The housing for older persons exemption only applies to the following housing; 

  1. Provided under any state or federal program that the Secretary of HUD has determined to be specifically designed and operated to assist elderly persons (as defined in the state or federal program);
  2. Intended for, and solely occupied by persons 62 years of age or older; or
  3. Intended and operated for occupancy by persons 55 years of age or older.

In order to qualify for the “55 or older” housing exemption, a facility or community must satisfy each of the following requirements:

  • At least 80 percent of the units must have at least one occupant who is 55 years of age or older; and
  • The facility or community must publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent to operate as “55 or older” housing; and
  • The facility or community must comply with HUD’s regulatory requirements for age verification of residents.

The “housing for older persons” exemption does not protect such housing facilities or communities from liability for housing discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, or national origin.”

The source I used for the quotation above is this link: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_housing_act_housing_older_persons 

Now that we explained the official rules of the Fair Housing Act exemption for housing for older persons, it’s getting clear that not anyone can live in a 55+ community. However, these rules also allow exemptions for specific situations. I will discuss these in the following part. 

Can You Live In A 55+ Community When You’re Younger?

As a general rule, you can live in a 55+ community when you’re younger. One of the qualifications of the housing for older adults exemptions is that a minimum of eighty percent (80%) of the units must be occupied by at least one occupant of 55+ or older. This allows that 20% of all residents in a 55+ community can be younger than 55. 

Many 55+ communities allow a maximum of 15% of their residents to be younger. This way, they stay under the 20% rule of the Fair Housing Act’s exemption. However, each community can decide if they allow younger residents to rent or buy a commodity to live in. So, the rules can vary per community. 

If you want to apply for housing in a 55+ community when you’re younger, make sure to read the specific rules of that community before you apply for housing. When you the rules of that community, you know what to expect, which can save you a lot of time and possible disappointment if they don’t allow younger residents. 

To find the specific housing rules for a community, simply visit their website and search for the housing rules. You’ll often see a section in the website’s menu that can direct you to these rules. You might also use the search box to find these rules. If there aren’t any rules available on the website, you can try to contact the community and ask if they can send over the rules to you. 

Can My Younger Spouse Live With Me In A 55+ Community? 

According to the fair housing act’s housing for older persons exemption, your younger spouse can live with you in a 55+ community if they comply with the 80% rule of this exemption. This rule says that at least 80% of the units in a 55+ community must have at least one occupant of 55+ or older. 

Let’s say the senior community you want to live in easily reaches the 80% rule we mentioned above. If you’re 55+ or older and registered as an occupant of the unit, you’re younger spouse can live with you in this community as well. 

When you and your spouse are both younger than 55, it’s getting more difficult to be allowed to live in a 55+ or senior community. To only way to be eligible for a unit in a 55+ community is if the community still allows a percentage of their occupants to be younger than 55. However, a 55+ community often sets a maximum of less than 20% of the units available for younger occupants. This way, the community makes sure to stay within the limits of the rules sets by the Fair Housing Act’s exemption for housing for older persons. 

Can I Live With My Mom In A 55+ Community?

In general, you can live with your mom in a 55+ community when you are 18 years or older, and your mom is 55 or older. However, the 55+community must satisfy the 80% rule of the fair housing act’s housing for older persons exemption.

Many 55+ communities also allow you to live with your mom when you are excluded from this rule. Most of the time, 55+ communities allow around 15% of all their units to be occupied by residents younger than 55.

Suppose you want to live with your mom because she needs continuing care or assisted living because of a disability. In that case, you are excluded from the 80/20 occupancy requirement. It doesn’t matter if you live in the same unit or a separate unit in the same community as your mom. This question was specifically answered in the Q&A section (question #20) of the Housing for Older Persons. You can find the complete list of questions and answers using this link.

Can My Children Live With Me In A 55+ Community?

In general, your children can live with you in a 55+ community if they are they are 18 years or older. You have to be at least 55, or the community has to count you among the 20% of residents that are allowed to be younger than 55. This way the 55+ community still can qualify for the fair housing act’s exemption for older persons. 

However, most 55+ communities don’t allow under-aged children to live with you in a 55+ community. The only way to make sure if this is possible in your community is to figure out the specific policy of the community regarding underage children. 

Like we discussed at the start of this article, the rules to qualify for the 55 or older housing exemption as a community is very clear. It’s much easier to determine if a family member, your children, or your spouse can live with you in a 55+ community now that you know the basic rules that are set by the US department for housing and urban development. 

