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Can You Stay in 55+ RV Parks if You’re Under 55?

Even us road veterans are constantly learning new things. Today, I wanted to share with you something that we were never clear on and had to dig deeper to understand.

I want to be very upfront here… I’m not posting this to make an argument if this is right or wrong, or to start a political debate (and comments as such will be moderated).

This is to clarify how this applies to us RVers under 55.

Even having lived in Florida for much of my pre-nomadic adult life, and surrounded by 55+ and Adult Only neighborhoods – I honestly never quite understood how they got away with what I perceived to be age discrimination.

In the RVing lifestyle, you’ll also encounter RV Parks that are designated as 55+, especially in popular retirement and snowbird areas.

Over the years, the rumor we frequently heard propagated over the interwebs was that while a park could be designated as 55+, that under fair housing laws they still had to allow up to a certain percentage of visitors/residents be under 55.

Which we assumed to mean if we ever needed to stay at such a park due to location or circumstance we’d have no problems. In our 10 years on the road, we have stayed in an occasional 55+ park.

We actually rather enjoy them – we’ve met some amazing fun active people, enjoyed a relaxing atmosphere and love the vibe of living in a community. And gotta admit, an adult-only park would be a nice break after a few weeks of spring break in public parks with young families & youth groups on vacation being our neighbors.

Our last stay at this park in 2013.

Our last stay at this park in 2013. Not our ideal, but at least close to family.

For our upcoming weeklong stay in Spring Hill to visit Chris’ parents, we decided to try Holiday Springs RV Resort first. A location we had stayed at before without question or problem, even though they clearly advertise themselves as a 55+ park.  This park is the closest and most convenient to where his folks winter.

We were shocked when they asked if we were over 55, and were denied for being too young.

The park manager told us that it came down from corporate to no longer allow anyone in under 55. Period. No exceptions.

We questioned them if they had already met their percentage quota, and they said that did indeed have a few living in the park who were younger. But not the full  allowance.

So why were we being denied? This didn’t gel with what we thought we understood.

So we took it to the Xscaper’s group and Google to learn more.


Video Version of this Story:


Just what is it that allows 55+ parks to exist, and what is the rule??

The ‘Housing for Older Persons’ (HOPA) is an official HUD (U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) exemption. It supplements the Fair Housing Act originally designed to protect residents from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap or familial status.

And that exemption specifically applies to the familial status part.

The “Housing for Older Persons” Exemption: The Fair Housing Act specifically exempts some senior housing facilities and communities from liability for familial status discrimination. Exempt senior housing facilities or communities can lawfully refuse to sell or rent dwellings to families with minor children.

From the HUD Article on Housing for Older Persons

 

But, what is the rule for allowing those under 55? Do they have to let us youngsters in too? 

Nope. We were completely wrong about our understanding.

Here’s the qualification that parks have to abide by that applies here:

“At least 80 percent of the units must have at least one occupant who is 55 years of age or older”

There is no rule that says these parks HAVE to allow up to 20% under 55 (which was the urban legend we had understood).

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. These parks MAY allow up to 20% of their residents to be under 55 before they lose their HOPA designation. And many parks do allow younger folks, especially those traveling without kids or folks just staying a few nights.

But if they go over that threshold, they risk losing their federal designation. At the state level, there may be other incentives beyond the designation that they risk losing too. They need to keep the balance, or make hard lined rules to simplify their required age verification reporting.

Which means they most certainly can legally deny a reservation from youngsters like us. It’s completely at their discretion.

Oh well, just one more perk to look forward to in the future.

Ironically, our 1961 vintage bus conversion turns 55 later this year. Next time we get questioned, we’ll have to ask if the bus qualifies as the 55+ occupant in our household! It’s at least worth a laugh. But with our luck, we’d probably run into a strict enforcement an RV age rule and be denied for that. 

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  1. We are having a unique problem. Have lived 8 yrs full time in a WA state rv park that is not 55+. They have overnight spaces and permanent spaces. The overnighters are allowed children and there is a playground. The permanent spaces are not allowed. We just had a baby and now we have been evicted. 30 days to get out. Just wondering if this is legal?

    • Do check to see if there are adult only clauses in the bylaws of the park and how it is registered/organized. They may have something similar to a 80/20 rule, or rules for residents vs. transients. But, we’re not lawyers – so if you’re checking for legality, you may want to consult one.

  2. And I thought they were just being butts all this time thanks for the information now I know they were really being gracious and taking a risk for allowing it at all

  3. You are becoming the “Snopes” of the RV World. Since I used to spend time with Mom and Dad when they were snowbirds in AZ, I’d been somewhat aware of the “55 and over” deal. But you’ve really clearly spelled out where it comes from and that they park owners aren’t “evil” for doing it.

