Washington Report: Fair Housing Law Exemption Clarified

January 1, 1996

If you're involved in selling multifamily properties or condominiums for older people, you're about to get relief from potential liability. Congress was expected to approve and send to President Clinton in the last days of 1995 or early in 1996 the Housing for Older Persons Act of 1995, which includes a key liability exemption for real estate practitioners.

Under the legislation, real estate practitioners who, in good faith, market a property as meeting the 55-and-over exemption of the federal Fair Housing Law will not be liable for monetary damages if the property is later determined not to quality for the older person's exemption, NAR analysts said. Housing that meets the 55-and-older exemption may legally exclude families with children.

In addition, the legislation--strongly supported by NAR--amends the Fair Housing Law to remove a provision requiring that a property for persons 55 or older have "significant facilities and services" for its older tenants in order to qualify for the Fair Housing Law exemption, NAR analysts said. The Fair Housing Law never adequately defined "significant facilities and services," the analysts said, making the provision troublesome.

To qualify for the Fair Housing Law exemption, a property for older persons would still need to have at least 80 percent of its units occupied by people 55 or older, and the property's owner would need to publish and adhere to policies and procedures that demonstrate the intent to provide housing to older persons, NAR analysts said.

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