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A Landlord & Tenant’s Guide to Senior Rentals

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As a landlord, it’s important to understand your tenants’ needs at various stages of life. As a tenant, living in a safe and comfortable space can make all the difference as you age. Whether you’re a landlord or tenant, this guide will provide you with resources for what a good senior rental looks like and what you should expect out of one.

Table of Contents:

Types of Senior Housing

Living arrangements at different stages of life vary by person, and seniors are no exception. Different types of housing meet different needs and give tenants the lifestyle they feel comfortable in. 

Typically, the two main types of housing for seniors are active and assisted. Those who don’t need assistance with everyday activities should look for housing conducive to an active lifestyle. If you need assistance with basic activities (going to the bathroom, cooking meals, etc.), assisted living centers may be the right living arrangement as you’ll receive the specialized attention and help you need. In this guide, we’ll focus on active senior housing and the different options available to seniors. 

Active senior housing illustration

Active Senior Housing

Active seniors are those capable of living independently. Many properties allow for this kind of lifestyle, including:

  • Homes for rent: Seniors can find a variety of homes for rent, from ramblers to manufactured. This type of housing is usually found in residential neighborhoods and will give you a variety of neighbors. 
  • Independent living communities: These communities are often apartment buildings or condominiums specifically for seniors with minimum age restrictions of 55+. Some independent living communities have unique amenities like housekeeping or other services that make senior living easier.
  • Retirement communities: Much like independent living communities, you must be a certain age to live in a retirement community. Some also allow you to purchase your home rather than rent. 
  • Senior cohousing: Usually based around a common building, this type of senior housing gives you freedom to socialize with those your age and with similar interests. 

Your lifestyle is one of the key elements in determining the best type of housing for you. If you enjoy being around younger families or those that may be at a different stage of life than you, finding a home or apartment to rent would be the best option. If you enjoy spending time around other seniors that are in a similar situation as you, consider any of the other options discussed above. 

A Landlord’s Guide to Senior Rentals 

Seniors make great tenants. Many are on fixed incomes, making it easy to pay rent on time, while also living a quieter lifestyle (no loud band practice from most of these folks!).

As seniors continue aging, many opt to rent in order to eliminate maintenance responsibilities and live around similarly aged neighbors. And, according to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, in 2018, 55% of households were headed by those 50 and older, so the need for elderly housing is growing. 

Laws to Know

While the Fair Housing Act doesn’t specifically state that it is illegal to discriminate based on age, this is included in the broader term of familial status. It is not lawful for a landlord to impose specific terms or conditions on an elderly person unless those same terms are enforced on every tenant.  

Consider Keeping the Property Pet-friendly

Many seniors enjoy the companionship of a pet and the emotional support they provide. Consider keeping your rental property pet-friendly to entice more seniors to reside there. 

If you go this route, you may want to create pet policies to ensure rental units don’t get damaged, or have a thorough pet screening done before the animal is allowed to live on the property. 

Boost Safety Precautions

Safety is an important consideration for seniors when they’re choosing where to live. There are many things you can do to show you’re prepared to give them a space they feel comfortable and safe in. Consider going the extra mile beyond the typical safety precautions by installing security cameras, gates around the property, or elevators if the property has more than one story. 

Age-in-Place Features

Once a senior has planted roots in a rental unit, the chances of them moving in the near future are slim. Having features that allow seniors to age comfortably will entice more tenants to your property. Use the following checklist to make sure your rental units are age-in-place friendly.

age in place checklist

By reviewing ADA compliance guidelines, you’ll find other things you can do to make your rental property more age-in-place friendly. 

Improve Lighting

Good lighting is an essential safety feature for the elderly. Installing brighter and longer lasting LED lights while also expanding the windows or increasing the number of windows can do a lot to prevent accidents.

Help Senior Tenants with Rent Enforcement

Some tenants, particularly those that rely heavily on Social Security Income (SSI) checks and pensions, may occasionally be late paying their rent. If they ask for more time, hear them out or be accomodating by helping them find additional resources and ways to pay for their housing. 

If a tenant is consistently late paying rent, consider changing the day their rent is due to better align with their benefits. You could also implement a partial payment system where they pay part of the rent 15 days before their rent is due, and the rest of the rent on or before the day it’s due. 

Don’t Be Quick in Evicting Elderly Tenants

Eviction is never a good process for anyone. To avoid this, talk with your tenant to get to the root of whatever the problem is and come up with a solution together. 

Some tenants may just be forgetting to pay their rent and a little reminder would help them get it in on time each month. If a tenant has accidentally damaged something and repairs exceed the amount of their security deposit, talk with them about options for replacing or fixing it. 

If there are deeper, more dangerous issues at hand (forgetfulness to the point of not remembering where they are), contact a close relative and talk to them about this issue. 