  4. Currently looking for somewhere to park our 33 ft motorhome in the East Valley PHX AZ area and not getting anywhere with the age 55 restriction. I only found one that was in a poor neighborhood and another that was very expensive by the night. We just need to park for about 6 weeks while we relocate. Any thoughts or resources??

  5. My only experience is with mobile home parks. Years ago my parents bought into a 55+ park and my brother was 18. They allowed him because of his age and because he was their son. They said he would not be allowed if under 18. At least that ‘s the story I remember. More recently my daughter in her early 50s wanted to buy into a 55+ park and was allowed. They liked her and said they were allowed a certain amount of people under 55, like you said. She was glad because it was quiet and comforting because she was recently divorced and alone. They also have an RV area but not sure how that works. My guess is that it would be the same. Same people so they probably would work the same.

  6. Hmmmm…that’s interesting. Personally, I prefer being around older folks since I’m single and don’t have kids. When we have older groups rent out the park where I currently workamp, it is usually quieter and more laid back. I wish they had an exception for folks who like to be around other quiet people. I guess it never hurts to dream.

  7. Great Blog! started reading elsewhere (NOT Fbook) regading your “Billings” Incident. Very well written and informative1 I know from personal Exp. that writing when things are not going to plan-or worse, can be quite difficult-Or at best, you find that you simply grind out the minimum, with little regard to going into deeper detail, or come across like “and here’s the bullet points for Monday, 1 through 5. Check in tomorrow; updates will be posted as information dictates”, etc.(!) As if to say; i’ll get back to Actual writing when things are better! So Bravo! I’m sure that your readers are a multiple of those that post, and to that I would encourage any reader to simply say “Hi from Toms River NJ”(my case), in order to let you guys know your audience (regardles if you have a hiiden page count) AND where they are from. Demographics are so multifacited-the tech mind drools for such Info.
    So to all you lurkers, post a “Hi” from where-ever! Cherie & Chris -and kiki- will be eternally grateful;)
    Mike from TR, NJ

  8. I went through this back in the 1980s when I bought a mobile home in a family park in California that the owner then “upgraded” to 55 and over when HOPA was introduced. The issue was a family park had to have certain amenities the park lacked like a fully compliant playground and inside playspace (a clubhouse) so the owner took the easy way out and declared the park to be 55 and over instead of making the improvements.

    Existing families and tenants under 55 were allowed to stay under a grandfathering exemption (ironic, no?). But not being able to sell to anyone not under 55 severely limited the size of the resale market and reduced the value of the homes.

    The tenants sued based on the reduction in values, it took several years of litigation but the 55 and over designation was ultimately reversed.

  9. We are 64 and 65 and still feel like kids in the few 55+ parks where we have stayed! Our experience is that children and grand-children are allowed to visit for a while (but not too long). We find older folks interesting, be we also like having the younger folks around. The more diverse the population the more interesting it is. Senior citizen discounts at Dunkin Donuts too! They also have an AARP program that’s separate, but you gotta show your card.

  10. Now this has me wondering! We are planning on going FT this fall. Hubby and I are both 64, so no problem with the over 55 for us, but we will have our 16 year old son (bio-grson, whom we have raised as ours since he was 1). Will they disallow us because of having a 16 yo with us? Interesting!

  11. Since you guys now have your bikes, you might want to explore some of the great bike trails in Spring Hill and Hernando County: Weeki Wachee Preserve (5.5 miles, mostly packed off-road, also hiking trails), The Suncoast Trail (42 miles, paved), and one of Florida’s best trails, The Withlacoochee Trail (46 miles, rural, paved). Also, if you want to kayak the Weeki Wachee for cheap, put your kayak in at Roger”s Park ($3 or so parking fee), paddle up river, then float back down. To save your arms, time it for the tides. My husband and I are originally from New England and now live in Spring Hill. If you’d like more trail info (where to go, where to park, where to eat, facilities), I can shoot you an email.

    • Thanks.. not sure how much time we’ll have for exploring while we’re in the area – since time will be focused on family. But we are enjoying getting out on the bikes, for sure!

  12. Interesting! We sort of ran into this today…..dh is 55…..and they said he could have adult guests stay with him….Then she told me our 10 yo was an adult….I thought it very odd – you’ve shed light on the whole conversation. I kept saying, “Isn’t that young for an adult?” LOL

  13. We have just had our 80th birthdays and still love vto camp who wants to live around a bunch of old people anyway. No retirement village for us but do understand where you are coming. Enjoy your youth

    • We certainly can understand why some would prefer to live amongst ‘peers’. For us, we’re full timing, and enjoy diversity in our experiences. In this case, we just wanted to be in the closest park to our family to minimize commute time and maximize quality time.

