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8 Steps to Finding a Handicap Accessible Apartment

January 7, 2020

For most people, apartment hunting is a stressful task. Searching for an apartment in a nice location that allows dogs and has the hardwood floors you desire… it’s not an easy task. For renters with disabilities, the apartment hunt can become even more difficult. If you are one of these renters, we’ve got you covered. Use these tips to find handicap accessible apartments that check all of your boxes. 

1. Choose the Right City and Neighborhood

Whether you are moving to a small town or a big city, know the ins and outs of the area. Check out the local transportation and commuting options, restaurants and bar scene, and nearby attractions. Take a look at the sidewalks, parks, and public areas to ensure the neighborhood is accessible and will work for you. 

2. Gather Your Resources

Make sure you have all your documents ready so you can apply for an apartment as early as possible. When you’re organized from the start it makes the entire process go a lot smoother. 

If you want to know more about what to expect, we’ve outlined the apartment application process, including what documents you need and what to expect. During apartment tours, you may want to bring any reasonable modification requests (and any proof for such modifications) so you can get that cleared with your potential landlord as soon as possible.

3. Organize Your Proof of Income

As part of the application process, you will need to prove your source of income. We’ve explicitly called out this step, even though it is part of gathering resources because it is so critical to your application. If you are reliant upon an alternate form of income other than a pay stub, such as housing and disability benefits, make sure to get all the proper paperwork in order early.

Remember, a landlord is legally not allowed to discriminate against you based on your disability or your source of income. They can, however, enforce a rent-to-income ratio required to rent an apartment as long as it is consistent for all applicants.

4. Find an Accessible Apartment

Once you have all your paperwork ready to go, it’s time to start your search! Searching for an apartment online is a great place to begin. Most multifamily properties, especially larger communities, advertise online. The law requires multifamily housing buildings built after 1991 to include certain accessible features. Our site, ApartmentList.com, allows you to filter for accessible apartments across the country.

Once you log in, simply go to your profile and select “Accessible” under amenities. Then you'll be matched with only accessible apartments. Begin to outline where you want to visit, and contact properties for a tour. You can also inquire before visiting if you have any questions about accessibility.

5. Check Nonprofit and Federal Programs

There are many nonprofit and federal programs dedicated to helping people with disabilities find accessible housing. Below are programs that are worth looking into if you want extra help:

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): This department offers federal funding for several housing vouchers related to living with a disability. Section 811, Section 8 Housing Vouchers, and Non-Elderly Disabled Vouchers all offer housing vouchers for eligible disabled renters.
  • Department of Labor Grants: This department partners with HUD to provide grants to nonprofits and charitable organizations, who in turn provide vouchers for eligible disabled renters.
  • Accessible Space: Accessible Space is a nonprofit that works with disabled renters to find accessible housing.
  • Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is a Christian nonprofit that provides housing for people with disabilities based on their needs. 
  • Volunteers of America: This nonprofit develops affordable housing across the nation, including for people with disabilities.
  • Mercy Housing: Mercy Housing is a nonprofit providing housing for those with special needs across the country.

6. Book a Tour and Look for Accessible Features

Once you’ve identified the apartments you are interested in, you can now schedule your tours. During apartment tours, be on the lookout for accessible features. Below is a common list of features to keep on your radar:

  • Wide doorways
  • Elevators
  • Entrance ramps inside and outside
  • Accessible sinks and low countertops
  • Single lever faucets
  • Accessible appliances with knobs in the front or large font
  • Hardwood floors
  • Rocker light switches
  • Front-loading washer and dryers
  • Support bars
  • Handicap parking
  • Door handles instead of doorknobs
  • Personal alarm systems

7. Ask Plenty of Questions

During your apartment walkthroughs, ask lots of questions to make sure the apartment can work for you. There are some important, general questions to ask when renting an apartment

And there will also be more questions related to your personal situation. Don’t be afraid to come with a long list of questions. It’s better to find everything out before signing your lease. 

You should also ask the landlord questions related to accessibility and their knowledge of your rights. Some questions you may want to ask include:

  • Are there any future renovations plans for the building that’d make it more or less accessible?
  • Are you familiar with my right to make reasonable modifications to my space?
  • Where are ramps located?
  • Is there handicap parking spaces?
  • If I required modifications, do you require an additional down payment for returning my unit to its original condition when I move out?
  • What is the best way to communicate with you?

8. Apply and Move

Once you’ve asked all the right questions, found your dream home, submitted your application, and have been approved, it’s time to move! Take time to prepare your moving day, and follow these moving tips to ensure that everything goes smoothly. 

Finally, don’t forget to celebrate as you’ve found a home that’s perfect for you!

By: Angelina Bader
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