Ageism is prejudice or discrimination against individuals or groups based on age. As should be plain to most of us, despite our best efforts, we have no control over our age, so discriminating against someone based on their age is unacceptable. Well, that is not the whole story regarding condominiums in Alberta, so let’s unpack the key thoughts regarding age restrictions in condominiums and what changes are still ahead.
Human Rights Legislation
The Alberta Human Rights Act defines a set of protected grounds against discrimination and prejudice in Alberta. All the usual suspects include race, religion, gender, ancestry, etc., but age is right in there with the rest. Unlike the others, though, age discrimination comes with exceptions. Exceptions of human rights? You wouldn’t expect an 8-year-old to be protected by legislation for purchasing alcohol or tobacco products or other things that would be detrimental to their growth and development, so the Act defines age as 18 years or older. This means those under 18 are still protected from all other discrimination on protected grounds except age, so we can freely discrimate against minors from joining the military or voting. Additionally, the Act allows benefits for both minors and seniors, such as discount bus fare or specially priced menu options, which would be a form of discrimination if not for the exception. But that isn’t the only exception to age protections under the Act.
Age Restricted Condominiums
For years the age-restricted condo market was governed simply by the residents making the bylaws. In my career, I have seen 18+, 40+, 50+, and 60+ age-restricted condos, and I am sure many reading this article have seen other variations over the years. In theory, this could be seen as a form of discrimination, but the residents knew the deal before they purchased or signed an agreement to lease. Life happens, though, as we all know, and cases where a 20-something couple, for example, buys a condo in an 18+ building but learns a few years later that the stork is delivering a bundle of joy, find themselves between a rock and a hard place. So several years ago, the Alberta government did two specific things: first, they defined what a senior means, specifically a person 55 years or older, and second, they determined that the only acceptable age restriction is for the senior group.
With the legislative change effective January 1, 2018, if a condominium corporation wishes to restrict ownership in the complex by age, their only choice is to use an age restriction that is 55 or higher, and everyone else is prohibited from claiming age discrimination since this is a legislated exception. If a unit is designed or reserved for more than one occupant, at least one must be 55 or older to occupy the unit. Additionally, the regulations make clear that the exception is not designed to cause undue restriction in cases where an older (over 55) occupant dies, and a younger (under 55) spouse or co-habitant is left residing in the unit; this younger individual can stay. Also, live-in caregivers under 55 are permitted, or in situations where an unexpected life event requires an over-55 occupant to care for a minor or an interdependent adult. This age restriction is permitted in tenancy situations where rental accommodations are described as “seniors-only” housing.
Existing Age-Restricted Condominiums
When the legislative changes took effect on January 1, 2018, there were plenty of 18+ condominiums and other variations, as mentioned above. So are all those people under an eviction order like the sword of Damocles? Of course not, but the government did provide a 15-year transition period for existing restricted condominium corporations to be complete as of January 1, 2033. During the transition period, the condominiums would need to either remove the age restriction altogether or move it up to 55+ or some higher age if they so chose, regardless if the units are owned or rented. When the condominium corporation decides to make the restriction 55+ during the transition period, existing residents may stay even if they do not meet the restriction.
There are a few things to note when considering the purchase of an age-restricted condominium. First and most importantly, a 55+ age restriction limits your resale buyer pool to individuals 55 or older. Because of this narrowed ability to market the property, selling an age-restricted condominium unit can take longer than its all-ages condominium unit competitor, and depending on the seller’s motivation to sell an age-restricted unit could cause it to fetch a lower price than unrestricted units. This is not a universal truth, and some age-restricted units in specific locations are in very high demand, so advice from a REALTOR® in the area is a must. Secondly, the lending environment differs slightly for 55+ units because CMHC does not typically insure 55+ condominiums. The other two high-ratio insurers will consider age-restricted units on a case-by-case basis. For this reason, if you are purchasing a 55+ condominium unit, you should seek advice from a licensed mortgage broker early to know your options.
As with any property purchase, the buyer is interested in the property and the lifestyle it will provide. This is only true in age-restricted condominiums, which promote mature adults living in a community with others in the same life stage and provide many services, amenities, and activities they love to enjoy together.
Provincial Practice Advisor
Bryan has many years of experience in the real estate industry including over 10 years as a former broker in the Edmonton Region.
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