  14. Good to know. We had ran into this a few times while in Florida this past Winter and had also wondered the ins and outs of it. – Funny you had mentioned about the RV age, wait till you come across the parks that deny rigs that are over 10 years old 😮 Crazy, because there are some super amazing refurbished and remodeled RVs out there that are well over that. (Had one for many years that we had redid the whole interior to new standards. Looked like a palace, but was nearly 20 years old at the time.)

    • Oh yes, we generally avoid parks with such rules… even though many of them would likely exempt us for having a ‘classic’. There’ really not much left of our bus that is older than 5 years at this point.

  15. When we first started fulltiming, both of us were under 55. We workamped at a couple 55+ parks in AZ but were allowed because we were working. These parks were also generous on the 20/80 rule. Wondered if the 55+ park participates in a discount program (Good Sams, Passport America, etc), wouldn’t they have to allow the youngsters in because these programs don’t reatrict age, however the park may restrict the number of days you could stay on the discount. DH has since turned 55+, but we are still very aware.

  16. Oh and by the way your coach can live in the 55 community but you can’t live with it

    O That’s the perks of being young

  17. One other interesting note if your mother or your father OR you went to visit someone lives in a 55 community you have to apply for Visitation rights
    And that stay at that residence can be no more than 30 days in a 12 consecutive months
    On the 31st day the HOA can charge that person (s) with trespassing on parks property
    Is another little dirty secret if you own an RV in a 55 Park you can only have three people On that site
    if you own a Doublewide you’re only allowed to have four adults at that site
    I know it sucks doesn’t it

  18. You have to determine if it’s a condo rv style 55 residents you only unit you on the land you follow state (Fl) rules. The following rules apply
    One adult has to be 55 or older unfortunately the youngest one can only be 45 or older
    If you’re an heirs who inherits a unit from a person who is been a qualified resident that person is 45 years old. You can legally occupy it ( but get this your wife has to be 45 or older as well )
    Also there is no law that says you cannot own it but there is a law that you cannot occupy it under statue type of law
    If you own a unit but you do not own the property
    One has to be 55 or older but no less than 45
    If the original owner passes away it can go to the wife the wife passes away then anybody coming in has to be 55
    but that also doesn’t mean that the private 55 age limit RV park can’t Add amendments to age restrictions
    So in short Florida has a very defined rules

  19. Thanks for your interesting article about 55+ RV parks. Enjoying RVing at 73 and 70 with our 4 year-old black lab. She is keeping us young.

  20. A bit off topic here, sorry. I highly encourage you to float down Weeki Wachee river, just north of you. I used to lead kayak tours and have been down that river over a hundred times. We’re out of St. Petersburg and it was our most popular trip. They’ll take care of you at the state park there. Or, give a shout if you want company. I used to be Big D at Big Ds Kayaking.

  21. We are officially over that hill (57), but we still feel like kids in a 55 plus park. :). When you hit 50, don’t forget that you get senior coffee at McDonalds!

    Great research, Cherie!

  22. Really interesting– thanks for the info!

    Have you heard of Sun City and Sun City West in Arizona? They’re whole 55+ cities, and the developer(s) went to court to fight for the right to do it. It’s really interesting.

    I’m on the fence about how fair it all is– If you’re a quiet under-55 person or couple without children, I don’t see the big deal (especially in an RV park where you’re not staying long), but I guess there’s no way to figure out if someone fits that description in a screening process, and that HOPA status probably means a lot for some business models.

    Anyhow! Thanks again. PS: I think your rig should totally qualify you. 😉

  23. enjoy your youth!! forget about stuff like 55+ parks, golden age passes etc untill that day comes…. I guarantee it will arrive sooner than you think!

  24. Great info I did not know about
    Thanks for doing the legwork. Always consider it a great day when I learn something new

  25. Only stayed in a 55+ park a few times in TX with no problem but could have been because my qualifying parents were already there. Now that your bus is eligible be careful in CA where I’ve run into private parks that won’t allow units over a certain age.

    • Oh, there are parks all over that have age rules for RVs. We don’t tend towards private parks anyway, but even so – we’ve been exempted in many times as we tend to be classified as ‘classic’ not ‘old’ with all of the restoration work we’ve done to keep our old gal on the road. Honestly, at this point.. only the frame & chassis parts are over 10 years old 🙂

  26. Ive always wondered if we could stay as well, considering we dont have any kids. Thanks for the clarification!

  27. This past year we’ve been renting in a 55+ HOA in VA. The primary way this appears to NOT be illegal is that there “bargains” involved that are in the public interest. For example, NO ONE under age 19 may live here more than (something like) 60 or 90 days a year. And in return, the county has not built schools or designed bus transportation routes that serve the area. That’s just one aspect, but gives some idea of why a jurisdiction would agree to an age-restricted community.

