For Seniors, Eviction Can Be a Death Sentence—Here’s What You Can Do

This article examines the laws surrounding senior citizen evictions, including protections and resources available to assist in these situations. Seniors can be evicted! Learn what protections exist to help now.
senior man downtrodden by the porch of his home with his suitcase

As Americans, we pride ourselves on taking care of our elders. We want them to be safe, happy, and healthy – and living in their own homes is a big part of that. Sadly, housing is not always guaranteed for seniors, and many find themselves getting kicked out of a home they’ve long loved. Can a landlord evict a senior citizen? That’s a sad situation we’ll be looking at closely in this Senior Assistance Club guide.

Unfortunately, eviction is a situation that’s becoming all too common, as seniors are increasingly being priced out of their homes or forced to move due to changing demographics and housing needs. According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 1 in 4 seniors are cost-burdened by their housing expenses, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs. And for those seniors who are extremely low-income (earning less than 30% of the area median income), that number jumps to 7 in 10.

This scarcity in affordable housing for seniors often leads to evictions, which for a senior citizen can feel like a death sentence.

What Exactly Is Senior Eviction?

Senior eviction is the process of removing a person aged 65 or older from their home, typically by means of legal action. In the United States, senior evictions are governed by state law, so the specific process and procedures will vary depending on where you live. However, there are some general things that are typically required in order for an eviction to take place.

First, the landlord must give the tenant notice that they intend to evict them. The amount of time required for this notice varies from state to state, but it is typically between 30 and 60 days. Once the notice period has expired, the landlord can then file an eviction lawsuit with the court. If the court rules in favor of the landlord, a writ of possession will be issued, which gives the sheriff or constable permission to remove the tenant from the property.

Now many of you may be wondering, can a senior be legally evicted even?

Can a Landlord Evict a Senior Citizen?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes. A landlord has the legal right to evict anybody, and that includes seniors.

As we age, most of us hope to be able to live out our golden years in the comfort and familiarity of our own homes. However, the harsh reality is that many senior citizens face the threat of being evicted and forced to leave behind their familiar surroundings.

senior woman looks hopeless during eviction consultation

While there are some laws in place that protect seniors from being unfairly pushed out, such as programs focused on mortgage assistance for seniors and prohibitions on discrimination based on age, these measures are often not enough to fully safeguard them from eviction. On top of this, there are some dishonest people who take advantage of seniors' vulnerability and attempt to illegally evict them for personal gain.

In fact, according to Alisha Sanders, director of housing policy research at the LeadingAge LTSS Center at UMass Boston, over 100,000 renters over the age of 65 and nearly 450,000 renters between the ages of 55-64 report that they may be facing eviction in the next two months. This is a worrisome trend, as losing one's home can lead to instability and diminished access to crucial resources such as medical care. Additionally, older adults may have trouble finding new housing options due to age discrimination or limited mobility.

It's important to know your rights as a senior renter to help prevent unlawful senior eviction processes from happening.

Eviction Protection for Seniors: Knowing Your Rights

For many seniors, the thought of eviction can feel like a death sentence. The good news is that there are laws and organizations in place to help protect seniors from eviction. We’ve listed down some of these laws, organizations, and programs so that you or your senior-aged parent can rest assured knowing that there are people who care and are willing to help.

The Elderly or Disabled Residents Act Offer Protections for Seniors Facing Eviction

The Elderly or Disabled Residents Act offer protections for seniors facing eviction. This act provides certain rights to senior citizens who are tenants in both private sector and public housing, such as the right to have a reasonable accommodation made for their disability. This means that if a senior citizen is unable to physically move out of their unit due to their disability, the landlord cannot evict them solely for this reason. If you or someone you know is facing eviction and believes that they fall under this category, please contact an attorney to discuss your options further.

Federal Laws Protecting Seniors from Eviction

The first step in understanding your rights as a senior facing eviction is to familiarize yourself with the federal laws that protect you.

The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate against tenants based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. This law applies to all stages of the rental process, from advertising and marketing to pricing and actual evictions. If you have been discriminated against by your landlord or property manager, you may be able to file a claim with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) is a federal law that prohibits landlords from using credit information when making decisions about renting to tenants. This means that landlords cannot refuse to rent to you based on your credit score or history. Landlords can still run credit checks for other purposes (such as determining security deposit amount), but they cannot use credit information as a reason to deny your application or evict you from your home.

