If you own rental properties or you are a real estate manager targeting the elderly, you need to be careful when it comes to furnishing or managing senior housing. For the elderly renters the requirements may be complex.
Research from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies indicates that there has been a major increase in the number of renters in the US over the past decade. Among the renters, those in their 50s and 60s make up the largest portion of the increase. As more older adults downsize and move from their large family homes, they choose to be renters for the rest of their lives. However, there are some critical factors that they consider before deciding on the apartment to rent. Here are some special considerations that landlords need to keep in mind when renting out senior citizen apartments.
1. Federal Law on Discriminating Prospective Tenants
Landlords and tenants might not be aware, but certain laws do apply when renting to seniors. Federal law and anti-discrimination laws, in particular, warns against discriminating tenants based on age, disability, familial status, religion, ethnicity, and race. Therefore, once you let the tenant in, you will not be able to evict the tenant as a result of discrimination. Also, it is unlawful to deny a housing application to a tenant based on age or certain disabilities, or any other protected class. For this reason, be ready to accept elderly tenants irrespective of their age or physical abilities. You also need to remember to treat all your tenants equally, and not have special requirements or conditions for residents based on age or another protected class.
2. Consider Keeping the Apartment Pet-Friendly
Older adults love keeping pets in their apartment for companionship, as pets provide emotional comfort to the elderly and make them less lonely. Instead of not allowing pets in your apartments, you can agree on certain rules with the elderly tenants when it comes to their pets, or the type of pets you are willing allow. This includes keeping the pets clean and quiet to ensure they don’t disturb the other tenants. You may want to only allow cats, or cats and only small dogs to make sure the flooring in the apartment doesn’t get damaged. You may want to require carpets if the elderly tenant chooses to keep pets.
3. Ask Your Tenants to Provide Contacts for Family Members Living Nearby
Another important factor that landlords need to put into consideration is having an emergency contact. This is a number of the tenant’s close relatives and maybe friends living nearby. This is so that in case the elderly tenants are facing an emergency, you will be able to find a reliable person to assist them. Some elderly tenants might choose to live in different states from where their family members can be found. In such cases, make sure you have address details for their family members too. Alternatively, you can take the contacts of a personal doctor or the preferred hospital so that you can contact them in case of an emergency.
4. Make Sure You Boost Safety Measures
Rental properties for the elderly should meet property safety requirements. This helps to ensure the safety of the elderly tenants. This includes working stair lifts, accessibility ramps, handrails on staircases, security cameras and panic buttons, strong locks, and possibly safes. Safety is an important factor that elderly tenants consider before they rent an apartment. Therefore, these features will be enough to attract older tenants in your apartments. Make sure that floors aren’t slippery and that there are no loosely hanging fittings that might hurt the elderly tenants.
5. Help Elderly Tenants Through Rent Enforcement
Elderly tenants, especially those relying purely on SSI checks and a small pension, may be late on payments. When this happens, evicting them may be problematic, especially if you are in one of the pro-tenant states such as New York. Instead, you can help them to find new housing where the rent is much more affordable – this way they will move out quicker and you will be able to find someone who can stay current on their rent so that you can maximize your rental property earnings. When they request you for more time, hear them out and put it in writing. You might also help them to apply for aid from charitable organizations. However, be aware that most charitable organizations are reluctant when it comes to helping tenants who are 30 days behind on their rent.
Hire a reliable property manager who can help you in collecting the pending payments. Property managers are much more experienced with renting to the elderly tenants and are used to the challenges that come along with it.
6. Ensure the Apartment is Located at a Convenient Location
According to Senior Living Help, senior citizens normally choose to live in an apartment that is located in a convenient location where the seniors can find access to all necessities. Think about the places they like to go on a regular basis like the gym, grocery stores and convenience store as well as the places they may need in case of an emergency, such as medical facilities or a pharmacy. It is important that before you decide to purchase a rental property, you keep in mind ease of accessibility to these places and amenities.
7. Is the Environment Conducive for Senior Living?
It is important to ensure that seniors will like their neighborhood. Normally, older adults want a place where they can enjoy quiet nights, where they enjoy privacy away from noisy neighbors and where the landlord is good at fixing any problems with the building or apartment. Make sure that their apartments aren’t surrounded by noisy neighbors, that you are available to fix any issues they might be having and that the environment provides the needed privacy.
8. Don’t be Quick to Evict the Elderly Tenants
If you are renting apartments to elderly tenants, there is no doubt that at some point you might want to make a tough judgment of eviction. In some instances, you might want to evict the elderly tenants because you have no other choice. However, don’t be hasty with this decision. There might be more to the story than meets the eyes. Understand what your elderly tenant’s problem might be and treat it with compassion and an open mind. In case of late payments, they might be forgetful simply because of old age. In case it is damage to your property, request for replacement of the broken part out of their pocket.
If you are a landlord providing housing for the elderly tenants, always keep the 8 factors above in mind when renting your properties to senior citizens.