Prepare Now for Aging HOA Owners
In this week’s tip, we discuss your homeowner association’s responsibility to respond to the needs of aging owners.
First, do you have an obligation to aid aging owners? “Absolutely,” says Elizabeth White, a shareholder and head of the community associations practice at the law firm of LeClairRyan in Williamsburg, Va., who recently spoke at an industry event on the issue. “We’re starting to experience the issues related to an aging population. Baby boomers are turning 65 at enormous rate—as of Jan. 1, 2011, 10,000 people in this country are turning 65 every day.”
“Most people want to age in place now,” adds White. “If you asked people, 98 percent of those surveyed will say they want to age in their own home. Knowing that creates a whole new reality. In the not–too–distant past, you had continuing–care retirement communities and over–55 communities. But statistics show interest in those communities is waning partly because of the expense and the desire to age in place.”
How will owners’ aging affect HOAs? First, legal challenges will increase. “Some issues might relate to needing more accommodations,” explains Kristen L. Rosenbeck, a partner at the Mulcahy Law Firm PC in Phoenix, which represents associations. “Owners may have disabilities arise as they age, so they may need more handicapped accommodations. Those would fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act and whether the HOA’s responses constitute reasonable accommodations. [HOA] boards will need to review requests and take concerns very seriously. Violations could create stiff penalties and very nasty litigation.”
In addition to legal issues, HOAs will face practical issues. “We’ll have issues of board governance with aging board members dealing with early–stage dementia or Alzheimer’s,” says White. “They’re also stressing existing HOAs, which are being faced with complaints like, ‘There’s a terrible smell of urine coming out of so–and–so’s condo unit and nobody’s seen her in several weeks. What do we do?'”
That question triggers privacy issues that HOAs will also increasingly face. To learn about those issues—and hear of a real–life example of an HOA aging challenge—see our new article, Homeowner Associations and Aging Owners: What HOA Boards Should Know.