    • Indeed.. in some areas the parks get tax breaks and other incentives for the services a community doesn’t have to provide based on the there being no kids as residents.

  28. Great article on something I have never fully understood either! Thanks for doing the digging and sharing your findings with all of us. As for the bus…well…55 never looked so good!

    • The official rule for counting towards the 80% is that at least one person in the household needs to be 55+. But as others have reported, they have run into parks the enforce this differently.

  29. This us so helpful for clarifying the rules fir us younger travelers. We’ve stated at two 55+ parks in our 6 years, but never really knew exactly how they functioned. Now we know!

    Nina

    • Crazy after all these years even us road veterans still have things to learn 🙂 I know we sure have appreciated being able to stay in some of these parks over the years (usually to be near family). Now we know to not just assume we can.

    • The official rule for counting towards the 80% is that at least one person in the household needs to be 55+. But as others have reported, they have run into parks the enforce this differently.

  30. Thanks for the info! Also being under 55, not a fan of this rule. We have stayed at one park that was 55+, but only for one night and were told that if we wanted to stay longer than that, we would have to speak with management. We were just passing through so didn’t bother. We are currently staying in a 40+ park, which is kind of different and I like….especially spring break week/s, but first time we have run into something under 55. Maybe with the demographic shift, campgrounds will take note at some point!!

    • Ahh.. you must be at Desert Trails? We eyed that one when we were passing through Arizona and were really intrigued with the concept of a 40+ park (our cup of tea!). How is it? And are they officially designated as 40+ under the HOPA exemption? I’ve only seen that go down as low as 55 even on the HUD site.

      As the demographics continue to shift and more of us working on the road and early retired folks hit the road sans-kiddo – I really think there is room for some adult only parks with lower age limits.

  31. That is too bad. If I were to hazard a guess, I would say that someone, somewhere probably ruined it for everyone. Making too much noise or just not respecting their neighbors.

  32. It is a tricky situation with the 55+ parks here in Florida, I have stayed at a few with my son and I too was not 55+. I loved them, My plus is I will be 55 this year along with your Bus. And BTW, here in Florida we do have RV parks that will not allow Vehicles over a certain age, or even type. Always ask when making the reservation. I learned that one too. Welcome to Florida, would love to see your bus. Is there a charge for a tour?

    • For sure, there are multiple rules one has to watch out for when booking spots – age restriction for yourself and your rig, and rig type. One reason we do love public parks where you just have to be concerned with length and hook-ups.

      Ahh.. the going rate for bus tours seems to be a quarter these days. But we settle for a friendly hug and expectations that the house not be sparkling clean 🙂

  33. Being as I just turned 57 (but still a long haired hippy freak), I guess I don’t have much to worry about 🙂 This was great work on your part. I always assumed the 55 rule was there to keep out people with kids. Thanks for getting this clarified.
    Scott & Jeanne (The McLeods)

  34. WOW–thanks for much Cherie for clarifying!! Many, many years ago I attended a property management school taught by a realtor who had been in the business for years. He was adamant that parks could not designate themselves as 55+ even though I told him there were hundreds of those exact type parks and neighborhoods in Arizona and Florida. Guess he needs to go back to school!

    • It’s possible there are local ordinances that might make it difficult to get the status. I do know we don’t see it all as often outside of Florida, Texas, Arizona and California.

  35. We were in one park in FL that not only was 55 and over, if your spouse is under 45 you couldn’t stay there either. So no taking your young fling camping!

    • Thanks for sharing.. that’s the first we’ve heard of that enforcement. And I wonder how it would hold up since the HOPA exemption only requires one occupant to be 55+ to count towards the 80/20 rule. Interesting for sure, and definitely a struggle for those with big age differences. We know plenty of couples with more than a 10 year age span between them.

  36. Thanks for digging into that… it is good to have the urban legends clarified. Knowing the reasons now, I suppose if I don’t know about anywhere else to stay it would not hurt to ask. I just know now not to be surprised (or angry) if you are declined. I like to take those opportunities to then ask them if they know of any spots nearby that they might recommend. Thanks again you guys!

  37. I am almost 70. I could use a Florida Vacation. If you need a temporary “Cousin” to round out your
    household, I’m in. (just kidding, a little)

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