Finding an apartment is a strenuous task on its own, but if you require a handicap-accessible apartment, the hunt becomes even tougher. You’ll have to pay special attention to many features, such as the layout, price, and how compliant the apartment is with your needs. Renters with disabilities don’t have it easy during their apartment searches, but that doesn’t mean finding your dream apartment is off the table. This simple guide explains everything you need to know about handicap apartments, how to find them, and your rights as a disabled renter.
Preparing for handicap apartments search: Things you need to know
Apartment hunting requires a lot of planning, and how well you plan can go a long way in making things easier. There are many things you need to know before you start your search for handicap accessible apartments and we’ll help you learn what they are.
Know your rights
First of all, have a good understanding of your rights as a disabled renter. This will not only let you know what and what not to do, but it will also help you during negotiations with potential landlords.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) which was passed in 1968 prevents discrimination of renters by landlords based on many factors, one of which includes disabilities. A 1991 amendment of this Act has also emphasized the importance of handicap accessible features in apartments.
Popular reference material for the rights of disabled people, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990 also clamors for the protection of people with disabilities. It doesn’t cover residential housing like the first Act does, but it’s still just as important.
These documents contain laws that can you get handicap accessible apartments without discrimination. Some of your rights as a renter with disabilities include:
- You have the right to ask for necessary modifications to your apartment.
- Your landlord has no right to ask what disability you have or other discriminatory questions. If they request proof of disability you have the right to hold back certain personal information.
- A landlord has no right to deny your service animal, but you’ll have to bear the costs for any damage caused by the animal.
- You can protect your rights as a disabled renter by talking to a civil rights attorney.
Carry out adequate research
Handicap-accessible apartments come in different forms. So, depending on your needs, you have to decide the kind of accessible apartment you desire. For example, if you need a wheelchair-accessible apartment, you’ll most likely be searching for apartments with ramps.
In the same vein, you need to get familiar with the location of the apartment. Apart from having a handicap-accessible apartment, how suitable is the nearby environment as regards to your needs? Taking all these factors into consideration will make your apartment hunting smoother.
Have your proof of income + important documents
No matter how many Disability Acts are passed, some landlords may still be tempted to discriminate against people with disabilities. Because of this, you want to make sure you prove that you’re a viable tenant by keeping proof of your income (e.g a pay stub) or any aid you are getting from the government.
Also, prepare your documents and make sure you have everything available that you need to secure your apartment. This will help you speed up the process.
Beginning your search: Things you should do
Now that you’ve got everything in order, it’s time to begin your search properly. Here are some things you should do as you begin your search for handicap-accessible apartments.
Employ the aid of organizations to help provide assistance
You’re not alone in your search for handicap accessible apartments, as multiple federal and nonprofit programs will help assist. Their aid can go a long way in offsetting costs associated with your apartment. Some of them include:
- Volunteers of America: This is a nonprofit organization created over 125 years ago that provides quality and affordable housing for many people across the country. This includes people with disabilities.
- Habitat for Humanity: This is a Christian nonprofit organization that provides housing for people with disabilities.
- United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs: These programs help to provide several housing vouchers that assist people with disabilities to find houses.
- Accessible Space: Accessible Space offers accessible and affordable housing with care for persons with physical disabilities and brain injuries, as well as seniors and veterans.
- Mercy Housing: This nonprofit organization creates, maintains, and provides affordable housing for people with disabilities.
What to look out for in your apartment tour
You’ll need to schedule tours for apartments that have caught your eye so that you can identify important accessible features, for example:
- Ramps inside and outside
- Accessible walkways with handrails
- Important bathroom modifications like shower bench, grab bars, etc
- Reachable electrical outlets
- Well configured kitchen to allow a renter with a disability to use the features easily
- Personal alarm system
- Hardwood floors
- Handicap parking
- Wide doorways for easy entry
Questions to ask your landlord
There is a standard general list of questions to ask a landlord before signing a lease, but you’ll need to ask additional questions relating to the handicap accessibility of your apartment too. This is to prevent any future misunderstanding and to be sure of everything before you move in. Some of the questions you can ask are:
- Are common areas in line with ADA rules?
- Are there handicap parking spaces?
- What’s the best way to reach you if I need your assistance?
- Are you aware of my rights as a disabled renter to make necessary modifications to the rental?
- Do you have plans to make renovations that may hamper or improve accessibility?
- Are there nearby amenities with accessible features?
After you’ve asked these questions and you’re satisfied with the answers, then you can sign your lease and move in. Best of luck!
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