Protecting Your Rights as a Senior Citizen


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Senior citizens looking at their housing options should first look at their rights and laws involved in accommodating their needs, according to experts. The elderly sometimes stress about their living accommodations either because of increased cost, debt of a mortgage or problems with their landlord. Worries sometimes include accommodating ongoing health or disability issues in their homes. Sometimes, seniors wonder if they will be able to stay in their home in the long term as they age and their health declines. Research shows there are answers to all of these concerns. Once you understand your options, you can make some solid decisions. There are many options available to those in most stages of life, including those with disabilities and veterans looking for help in financing a home or finding a suitable rental. Seniors can also receive financial assistance in many cases, so it is worth researching.

Aging Options in Housing

There are two aspects of senior citizen housing rights. One is federal statutes protecting senior citizens civil rights, federal housing rights and public housing. The other aspect is state laws regarding these issues and those could vary widely from state to state. In New York, for instance, the focus is on landlord/tenant rights, affordable rent and protections against health hazards and a lack of maintenance in housing. In Florida, the Landlord and Tenant Act applies to rental homes, apartments and even mobile homes. Seniors in that state retain all their rights even if the landlord forces them to sign a lease that waives them. Home sellers cannot discriminate against the elderly in a home sale and some retirement communities are required to provide things like handicap accessibility, depending on state and federal laws. The biggest concern of senior citizens housing rights falls into homes, apartments, condos or other dwellings they rent. There are a couple of aspects landlords must consider regarding senior citizens civil rights and housing. They can’t discriminate because of age, race, gender, ethnicity or religion. They must be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provide handicapped access to the dwelling, to public areas and in general. There are also some differences regarding eviction. Seniors are more prone to health problems and mental issues, including dementia, so landlords must be clear in their plan to handle these things when you are considering signing a lease.

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The biggest problem seniors face in renting is age discrimination. Landlords sometimes try to steer away from older Americans in marketing, or may tell the senior a unit isn’t available when it is. Another problem is a landlord may end a lease or refuse to renew a lease out of discrimination. With that, a big problem is when a senior citizen has leased a unit or home for a long time, either as a rent-control unit or under a long-term lease preventing a rent increase. The landlord, out of a motivation to get the elderly tenant to move to rent the unit at a higher price, will create problems or harass the tenant. This is discrimination and is against federal law. For seniors seeking home ownership, there are some programs to help financially. Federal home ownership vouchers help with the expenses of buying a home and paying the mortgage. The US Department of Agriculture rural development program also has grants and loans for those living in rural areas. These are given to homeowners who remove health hazards and make home improvements to accommodate a family member who has a disability. Disabled TenantsLandlords or those selling a home are not allowed to ask about disabilities or even apparent mental issues. Landlords must accommodate tenants with disabilities within reason and can’t charge the tenant for accommodations. Such accommodations include things like grip rails, a ramp, or allowing service animals. Additionally, those with disabilities are eligible for things like rental assistance, public housing programs, Housing Choice (Section 8) voucher programs and other programs available to veterans with disabilities. There are also development vouchers for families caring for a person with disabilities to find affordable rentals in communities limited to elderly adults. Veterans. There is an enormous amount of help available to veterans, but you must know where to look. Some of the ways veterans can obtain proper housing include:

  • VA home loans to buy a home with no down payment and no private mortgage insurance.
  • VA home loan to cash out your home’s equity to pay for home improvements, medical bills, education or other things.
  • VA Interest Rate Reduction Refinance Loan used to refinance your VA loan.
  • Special Adapted Housing Grant to pay for building or modifying a home to accommodate a service-connected or age-related disability. If you are living with a relative, you can qualify for a Temporary Residence Adaption grant to modify their home to suit your needs.
  • Any veteran with a disability can apply for a Home Improvements and Structural Alternations (HISA) grant to make home improvements and structural changes that are medically necessary to accommodate your disability.

There is another option for veterans or military retirees called the Armed Forces Retirement Home. These homes are located in Washington, D. C and Gulfport, Miss. They offer programs as other retirement homes including wellness and recreational programs, assisted living services and skilled care nursing. Senior citizens have a number of housing rights and civil rights that are protected by both federal and state law.

There are also a number of programs aimed at helping the elderly lower their housing costs and help pay for accommodating their special needs. The secret to accessing these resources is research both federal and state law, contacting federal and state agencies, and doing online research. Most forms and information are readily available. Once you know what your rights are as a senior citizen, or a veteran, or as a disabled senior, you can make some decisions that will help you live out your live comfortably without worry or stress about housing. Knowing that you have a home that meets all your needs will go a long way to improving your quality of life.

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