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55-plus law has unintended effects

Question: I am renting an apartment in a cooperative that qualifies for an exemption under the 55-plus rule. I am 53, and my five-year lease runs out next month. I planned on buying an apartment in the same building but have been told I can't buy an apartment because I am under 55.

What kind of crazy law is this that discriminates against people under 55? _ E. H.

Answer: The 1988 Amendments to the Fair Housing Act, adopted by Congress with the intent of prohibiting discrimination against families with young children, has caused widespread discrimination against persons under 55.

Condominiums may qualify for an exemption, and thus exclude families with young children if at least 90 percent of the units are occupied by at least one person under 55 years of age and if it has significant facilities to meet the physical and social needs of older persons.

As a result, many condominiums have amended their documents to provide that new owners must be 55, and they have thus declared themselves off limits to persons under 55.

Many believe that the treatment is worse than the disease and that the law should be changed.

Coming law changes

Question: I have two questions concerning the new condo laws that go into effect on Jan. 1, 1992.

May directors vote by proxy or by secret ballot?

What penalties are provided when a unit owner is denied access to the official records of the association? _ L. K.

Answer: As of Jan. 1, 1992, Section 718.111 of the Condominium Act is amended to read that directors may not vote by proxy or by secret ballot.

That law also states that an owner who is denied access to the official records of the condominium association is entitled to recover from the association three times his or her actual damage or a minimum of $500.

Harry Wood, a retired lawyer, now is a consultant on condominium management. Address questions to: Harry Wood, Condominiums, c/o the St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33731. The Florida Department of Business Regulation, Bureau of Condominiums, also handles questions concerning condominium rules and regulations. Phone (904) 488-0725.