Reviewed May 2016
Have you checked your MLS listings lately for fair housing problems? Do you have statements in your listings that say something like, “55 & over to own” or “18 & over to occupy”? You say, “What’s wrong with these if they are true?”
Here’s what’s wrong. Standard of Practice 10-1 states, “. . .
REALTORS® shall not print, display, or circulate any statement or advertisement with respect to the selling or renting of a property that indicates a preference, limitations, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.”
That sentence is very close to statements in both federal and Arizona fair housing rules regarding advertising. And, in case you didn’t know or you forgot, MLS listings are a form of advertising.
’55 & over to own’
The exemption in the law which allows qualified communities to discriminate against families with children allows them to prohibit only occupancy, not ownership. Read on for more information about the exemptions.
’18 & over to occupy’
In order to legally discriminate against families with children in Arizona, a community must have either 100 percent occupancy over 62 years of age or
– must have at least one person over 55 in 80 percent of the homes, and
– must hold themselves out as a 55-or-over community in their CC&Rs and public statements.
Meaning of ‘senior adult’
Even if the community meets those requirements, the phrase “18 & over to occupy” indicates that the community is not holding itself out as a “senior adult community” in its public statements. And if the community allows occupancy between 18 and 55 years of age, which they can do for 20 percent of the occupants, they must still “hold themselves out” as being housing for older persons, which is 55 and over, not 18, nor 35, nor 40.
Many senior adult communities require 100 percent 55-and-over occupancy, which helps clear up any confusion. But, for those who don’t, such representations in your listing could jeopardize their exemption, if they have one, or could lead to a violation of the law for you and the community.
– There are communities in Arizona which discriminate against families with children on a regular basis yet do not meet these requirements. REALTORS® put themselves in serious jeopardy by allowing, and sometimes assisting, these communities to illegally discriminate. And REALTORS® should ask owners questions about whether their community qualifies for the exemption before they tell others otherwise.
– Don’t ever get caught in attempting to prevent someone under 55 to purchase a home in a qualified senior adult community. Make sure they know about the legal prohibitions for occupancy, but don’t prevent them from seeing or purchasing such property if they do so knowingly.
– Know what the REALTOR® Code of Ethics and the law say about fair housing ads and learn about the properties you list before you write things that could get you in trouble.
See additional articles on the familial status exemption to the fair housing laws so you’ll be following the law, giving yourself more opportunities to sell, and not limiting families with children from buying the home of their choice.