Fair Housing, Caregivers and 55 & Older Status

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A community manager of a 55+ community recently called with a dilemma shared by many other owners. She had two residents, both in their late 80's, who were in failing health.

For several years, the husband had been taking care of the wife after her stroke. Within the last month, the husband had had a heart attack, and was no longer able to care for his wife alone.

Throughout this recent period of decline, their only child, a daughter in her late 40's, had been caring for them. The daughter had retired within the past year, so she was in a perfect position to care for her parents.

Now, the community manager learned that the daughter had moved into the spare bedroom, preparing for her father's return home from the hospital. Not only had the daughter moved into the spare room, she had sold her home, put her furniture up for auction, and was literally moving into her parents' home with no thought of moving back out. The mother reportedly had just been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer and been given less than six months to live. The father's prognosis was grim, although he was coming home. As an only child, the daughter would obviously inherit the home upon their passing.

It appeared to be a situation that would resolve itself within a few years when the daughter reached the minimum secondary age of 50, as stated in the Community Guidelines, however the manager feared losing her exemption status granted under federal law for a 55+ community. And, also contained in the Community Guidelines was a restriction on the length of time a person could have a guest visit them.

Another issue was that their company policy required proof of ownership of the home. If the legal affairs of the parents were not in order, or if there were another sibling not known to management, this might also present a future problem.

And, with all the health and emotional issues going on, the manager didn'twant to bother the family unnecessarily with details that would just burden them.

What to do? First, remember that as a "caregiver" there is no age requirement or limitation that applies. Simply changing the status of the daughter from "guest" to "caregiver" eliminates part of the problem. Then, the age limitation also becomes no problem as long as at least one of the parents is still living and the daughter continues as a caregiver, because they are not subject to agent restrictions, either. And, with at least one of the parents alive, the household still qualifies as one of the required 80% households with at least one person 55 years of age or older.

Then, we are down to ownership of the home, future problems with the legalities of ownership should there be another sibling, and the timing for discussion with the family. Do not wait to have this discussion. Yes, the family is extremely busy, but it doesn'tsound as if it will ease up any time soon. Yes, they probably have their legal affairs in order, but as long as it is handled tactfully, a visit doesn'thave to be an intrusion.

Start the visit by offering your help and asking what you can do. Then proceed into the legalities of home ownership, etc. And, remember, you do have the ability to allow 20% of your households to be occupied by a resident under 55 years of age.

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