Landlording & Rental Properties

4 Ways to Better Accommodate Elderly Tenants in Your Rentals

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Real Estate Investing Basics, Personal Finance, Real Estate News & Commentary, Business Management, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Marketing, Mortgages & Creative Financing
102 Articles Written
Close up details of the folded hands of an elderly man resting on a walking cane in a mobility and health concept

There’s a lot of information online about problems with younger tenants—the generations that are increasingly choosing to rent over buy—but do you know what to do when it comes to elderly tenants? Elderly individuals often choose to rent instead of own because it’s easier, but there are some things that landlords need to know.

Want more articles like this?

Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up for free

4 Ways to Better Accommodate Elderly Tenants in Your Rentals

Renting to elderly tenants can be a great setup for most landlords. These tenants tend to receive consistent income through pensions and/or social security (therefore they rarely miss payments), are less likely to conduct illegal activity on your property, and generally live in the same place for long periods of time. But if you’ve never rented to elderly tenants before, you’ll want to carefully think about a few important issues, including those listed below.

Related: 5 Legitimate Reasons to Allow a Tenant to Break Their Lease

1. Avoid unintentional discrimination.

According to the Federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, you may not purposefully or unintentionally discriminate against people based on age. That means you can’t choose a 25-year-old renter over a 75-year-old renter just because the former applicant appears healthier. Elderly tenants must be given fair consideration when all other factors are equal.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discriminatory marketing and advertising, lying about a unit’s availability, and ending or refusing a lease for age-related reasons. You don’t have to favor elderly tenants in every situation, but you can’t punish them for their age either.

2. Account for disabilities and mobility issues.

Elderly tenants with disabilities—physical or mental—are also a protected class. You can’t ask them about their issues or make decisions based on apparent disabilities.

You’re also required to make reasonable accommodations (at your expense) for tenants who have disabilities. This includes small things like allowing for service pets, installing grip rails in the shower, or building a ramp for wheelchair access. You aren’t, however, required to make structural changes to the property.

One thing you really want to be careful about is avoiding injuries on the premises of your property. By including certain features, you can provide protection against things like slips and falls. For example, including a lift chair in the living room is a nice perk that will give you and the tenant peace of mind. It’s little details like these that matter. And should a legal issue ever arise, you can show that you made every effort to accommodate your tenants.

Related: The Ultimate Comprehensive List of Tenant Red Flags

3. Ensure the property is secure.

Another aspect of keeping tenants safe is making sure the property is secure. In fact, this goes for every property, regardless of tenant age. Some aspects to be cognizant of include outdoor lighting, good door locks, window locks, fire escapes (in multi-story apartments), renters insurance, and more.

4. Make things easy.

Don’t forget to make things a little easier on your elderly tenants. If you typically have tenants drop off rent checks at your office, but know that your tenant doesn’t drive much, come by and pick it up for them. Small gestures like this can go a long way toward keeping tenants happy.

Proceed With Caution

When it all comes down to it, elderly tenants are a protected class and you need to do everything you can to ensure you’re treating them fairly and giving them proper living conditions that help them remain safe and secure.

The tips in this article will get you moving in the right direction. As always, try to gather feedback from tenants at the end of their lease so that you can see what you’re doing well and what needs to be improved.

This will help you improve all tenant relationships in the future.

How do you cater to the older population?

Let’s talk below.

Larry is an independent, full-time writer and consultant. His writing covers a broad range of topics including business, investment and technology. His contributions include
Read more
    Stephen Shelton from Debary, Florida
    Replied about 3 years ago
    One thing that has concerned me a bit is if the heavy hand of government mandates that doors be a minimum width to accommodate wheelchairs because I’d rather not spend thousands expanding doors. In my last house I did choose to widen the master bedroom door so that it will be easier to move bulky furniture in and out without damaging walls, but I’d rather not have some bureaucrat dictate it.
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Ahh Larry, you are a good writer, you are organized, and have good sentence structure. You don’t seem to get landlording very well. Most landlords prefer to rent to the elderly, in fact you are much more likely to get a discrimination claim for renting to an elderly tenant and turning down a younger person with kids, than the other way around. They tend to keep the property up better, less wear and tear, they bother their neighbors less, and manage their money pretty well. I doubt any landlord is going to go buy a lift chair that costs the equal of three months rent as a “perk” however. You can get bad elderly tenants like any other age, but by and large I much prefer elderly tenants I just am not supposed to discriminate in their favor. Who in their right mind would want a 25 year old renter over a retired renter?
    David Krulac from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
    Replied about 3 years ago
    We love senior tenants, some start out that way, some start as much younger and graduate to senior tenants. We’ve had some tenants stay for more than 30 years. We have some first floor units, with no steps and ranch houses with no stairs, that have appeal to lots of people young or old. We built a custom home designed for specific needs of a specific tenant. No lip showers, no cabinets below kitchen sink, wall hung bath sink, extremely low pile carpet, and other features requested by the tenant; all to accommodate a wheelchair. This tenant has been there 17 years and counting. We had another house that we planned to make ADA compliant. We enlarged all doorways, we changed our door knobs for levers, we widened opening between rooms and even built a new 8′ x 18′ bathroom, however could not meet all the massive requirements even with a bathroom that size. No good intention goes unpunished.
    Michelle Moore from Richmond, Indiana
    Replied about 3 years ago
    I have rented to several elderly tenants, thinking that they would be ideal renters, but all have been among my worst. The most recent broke their lease without notice and moved out 3 weeks before Christmas to move into assisted living. I don’t fault them for moving into assisted living, but I do fault them for not giving me any advance notice whatsoever. I could have re-rented it if I knew during November, but they cost me lost rent due to not giving notice. Another 75 year old sued me for nothing, and I found out from the judge after it was thrown out that she does this frequently. She also stole my appliances when she moved out, but good luck garnishing Social Security! I’m sure there must be good elderly tenants out there, but in my experience someone that age who is still renting and is still moving from place to place frequently may be problematic. Most people in my area “settle down” and buy a house by the time they are senior citizens unless they have issues. I will keep trying, but would recommend to others that you do some checking before assuming that the “sweet old lady” will be a great tenant.
    Phillip Dwyer from Henderson, Nevada
    Replied about 3 years ago
    #2 is a little misleading. Tenants can make requests for both reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications. The former typically results in little cost (usually a change in policy or procedure), and the landlord typically would cover the cost of accommodation. The later relates to structural items, and the cost is typically covered by the tenant.
    Adam D. Investor from Castle Rock, Colorado
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Larry, which of these techniques have you used to help keep your elderly tenants? Which one works best from your personal experience?