Group Homes Protected Under Fair Housing
Question: We live in McCormick Ranch in Scottsdale next to a group home for eight elderly adults. We want to sell our home. Our real estate agent says that Fair Housing laws prohibit age discrimination, and therefore we are not allowed to disclose this group home to a buyer in the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement. What happens, however, if we are specifically asked who lives next door by the buyer, the buyer’s agent, or even the buyer’s termite inspector? What do we say?
Answer: The state and federal Fair Housing Acts (“Acts”) do not expressly ban discrimination based on age. Nevertheless, disclosure of the group home is probably prohibited under the Acts’ protection on the basis of disability, or a perceived disability. While age alone does not equal disability, the symptoms and conditions of the aging process generally cause elderly individuals to be disabled, especially elderly individuals living in a group home.
Therefore, you as the seller are probably not allowed to disclose to a buyer the existence of this group home. If disclosure is prohibited on the basis of discrimination (race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status) however, you must not lie if you are specifically asked, “who lives next door?” or in your case, “is that a group home next door?” You can only say something such as, “the law does not allow this type of discussion.”
Note: A buyer’s agent could lose their real estate license for this type of disclosure, as it could be viewed as an instance of “steering.” The agent would be basically saying, “this area is for old people, you should look elsewhere.”