However, according to the questions & answers section regarding the fair housing act’s exemption of housing for older adults, communities can deviate from the requirements that are set to qualify for this exemption. The requirements are set as minimum requirements. This means that communities can decide to set stricter requirements for their residents. 

For example, 55+ communities can only accept 100% of the residents to be 55+ or older. Let me explain this. 

The 80/20 rule, as stated in the fair housing act’s exemption for housing for older persons, is a minimum requirement. Meaning that at least 80% of the units must have an occupant of 55+ or older. Communities are allowed to deviate and set stricter rules. For example, that residents must be 60+ or older. It’s not allowed to set less strict rules. If a community has less strict rules, they can’t qualify for the Fair Housing Act’s housing exemption for older persons. 

Can I Have My Grandchildren Stay For Sleepovers?

In most 55+ or senior communities, it is allowed to have sleepovers. So, most of the time, you can get your grandchildren over for a sleepover. However, rules can vary per community. 

A 55+ community can set its own rules regarding sleepovers. Often it is allowed to have someone over for a few nights. Many communities have set regulations for longer periods. Make sure to find out these rules for the specific 55+ community you want to live in. 

Can I Have A Pet In A 55+ Community?

As a general rule, having a pet in a 55+ community must be allowed. Regulations say that tenants must be permitted to own and keep pets in their units. However, a 55+ community can decide to set rules on how to keep household pets. 

The housing and urban development regulations, chapter V, subchapter C community facilities, describe the general requirements regarding household pets. A 55+ community in these regulations is referred to as a Public Housing Agency (PHA). According to these regulations, if a Public Housing Agency (55+ community) decides to set household pet rules, it must be in the best interest of the community and its tenants. I quoted this part from the regulations, “These rules must be reasonable related to providing a decent, safe, and sanitary living environment for existing and prospective tenants.” You can find the complete chapter of these regulations here

Rules For Assistance Pets In 55+ Communities

There are different rules when you have an assistance pet to help you with daily tasks because of a disability. The most significant difference is that public housing agencies (i.e., 55+ communities) cannot set rules or set any policies for pets that are used to help or assist persons with their disabilities. 

You can find the complete subpart of these regulations here. The subpart is titled Exclusion for animals that assist, support, or provide service to persons with disabilities.

55+ communities can set policies for regular pets. For example, it is not allowed to bring your pet into public community rooms. However, the subpart as mentioned above prohibits communities from setting such policies for assistance pets. 

Having a pet as a senior or for the elderly can be very important. Seniors with household pets often experience less feeling of loneliness and have a more active lifestyle. Staying physically active is essential when it comes to healthy aging. Also, the responsibility when taking care of a pet keeps the elderly more active and engaged. Which is related to improve mental (brain) activity. You can learn more about the importance of having a pet for seniors in my article, 11 Essential Reasons Of Why Older People Have Dogs

You are bound to some rules when you want to start living in a 55+ or senior community. Which is logical to keep up the quality of such communities. In the last part of this article, I’ll be focusing more on the benefits of living in 55+ communities.  

What Are The Benefits Of Living In A 55+ Community?

The most common benefits of living in a 55+ community are;

  • Easy access to assistance when needed,
  • Living among persons of the same generation,
  • Organized activities. 

My parents-in-law live in a 55+ community. For them, the feeling of belonging to a community of people from the same generation is very important. 

Many seniors that live in a 55+ or senior community often have a more active lifestyle. When in a general physical condition, most of them can live individually or with their spouse and without daily care. 

Another great benefit of living in a 55+ community is that people look out for each other. For example, my mother-in-law recently got a knee replacement. During her recovery at home, her neighbors helping her and my father-in-law do groceries, cook dinner, and do some household activities. That sense of community feeling is very important for them and for elderly people in general. 

In fact, the oldest people in the world, living in the Blue Zones, have a high sense of community feeling. They all belong to their community and have active roles, even when 100 years or older. Next to a healthy lifestyle and diet, belonging to a community is probably one of the reasons why people in the Blue Zones reach this old age very often. 

You can read more about the benefits of living in a 55+ community in my article, 10 Benefits Of Living In A 55+ Community

Kirsten Veldman

I'm Kirsten. In 2017, my husband Léon, and I decided to retire from the rat race to travel the world and work and live location independently. In the last couple of years, I wrote over 100+ articles about retirement and did extensive research to help people prepare, enjoy and celebrate retirement in the best way possible.

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