Yesterday was a big day. I turned 50. It’s a time to not only reminisce about the past, but also a time to think about the future, and retirement and whether or not a “retirement community” or  “55 and over” community is in the future.

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. If your condominium or HOA governing documents prevent children from living in the community, but you are not a “55 and over” community, the restrictions against children are unenforceable.

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. Simply registering as a 55 and over community is not enough to qualify as a 55 and over community.

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.

For those of you who live in a 55 and over community, how do you like it? Do you miss the noise of kids playing in the street or in the hall? Has a 55 and over community improved your social life? Was it the right move for you? Are there some blog readers that would prefer to live with the noise generated by children?

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