Request Contact Information for Nearby Relatives

Having contact information for a nearby relative or friend can make all the difference in case of an emergency. In instances where the tenant lives in a different state than their children or other relatives, having the name and contact information of their preferred hospital or doctor is also helpful. 

Keep in mind that accidents still happen despite safety precautions, and seniors run a higher risk of passing away in your property. Having the tenant’s contact information is a simple way to be prepared if such things occur. 

Landlord getting emergency contacts for a senior tenant illustration

Understand HUD for Seniors

HUD, or Housing and Urban Development, is a cabinet department in the US executive branch. Their mission is to provide financial assistance for agencies that provide housing for low-income residents. 

Landlords and property managers should note that HUD provides interest-free capital advances to finance certain housing projects to support the elderly. There are specific candidates eligible to live in HUD housing. See their website for more information.

A Tenant’s Guide to Senior Rentals 

Feeling safe in your place of residence is only part of the story. There are other considerations and things to look for as you begin your senior housing journey. Where the rental is located, what’s included in the monthly cost, and what amenities are available to you are some specific things to keep in mind. Finding a place that keeps you safe while also fitting your lifestyle and needs will help you age more comfortably and live life more joyfully. 

Location is Still Important

You may have heard it all your life but it doesn’t change now. When looking for a rental property, be aware of its location; proximity to local shopping centers, public transit, or parks are all things to consider. Also, be wary of what types of properties and infrastructures surround the rental unit. Main roads and schools next door may not be conducive to a quiet lifestyle. 

Consider What’s Included in the Monthly Cost

The last thing anyone wants is to receive a bill with a number much higher than anticipated. Make sure to be upfront with the property manager about what is included in the monthly cost and what isn’t. Ask about things like electricity, water, sewage, or amenities found on the property. 

Safety & Amenities

Many senior living centers or apartment complexes offer amenities such as pools, community buildings, or fitness centers. Whether taking a live or virtual tour, don’t be afraid to ask about what safety measures are taken for each amenity and all the different ones available to tenants. 

Likewise, don’t be hesitant to ask about typical safety precautions taken throughout each unit and the complex as a whole, such as smoke alarms and proper lighting. For those renting with a disability, be sure to also know what steps the landlord has taken to make the property ADA compliant. 

Help with Maintenance

When looking for a rental, be sure you know what the process is for maintenance and who is responsible for it. When a lightbulb burns out or the faucet is clogged, who do you call to fix it? If there is no designated maintenance person, find out if other staff members are responsible for this or if you will be. 

It’s better to have someone familiar with maintenance that can help fix things around the unit. You can also negotiate with the property manager to include this in your contract if it’s not already. 

Senior housing maintenance guide illustration

HOA Rules

Homeowners Associations are often found in townhouse and condo complexes. Residents in the community serve as members of the HOA and are responsible for grounds maintenance, community utilities, and the complex’s general finances. 

HOAs generally have monthly fees and specific rules for the community. Be aware of what these rules are before moving in, as you could be fined for breaking them. Some HOAs have more strict policies than others, including how many pets are allowed in each unit or what you can and can’t have outside as decoration. 

HUD Guidelines to Qualify for Senior Housing

HUD is a US department that helps finance housing associations in support of the elderly. These housing units are meant to give seniors a place they can afford to live in. To qualify for such housing, you must have a small income and someone in your household aged 62 years old at the time of occupancy. 

How to Pay for Senior Housing

Many seniors rely on private funds to pay for their living expenses. Some have sold their homes or rented them out and used that income to cover their housing costs. Other funds can come from retirement accounts, investments, disability insurance, taking cash out of your life insurance policy (or converting it), or a supplemental Medicare insurance policy. 

If these aren’t options for you, there are also government funds available to those who qualify. Aside from Social Security benefits, there is also Medicare, Medicaid, HUD’s Section 202 program, and the Veterans Administration. 

What to Look for on Your Tour

Tours of the property are a great time to ask questions and understand what it’s like to live there a little better. If possible, talk with other residents and hear their opinions while also checking for how friendly your future neighbors may be. Do some quick observing — are the grounds and unit well maintained? Does the unit have a pleasant smell? 

With so much to keep in mind when looking for a place to live, it’s easy to forget things. Use the checklist below as a guide when you’re going through rental units and talking with other residents, and fill in the empty boxes with your more specific needs.  

Paying for Senior Housing Resources

As you prepare to move into the next phase of your life, look through this list of resources to help you in the process. 

Additional Tenant Resources

Whether you’re a senior looking for rental housing or a landlord wanting to better understand how to serve your residents, using this guide will help you reach your end goal. Visit our rental application and tenant screening pages to learn how you can find the perfect tenant for your property. 

BY SARAH STINSON

Sarah is the Director of Content and SEO at TurboTenant where she leads a team of experts to provide valuable resources to help landlords and renters. With over 10 years of experience writing in various industries, she has been featured in many top tier publications and is an expert in the real estate tech space as well as the property management industry.

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