Although many might think the average renter is a college student or someone knocking on their thirties, the reality is that all sorts of age groups and demographics are renting in America today. In fact, the percentage of total renters that fall into the older demographic is increasing – in 2016, renting Americans aged 55 and older increased from 24.4 to 27 percent. As a landlord, here is what you need to know to both protect yourself when renting to elderly tenants and better serve your renters.
Be aware of all anti-discrimination laws.
Older renters have numerous protections when it comes to housing laws, dating back to the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Being aware of what protections they have is essential in making sure you won’t accidentally trigger a lawsuit by infringing on their rights. You are, for example, when renting to elderly tenants (and all tenants for that matter), you are not able to ask any prospective renters about disabilities or special needs they might have. There are both federal and state laws pertaining to discrimination based on age, so to ensure you’re aware of what applies to your situation, consulting a local landlord’s association is your best bet. As we’ve said before here at Innago, local is always better.
Do things old school.
Things that younger generations take for granted, such as texting or cash-sending apps, don’t come so naturally to some of our older generations. A house of millennials might be able to pay the rent with a couple swipes of the thumb on their phone, but their parents might still prefer more traditional ways of getting the rent in on time. Be willing to bend your usual landlording practices in order to make sure you and your tenants are always on the same page. But don’t be surprised if even your elderly tenants are interested in the ease of paying online or in the convenience automated debits.
Make the property as livable as possible for disabled tenants.
You won’t be surprised to hear that disabilities are more common for elderly people. According to the US Census Bureau, disability is twice as common for people aged 65 and older. For landlords renting to elderly tenants, this matters. Per the Fair Housing Act, a landlord is required to make reasonable modifications to a property at the request of a disabled tenant. Laws for this also vary by state, as well as how many units you own, but the statute for reasonable modifications is federal, which means it applies everywhere. A couple of examples for what this law requires of landlords ranges from making a door wheelchair-accessible and installing grab bars in a bathroom. The landlord is legally required to pay for both modifications, so don’t think you’re not obligated to make changes on your own dime when renting out to the disabled.
Tread carefully when considering eviction.
The elderly have many legal protections to safeguard them from unfair treatment and discrimination, and there are some that relate to evictions. Just as you’re not allowed to deny a lease to someone due to their age, neither are you allowed to evict someone for the same reason. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re thinking about evicting an elderly tenant, consult with an attorney and landlord’s association first. Otherwise you could find yourself on the bad end of a lawsuit.
Older tenants can be a great asset to a landlord: they can be more mature, more experienced as a renter, and a quieter member of the community. But when renting to elderly tenants, it’s crucial to keep a few things in mind to prevent any sticky legal situations. Be aware, do your research, and you’ll have an easy time renting.
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