Organizations That Can Help

There are also many organizations that offer resources and assistance to seniors who are facing eviction. A few of these organizations are listed below:

  • National Council on Aging. The National Council on Aging provides resources on everything from help for homeless seniors and benefits assistance to senior health and wellness programs. They also offer an Eviction Prevention Toolkit with information on how to avoid eviction and where to go for help if you're already at risk.
  • Senior Legal Hotline. The Senior Legal Hotline is a free service for California residents who are 60 years of age or older. Attorneys answer calls Monday – Friday from 9 am – 5 pm PST and provide brief legal consultations as well as referrals to local legal services providers.
  • Elderly Resources Assistance Center. The Elderly Resources Assistance Center is a program offered by Catholic Charities in New Jersey. They provide case management services and direct financial assistance to low-income seniors who are struggling with their rent or utility bills.
  • Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program. The Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program is offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and provides grants to nonprofit organizations and Consumer Cooperatives (CCs) that offer supportive services to veteran families who are facing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless.
  • Area Agencies on Aging. There are more than 600 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) throughout the United States that provide resources and assistance specifically for older adults (ages 60+). AAAs offer everything from meals-on-wheels programs and transportation services to job training programs and legal assistance. To find the AAA nearest you, simply enter your ZIP code into the locator tool provided by the Administration for Community Living.
elderly man appreciates assistance from organizations that help with eviction prevention

Community Organizations That Help with Eviction Prevention

There are also community organizations that can help seniors with eviction prevention. If you or someone you know is facing eviction and needs assistance, please reach out to your local community organizations to see what resources may be available.

Eviction Defense Collaborative (Detroit)

The Eviction Defense Collaborative in Detroit offers vital support for local residents facing the threat of eviction. Staffed by attorneys, paralegals, and community organizers, EDC Detroit provides education on tenants' rights as well as direct legal representation in court.

Additionally, they conduct organizing and advocacy in order to ultimately achieve systemic change in housing policies. In a city with one of the highest eviction rates in the country, EDC Detroit's services are desperately needed. If you or someone you know is facing eviction, help is available through EDC Detroit. Visit their website or call them at (313) 964-7877 for more information.

Eviction Defense Collaborative (San Francisco)

The Eviction Defense Collaborative (EDC) in San Francisco serves a crucial role in protecting tenants from unjust evictions. Every year, landlords file thousands of eviction notices, often for trivial reasons such as noise complaints or lease violations. These notices can be overwhelming for tenants, leading them to give up without contesting the eviction.

The EDC steps in to provide eviction defense services to low-income and vulnerable tenants, including those who are disabled or facing language barriers. They offer legal representation, support during negotiations with landlords, and community education on renters' rights. Thanks to the EDC, countless individuals and families have been able to stay in their homes and continue contributing to the vibrant San Francisco community.

One Shot Deal Program (New York)

New York City's One Shot Deal program offers one-time financial assistance to individuals facing unexpected financial crises. Created in 1982, the program has helped thousands of families and individuals access lifesaving resources such as shelter, transportation, childcare, and medical care.

To qualify for assistance, individuals must demonstrate a genuine emergency need, lack of financial resources, and residence in New York City. The program also requires recipients to create a plan for addressing the immediate crisis and preventing future emergencies. So far, the program has been highly successful in helping people get back on their feet and prevent future crises!

Legal Aid Society

The Legal Aid Society also provide assistance for tenants facing eviction. They offer free civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers through their network of borough, neighborhood, and court-based offices. Tenants can receive help with a variety of issues related to their housing situation, including eviction prevention. If you or someone you know needs legal assistance, please contact The Legal Aid Society’s hotline at 1-888-NYC-LAWS (1-888-692-5297).

Temporary Financial Assistance Programs for Seniors Facing Eviction

If you are a senior citizen who is facing eviction and need financial assistance to stay in your home, there are temporary financial assistance programs available to help you make ends meet. One such program is the Senior Citizen Homeowners' Exemption (SCHE), which provides property tax relief for low-income senior citizens who own and live in their homes in New York City.

Another program is California's Senior Citizens Property Tax Postponement Program, which offers eligible seniors up to $250 per year in property tax relief if they meet certain income requirements.

How to Prevent Senior Eviction

Facing eviction can be a scary prospect for anyone, but it can be especially daunting for seniors. They may not have the energy or resources to start over, and they may not have family nearby to turn to for help. That’s why it’s important to know your rights and what resources are available if you or a senior you know is at risk of eviction.

1. Know Your Rights

Every state has different laws when it comes to evictions, so it's important to know your rights as a tenant. In some states, for example, landlords are not allowed to evict tenants without just cause. Additionally, if you have a fixed-term lease, your landlord generally can't evict you before the lease expires unless you violate the terms of the lease agreement. Knowing your rights as a tenant will help you in case you find yourself in an eviction situation.

2. Communicate with Your Landlord

If you're struggling to make rent or pay utilities, reach out to your landlord as soon as possible and explain the situation. Many landlords are willing to work with their tenants if they know that there is a financial hardship. Be sure to put any agreements that you come to in writing so that there is no confusion later on.

3. Seek Help from Local Organizations

If you're struggling to make ends meet, reach out to any of the programs or organizations we’ve listed above. You can also check with your state or local government for programs that may be able to assist you with paying rent or utilities. There are also many non-profit organizations that offer financial assistance for those in need. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

Assistance Club Summary

No one should have to face eviction alone – there are people and organizations out there who can help! Just remember: You have rights as a tenant, so don’t be afraid assert them; talk openly and honestly with your landlord about your situation; and seek out help from local organizations if needed. With some knowledge and effort, you can prevent senior eviction.