“Aging in place” refers to the ability of a homeowner to remain living in their own house and community independently as they age rather than moving to a retirement or assisted-living facility. Motivations include comfort, autonomy, safety, and proximity to social connections. The trend is showing no signs of slowing down.
In 2019, about 16.5% of the American population was over the age of 64. By comparison, that number is projected to reach 22% by 2050. This is in stark contrast to 1950 when only 8% of the population was over the age of 64.
With that in mind, condominium, homeowner (HOA) and townhome associations should consider an aging population when evaluating their community policies, including:
- Immobility and/or accessibility
- Mental and general health concerns
- Social isolation and community involvement
- Communication channels
- Financial concerns
- Preventing ageism discrimination
Immobility and Accessibility
Residents are protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the FFHA, an association may not legally refuse to make reasonable accommodations in its rules or policies when such accommodations may be necessary, for example, a disabled owner to fully enjoy and use their home. This could range from installing handrails, having wheelchair ramp access, providing closer parking for disabled residents, and granting waivers to a “no pets” policy to allow for service/emotional support animals.
The immobility of some elderly residents may impact their ability to access common areas. As a result, board members and property managers may need to be mindful of ADA requirement to provide access to association amenities such as clubhouses, fitness centers, and pool areas.
Health and Safety Concerns
Sensitive and difficult subjects can arise as association residents age. Board members and property managers must keep in mind the association’s responsibilities and duties while also respecting owner privacy.
For example, a homeowner impacted by health issues who continues to drive may become a safety risk to others within the community. Additionally, a resident who develops dementia or Alzheimer’s may have difficulty finding their way home, causing them to wander throughout the neighborhood.
A good practice would be to collect contact information for everyone in your community including elderly residents. The information, collected at move in and updated periodically, could prove useful for contacting family members should health or safety concerns or issues arise within your community. Association leaders can also familiarize themselves with local social services including asking the police to perform a welfare check on an elderly owner.
Consulting with the association’s attorney will clarify how rules and regulations can be enforced in these sensitive situations before they become liability risks.
Caregivers and Support Workers
Familiarity with association members can help reduce issues related to care givers or other support workers visiting elderly residents. Accommodations within association’s rules and regulations may need to be made for live-in care or caregiver access. This could include occupancy limitations, parking, or access to units (ex. key cards, access codes).
While it’s important to evolve with the changing desires of new generations of homeowners, the association must accommodate all residents and not exclude members based on their chosen method of communication. This can impact the use of virtual meetings, digital distribution of materials, or establishing an online presence for the association (ex. website, social media).
For example, the Illinois Condominium Property Act (ICPA) states that board members may adopt and amend their rules and regulations to authorize electronic distribution of notices and other communications to unit owners who provide written authorization for electronic delivery. However, the board must continue to provide physical copies to unit owners who do not wish to receive them digitally.
Financial considerations and accommodations may need to be made for elderly residents. For example, a resident may be on a fixed income and unable to afford a large payment for deferred maintenance, emergency repairs, or an unbudgeted association expense.
While board members have a fiduciary duty to administer and maintain property values, they may want to consider creating payment plans for elderly residents with limited budgets. Each community is unique so it’s critical to discuss assessment collection and other financial concerns with the association’s accounting, management, and legal team.
Understanding the demographics of your community association can allow the board to craft policies that can best serve the needs of all its residents. Creating open lines of communication may encourage members, including elderly residents, to discuss their specific needs.
As the “aging in place” trend becomes more commonplace, board members should proactively engage their association’s legal counsel to better understand their rights, obligations, and duties.
Do not hesitate to contact our law firm if your association has questions regarding updates to your governing document, rules, regulations, or other legal concerns.
Please call 855-537-0500 or visit www.ksnlaw.com.
Since 1983, KSN has been a legal resource for condominium, homeowner, and townhome associations. Additionally, we represent clients in real estate transactions, collections, landlord/tenant issues, and property tax appeals. We have four office locations, serving hundreds of clients and thousands of communities throughout Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Our attorneys are also licensed in Arizona, Florida, and Texas.
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