How Do You Designate a Development As a Senior Living Community for People Over 55?

To qualify as a "55-or-older" community, a development must meet criteria established by the Housing for Older Persons Act, including the requirement that at least 80 percent of the units are occupied by at least one person over the age of 55. The community must publish and adhere to policies and guidelines consistent with it being an over-55 community and comply with regulatory policies regarding age verification, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Acceptable forms of age verification include a birth certificate, driver's license, passport, immigration card or military identification, says Nolo. Other types of documentation, such as affidavits from other adults who are in a position to verify a person's age, are sometimes allowed as well, states the Manufactured Housing Institute's National Community Council. HUD requires each community to conduct a census of its residents at least every two years.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, gender, disability, nationality, religion or age, and specifically prohibits discrimination against families with children under the age of 18 and women who are pregnant, notes HUD. However, in 1995, the federal government enacted the Housing for Older Persons Act, which protects designated senior communities from liability under the family-status protections of the FHA. These communities are legally permitted to exclude families with children or anyone under the age of 55 if they choose. They may also rent up to 20 percent of their units to younger individuals or those with minor children as long as the community's advertising and policies demonstrate its intent is to function as an over-55 community, explains the National Community Council.