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Can Children Live in Senior Housing?

Know What to Expect Before Beginning Your Apartment Search

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Grandfather feeding

Some senior housing communities allow children to be occupants.

© Steve Mason / Getty Images

Many people who want to live in a senior community seek a place where children won't be their neighbors. Other seniors, by contrast, want the opposite, particularly if they're the legal guardians of children.

Children may live in senior housing, but only under certain circumstances. So, if you think you qualify for senior housing and it's important to you to find an apartment with -- or without -- children, don't make assumptions.

Instead, review this summary of what you should expect when you start your apartment search:

Children in 62-and-Older Communities

Children can't live in 62-and-older housing under any circumstances. The rules for the 62-and-older senior housing exemption are stringent, requiring every occupant in every apartment to be at least 62 years old. So, by definition, children (and adults through age 61, for that matter) cannot be occupants in such communities.

Children in 55-and-Older Communities

Children may be allowed to live in a 55-and-older apartment community. By qualifying for this exemption, a landlord is legally free to discriminate based on familial status. But landlords aren't required to do so, and a difficult market or other factors may lead a landlord to decide to rent to families with children.

So, if the owner of a 55-and-older community chooses to rent to families with children, here are your general options if your household includes at least one child:

  1. Live in the 80% of apartments that must have at least one occupant who is 55 or older. This should work as long as you or someone else in your household is at least 55 years old.

  2. Live in the 20% of apartments that don't have age restrictions. Note that a landlord may choose to adopt stricter rules than what federal law requires for a 55-and-older community, as long as the rules respect any state and local fair housing laws that protect against age discrimination. (See "Do You Qualify for Senior Housing?" for examples.)

Also be aware that a landlord who chooses to rent to families with children in a 55-and-older community may still legally discriminate based on familial status when it comes to the terms and conditions of the rental. As long as a landlord's actions don't violate other laws, a landlord may treat households with children differently, such as by restricting them from benefits of the apartment community. (A landlord may not, however, take action that would discriminate against prospects and tenants on the basis of other protected classes, such as race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or disability.)

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