55 AND OVER COMMUNITIES – A PRIMER

I remember as a kid when Century Village was being built and Red Buttons was all over the TV in New York telling everyone why they need to retire to one of the fine “adult only” communities that are being built in South Florida.  Dare I say it, but in a couple of more birthdays, I’m eligible to move in.

So, what actually is a ’55 and over” community?  Generally speaking, state and federal law prohibit an association from discriminating against families with children.  This simply means that a community cannot say that children are not allowed to live here.  The exception to the rule is when the community provides “housing for older persons” and is a 55 and over community.

In a 55 and over community, the declaration of condominium or declaration of covenants must specifically state that at least one person age 55 or older must live in the unit or home.  Moreover, in order to qualify as a 55 and over community, at least 80% of the units or homes must be occupied by one person age 55 or older.  There is often times confusion about this 80% number.  In sum, the 80% number is simply a threshold that must be maintained in order to be classified as a 55 and over community.  It does not mean that if the community already has 95% of the units being occupied by someone 55 and older, the association must now allow a unit to be occupied by someone who is not age 55 or older.

Associations must also register with the Florida Commission on Human Relations by sending a letter to the Commission to register as a facility for older persons. The letter must be on the letterhead of the facility or community, and it must be signed by the president of the facility or community and mailed to the Commission.  A fee of $20.00 is required.

 

Additionally, ownership of the units are not a concern.  The unit can be owned by anyone and their age is irrelevant.  An 18 year old can own the unit.  The critical issue in a  55 and over community is occupancy, not ownership.

One serious problem that 55 and over communities face is that they can lose their exemption to preclude children, if at least once every two years the association is not taking reliable surveys to ensure that the units are occupied by at least one person age 55 or older.  When taking these surveys, the association can ask for copies of birth certificates, driver’s licenses, passports or other identification from which the age of the occupant can be determined.

As we all know, the baby boomer generation has already started making their way south.  I think that we will continue to see these communities being built to accommodate the massive influx of expected retirees.   It’s not a place for everyone however, as some people don’t mind hearing the cry of a baby, kids playing ball in the street or some kid playing the drums in their apartment.  Although, I’m guessing that my neighbors from Brooklyn wished many a time that I had never bought that damm set of drums.  Man, what I must have put them through as a kid.

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