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Disability Home Modifications in Rental Properties

Modifying a home can turn an unsafe or unsuitable property into an ideal one for an elderly person or someone with a disability. Some modifications have no permanent impact on the home, while major ones can change the structure of a property.

Choosing the Right Rental

When the rental market is tight, tenants sign in a hurry before considering their current and future needs. If you or a family member has a disability, choose a rental property that suits your needs. An elderly person may be fit and mobile when they sign the lease, but within a few years, they may need to have rails installed in the shower and toilet, amongst other modifications. 

It’s best to know what the owner is willing to accept if you need to request modifications in the future. Moving to a new rental property better suited to their needs can be stressful, even if it will make their daily life more comfortable.

Benefits of Home Modifications

Someone with a disability or an elderly person can benefit from home modifications in several ways. 

A poorly suited house can become a huge barrier for someone with a disability, limiting their ability to connect with others living in the home. They may struggle to navigate the steps from the house to the backyard, so they can’t enjoy a meal outdoors.

If a person is in a wheelchair, some parts of the house may be off-limits because they can’t navigate their wheelchair through the doorways. In cases where the wheelchair is a snug fit and it takes a carer to do the manoeuvring, a person with a disability may not be as independent as they would like. Home modifications can give them greater freedom and confidence.

It’s not just people with disabilities that benefit from home modifications. Often it is also their family, friends, or carer that benefit from the modifications the most. They worry about their loved one having a slip and fall incident or other injuries that can be avoided. 

After modifying the home, everyone can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing their loved one is much safer. Plus, carers may be able to change their approach because their family member can be more independent.

Difference Between Modifying a Rental and Owner Occupied

There are significant differences between modifying your own property and someone else’s investment home.

Modifying an Owner-Occupied Home

When you live in an owner-occupied home, you’re free to make any modifications you like. Your only restriction may be budget. Some people are eligible for the NDIS to fund modifications in their privately owned homes.

Home modifications can be minor or complex. According to the NDIS, minor home modifications don’t change the structure of the home and cost no more than $20,000. Complex home modifications involve multiple areas of the property. Nevertheless, both require a home modification assessor to view and decide on a person’s needs in their home.

Modifying a Rental Property

In a rental home, tenants can’t make permanent modifications to a home if the changes could impact the value of the property. The tenancy agreement will often prohibit a tenant from making alterations such as attaching fixtures like picture hooks without requesting consent.

Property owners do this to protect their investments because a prospective buyer may not want to pay as much for the modified property and future tenants may be less inclined to move into the modified property (they would rather stay with the unmodified version).

In some cases, modifications could make the house difficult for an able-bodied person to live in. If all the benchtops are reduced in height to allow for a person in a wheelchair, they may no longer be suitable for someone to use while standing. 

Gaining permission to modify a government-owned property is often easier than a privately owned rental. The government knows that when a social housing property is vacated by the current disabled tenant, they can make it available to someone else with similar needs. Sometimes, modifications to the current home aren’t practical, so the government will offer to move a disabled tenant to a property that’s better suited to their needs.   

When asking permission from the landlord of a privately owned property, it’s best to submit all information on the proposed modifications in a detailed assessment prepared by a professional. Be clear about whether you’re only asking for permission and will pay the cost or requesting for the owner to pay part of the amount. 

The property owner isn’t obligated to agree to modifications to a property for an elderly or disabled tenant. If they refuse permission, a tenant can ask the reason why. The tenant can discuss further through their property manager or directly with the owner. The tenant can also take their request to the Civil and Administrative Tribunal in their state for further discussions.

Types of Modifications That Can Be Done at a Rental

All tenants are allowed to affix furniture to a wall if it helps protect the safety of a child or person with a disability. A bookcase, flat screen TV, or drawers that could topple over if not fixed to the wall are usually allowed. 
Modifications made to a property on a short-term lease usually make the tenant responsible for paying and also for organising to get the property restored to its original condition at the end of the lease.

Home Modifications Assessment

While a family member may recognise that their loved one needs modifications to their home to make daily living easier, they may not know what those modifications should be. Altius provides home modification assessments completed by experienced occupational therapists. The therapist visits clients at home and completes a detailed and complex home modification plan following an assessment to highlight areas of difficulty. The therapist aims to recommend modifications that will make a home more comfortable and easier to navigate.   

Assessments can be accessed by NDIS participants and non-participants. The NDIS may fund modifications to a rental property if the requested modifications are included in their plan. 

Home modifications for disability in rental properties can enhance the ability to engage in activities of daily living, improving physical, and mental wellbeing. For more information on how we can help you address the modifications needed, contact us online or call 1800 258 487.

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