Housing for Older Persons Act
HOPA stands for Housing for Older Persons Act. This act, passed in 1995, allows senior communities to discriminate based on familial status. The Fair Housing Act prevents discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, and familial status in real estate transactions. A housing community is defined as a building or group of dwellings that are governed by a common set of rules and regulations. This includes homeowners associations, condominiums, co-ops, municipally zoned areas, mobile home parks, and manufactured housing communities.
The 80/20 Rule
In order to qualify for HOPA, at least 80% of households in the community must be occupied by one resident that is over the age of 55. Some 55 and over communities require 100% of the dwellings to be occupied by a resident over the age of 55, while others only adhere to the 80% minimum requirement. This distinction becomes crucial when a resident over the age of 55 passes away and the surviving spouse or heir is under 55. HOPA does not provide any protection to the remaining inhabitant, so they could be forced to sell the property if the community requires 100% of residents to be of age or if the quota for under-age households is full.
Children & 55+ Communities
Under HOPA, 55 and over communities can prohibit families with minor children from owning or renting a dwelling in the community. However, not all 55 and over communities prohibit minors from becoming inhabitants. If the association does permit minors in the governing documents, they can put special rules and regulations in place for families with children. For example, they may impose a rule stating that children will not have access to certain common amenities. The rules put in place explicitly for families with children can’t violate any state or local laws. Communities may discriminate based on familial status, but there are no exemptions for discrimination based on other protected classes.