United States

How to make single-family rentals more accessible to people with disabilities (and why)

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Smiling guy sitting on sofa with a wheelchair next to him

As property managers, you and your owners will benefit from catering to the needs of all current and potential tenants, including those with disabilities. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to single-family rental homes, there are compelling business reasons to encourage your owners to make their properties more accessible.

First, making rental properties more accessible opens them up to more potential tenants. This not only includes the 61 million American adults with disabilities but also seniors who may or may not also have a disability. As the population ages, the demand for accessible housing will likely increase.

Accessibility can help improve overall tenant retention rates as well. Just 6% of housing units in the US meet the minimum standards for accessibility, and tenants with disabilities may choose to stay in your ADA-compliant rental for longer to avoid a lengthy search.

How to make your home ADA-compliant

Major renovations to rental properties such as replacing carpets with slip-resistant flooring like wood, removing entryway steps, or adding a ground-floor bedroom may not always be feasible, but there are other cost-effective modifications that can be made to improve accessibility. For example, owners can widen doorways, remove rugs, add handrails and grab bars in bathrooms, install kitchen and laundry appliances with easier-to-reach controls, and/or install smart home technology like voice-controlled thermostats. These examples don't meet all the requirements of basic ADA compliance for multi-family homes (by comparison), but can make a big difference to SFR tenants’ comfort.

Property managers can also adjust rent payment schedules to accommodate when tenants with disabilities receive income assistance, and use property management software to send automated reminders to help them keep track of their payments.

Tenants can further request ‘reasonable’ modifications such as those mentioned, which the housing provider must allow under the Fair Housing Act. However, tenants are responsible for paying for them.

Keep in mind that property managers and owners can still be held liable for discrimination against tenants with disabilities under the Fair Housing Act or other state and local laws. By making rental properties more accessible now, property managers can help protect their owners and themselves from potential legal issues down the line.

Small changes, big impact

Making single-family rentals more accessible to people with disabilities improves their overall appeal and marketability, and owners can do it without breaking the bank. As a property manager, you have the power to create a more welcoming and equitable housing market.

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