When you want to make your property accessible for people with disabilities, it’s not always easy to know what people actually need. You can refer to the ADA standards, but those are just minimum requirements and not always an accurate reflection of what people really need.
The Fair Housing Act requires that landlords allow disabled tenants to make reasonable access-related modifications to both their private living spaces as well as common areas in the house. Additionally, new multi-family housing with four or more units are required to be constructed to meet accessibility standards from the start.
Although landlords are not required to pay for the modifications needed under the Fair Housing Act, there are many improvements you can and should make to your rental property that will serve any tenant, disabled or not.
Some of these improvements can give you an advantage in the market because you can advertise your property as accessible, and you’ll have access to a market that will be elated that your property truly is accessible.
Here are 6 important factors you should consider before renting to someone with a disability so you can make your property a wonderful place to live.
- When you have full mobility, it’s easy to misjudge accessibility
When you’ve got strength in your arms and legs, full mobility of your legs, and have no problem climbing stairs, it’s easy to miss some of the factors that would make your home accessible.
For example, some disabled people use a transfer bench to get into the tub. One half of the bench sits in the tub, and the other sits on the outside. As they sit on the part of the bench outside of the tub, they scoot across and swing their legs over the side of the tub. This is easy for most people as long as the tub isn’t too high. However, some tubs, like clawfoot tubs, are too high and make it impossible for some people to lift their legs over the edge.
In this case, if a potential tenant asks if a transfer bench can be used with the tub, you’ll probably say yes – but in reality, it’s not going to work. You’ll need to provide them with specific dimensions so they can make the determination.
Cupboards are also a challenge for many people who can’t stand or balance in order to reach for dishes. Some homes have beautiful kitchen cabinets that look like they came out of a magazine – but all the storage space is in the upper cabinets. The lower ones lack usable shelves. There either aren’t any shelves, or there are too many, making it impossible to store pots and pans.
In this situation, if a potential tenant asks if there is ample lower cupboard space, you’d be likely to say yes, when the storage space actually isn’t going to be usable. Be sure to let them know how the shelves are setup.
- Sometimes ADA standards aren’t enough
As a property owner, if you’re going to rent to people with disabilities you need to know that ADA standards are often not enough to meet people’s actual needs. You can see this prominently in the hotel industry.
For example, there is no ADA standard for bed height in hotel rooms, and some hotels actually have beds that are too high for people in wheelchairs to make lateral transfers. One woman was assured that her high-end Los Angeles hotel room was wheelchair accessible; when she arrived, the bathroom was perfect but the bed was surrounded by a 2” high, 2’ wide platform, making it impossible for her to use.
Be careful before advertising your property as “accessible”
Most disabled people know that when a property is advertised as “accessible,” they still need to call and ask clarifying questions about what is meant by the term.
- Not all disabled people are in wheelchairs
An important point to consider is not all disabled people are in wheelchairs, and wheelchairs aren’t the only mobility devices. Some people use walkers, canes, scooters, and even segways and it’s often for different reasons.
Your home might currently be accessible for wheelchairs to move freely throughout the house, but it might not be accessible for someone with a missing limb or someone who relies on a segway to get around. Before you advertise your rental property as accessible, consider the specifics of what that entails so you can be ready to answer questions completely.
- Low toilets are a big problem
Some people have the strength to pull themselves up from a low toilet, and others don’t. Unfortunately, many years ago it was common for toilets to be built about 12-14” from the floor, which makes it hard for some people to get up. The ADA standard for adults is 17-19”.
If you have a low toilet installed in your rental property, it’s going to be an inconvenience to more than people with disabilities. Consider upgrading your toilets, regardless of who your tenants are, and add hand rails as a standard feature. Even if your renter isn’t disabled, they may experience a temporary injury or illness and those handrails will help tremendously.
- Consider the height and depth of your stairs
For some people, getting up stairs is challenging but possible when the steps are the right height and depth. If you have a potential renter asking if your property has steps with a handrail, measure your steps and give them the dimensions as well. It would be inconvenient for them to show up to see the house, only to discover they can’t make it up the steps because they’re too steep or shallow.
- An accessible home makes it easy to have guests over
There are plenty of families who purposely look for accessible homes because they have family gatherings with people who need modifications for safety and mobility. If your home is already modified, you’ll open yourself up to a wider market of renters.
Green Residential can help
Are you looking to make managing your properties in the Houston area less stressful? Do you want someone to do the hard work for you? Contact Green Residential to find out how we can help – we’ve already helped thousands of other property owners.