Many times over the past 25 years, I have had to find a new place to rent. On 5 occasions the owners of the homes my family has rented have sold up and we have had to move out. Honestly, as a person who uses a wheelchair, this is one of the hardest things to do. Think of the houses you see around town: Lots are double storey and more often than not, single storey houses have steps that are too many or two steep to ramp. The options you have when renting with accessibility needs are few and far between. During this phase of my life, the only disability equipment I used was my power wheelchair. But even without the use of other equipment, such as a hoist, the search was difficult. When we found a house that was suitable, the chances of us getting it were slim. I was on a disability pension and my mother was on a carer's pension. When a landlord sees pensions on the application, they tend to look the other way. If I happen to mention I’m in a wheelchair, the chances of renting become lower as I was seen as a potential liability who will be banging into walls or flattening carpets with her wheels.
We were lucky enough to find a place to rent each time we had to, but it definitely wasn’t easy and it took time. But no place was completely suitable and we had to make little adjustments. Installing a portable ramp over small steps was simple, and it could be removed easily if it needed to be at any stage. For any other modifications that require something more permanent – such as handrails in the bathroom – you need the landlord's permission, but most of the time they won’t allow anything that is permanent. If they do allow it, you will most likely need to pay for the modifications yourself. The NDIS will only pay for modifications to a property once, and they will want to know that you’ll be living in the property for a long time.
In one of our rental properties, there was a large drinks bar in a small room which made it difficult for me to move around. Without it, life would be easier. So we asked permission to remove the bar, store it in the garage and reinstall it when we moved out. That would be easy to do with this bar. However, the landlord replied to us with a no – because his wife liked the bar. His wife wasn’t living in the house and it would be back if she ever wanted to live there, but still no go.
So if you do have accessibility needs, renting can be really hard. Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) has been fantastic for me. It has given me security of tenure and has allowed me to escape the private rental market – I no longer have to put up with a drink bar blocking my way.
However, if private rental is the only choice open to you, here are my top tips:
Belinda has worked as a Lived Experience Facilitator in the Summer Foundation's Housing Hub Team since June 2020. She brings the experience of navigating her own housing journey, which sees her now living in an SDA apartment. Belinda has a Bachelor of Commerce from Deakin University.
Belinda is passionate about people with disability having a voice and a say in their own housing journey, which will lead them to have the best support, choice and flexibility in how they live.
If you want to learn more about what housing and support options are possible for you, check out our Housing Options online learning package.
Call our SDA Housing Advice line
For people with disability, families, and supporters. Monday – Friday 10.00am – 3.00pm AEDT. You can also email us anytime at email@example.com.