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I am looking for wheelchair accessible housing to rent, and have been for the past 8 years.

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  • Katherine HaywardKatherine Hayward Posts: 74Member
    edited March 2015
    Hello. I have been on local authority housing lists for five years, and on the ability housing list (AccessaHome) for eight years. I am also looking around for wheelchair accessible housing to rent in the private sector, and have been doing so for the past eight years. I haven't been able to find anything. I've occasionally contacted, and still do contact, an estate agent every time I see a property that might be OK, but some of them have got back to me saying that it is unsuitable for my needs or that it has already been let. I'm registered on the Accessible Housing Register website, and I asked them what more I can do to increase my chances of getting a place, and just said keep looking around. I even looked around at rented apartments that are really meant as holiday accommodation , both on their website and as a general Google search, but found that they are much too expensive because they charge per night or per week, and I'm looking for something with a monthly rent. It has to be somewhere where I can live with my partner and carer, and because I have complex care needs I'm looking for a place that has extra bedrooms as well. This is further complicated by the fact that the bedroom tax exists, because it seems that because my partner and I are just two people that a one bedroom property will be sufficient for us. They don't take into account the fact that everyone has different needs because of their disability, or even the type of needs someone has. I, for example, have to be helped to turn and be positioned in bed, and require 24 hour care because of my spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus a VP shunt, and the fact that I am registered legally blind with severe eyesight difficulties. I also have severe muscle spasms and difficulties in coordination and posture. If my hydrocephalus flared up, I would be incredibly ill and would need to be hospitalised within four hours of the start of my symptoms. If I wasn't, I would be at risk of death. So you see, my situation is really complex.
    It was suggested a few years back to me by my ex carers that because of my complex needs, it would be best to me to live in residential care, or in a supported living scheme.
    I looked around a supported living scheme in Adderbury, Banbury (Oxfordshire), but because I'm with my partner, they were unable to offer accommodation, because the purpose built flats were only big enough for individuals, and not a couple. They were unable to provide the backup care that I require in the event that my partner is ill. Because of my needs, there is no way that I will be able to ever live alone.
    I don't want to live alone either now that I'm in a stable relationship.
    Looking around the area, I also didn't feel that my transport or social needs would have been met by me living in the area seeing as I am unable to drive because of my lack of strength and coordination and visual problems.
    I know that once I get housing , I can apply for a disabled facilities grant to better adapt it to my needs , but at the moment it's proving almost impossible to even get a place in the first place, and no matter how hard I try and which avenue I go down, I always seem to hit a dead end and not get anything positive out of my search . Neither my family nor friends want to, or are able to house me and my partner temporarily, because from the point of view of my family, no one lives in accommodation that would be accessible to me, and my friends are either disabled themselves or have children to look after. Half of my family lives in the USA and Australia, so they're too far away to help
    I'd be really grateful if you could offer an insight into what else I can do to get accessible and affordable housing for me and my partner, because I am really at a loss as to what else I can do, and it is a really worrying situation for the both of us, because we want to get to the point in our lives where we have the stability and security of suitable housing so that we can move on in life and live it as we please.
  • Debbie_ScopeDebbie_Scope Posts: 893Member, Helpline, Community advisor Chatterbox

    Hi Katherine,

    Thank you for your question. I'm sorry to hear that you have been waiting so long for a suitable property. The fact that you have been waiting so long suggests that there just aren't enough suitable properties available in your area.

    It would be helpful if you could let me know what your current living arrangement is. Do you rent privately? Are you staying with family? This will help me to establish your current security of tenure.

    Which local authority waiting list are you on? Who is the council that has assessed your housing needs?

    Have you had an occupational therapist's assessment to determine what type of property you require and the adaptations you would need?

    The Localism Act 2011 brought about changes which have impacted on housing considerably. Before the act there were rigid rules set by central government which could work in an applicant's favour and sometimes not. More powers have been given to local authorities under this act so that they can manage and adapt their housing stock to local needs. Prior to this act almost anybody could apply for social housing whether they needed it or not and this meant that applicants could be stuck on waiting lists for many years with no realistic expectation of ever being housed by their local authority. With the Localism Act Local Authorities now have greater freedom to set their own policies about who should go on the waiting list for social housing in their area. This means that they can prevent people who have no need for social housing from joining the waiting list. This is good in a sense because it then frees up the list to make sure that the housing goes to the most vulnerable in society and those that need it most. This is by far no excuse for the time you've spent on the waiting list and the lack of properties available but it might help explain why someone in one area might get housed quicker than someone else in a neighbouring area. Much depends on supply and demand and if you live in the South of England including London, it's really hard to access social housing.

    Renting privately comes with its own problems, high rents, lack of security, poor conditions, letting agents fees and so on. It's hard to access this sector if you are on a low income and if you're disabled and need adaptations it might be hard to find a landlord who will allow such moderations. Anyone in receipt of benefits, even if they are working and only need a little bit of housing benefit can find themselves penalised and shut out of the main stream private sector and forced to live in housing which is in poor condition.

    There is a housing association called www.habinteg.org.uk and they provide wheelchair accessible housing. This is something you can look into but for now I think it might be best if we can get you some local housing advice to help support you.

    I look forward to hearing back from you.

    Kind regards

    Debbie 

  • Katherine HaywardKatherine Hayward Posts: 74Member
    edited March 2015
    Hi Debbie, thanks for getting back to me about my situation. I was assessed by an OT in 2009 for the need for a "wheelchair standard" property with a wetroom, ceiling hoist, and level access throughout, for me and my partner. We are currently renting privately. Oxfordshire assessed our needs and income. Thanks for mentioning Habinteg I just went on the site and they don't appear to operate in Oxfordshire, but I have contacted them via email and will see if they ever get back to me. This is the second time I contacted them because they didn't get back to me. I unederstand about the private rent sector and its problems, and thanks for letting me know about the 2011 law. We are on the lists for South Oxfordshire and Reading Borough Council.I also saw a social worker at Barton Advice Centre (Oxford) years ago, and she basically said there was a real shortage of housing stock everywhere.
    Given everything I have told you now, plus the difficulty with private renting/ estate agents, I wonder if you have any other ideas about how I could access housing, as it seems I'm going down the right avenues (at least I hope I am.) The estate agents I contacted have always just said they had nothing suitable available "at the time" and would "contact me if anything came up." They haven't so far.
    In 2009, the OT advised me to accept anything on the choice based letting system that had scope to adapt. Nowhere has scope for a wheelchair user to get into the house, let alone adapt. In my case, adapting would involve 2 teams: OT, and the visual impairment team, plus a physiotherapist.
    The visual impairment team have assessed me too. I'll need lighting and environmental controls that meet my needs in addition to wheelchair access. How can I make people see it's not right I've been waiting so long? Now and then, I've got in touch with the local authorities, but they have either not got back to me or suggested I apply elsewhere on the housing register.
    Personally, it just seems to me that applying elsewhere will just make this whole process last longer.
    As I said in my last message, I'm also registered with the Accessible Property Register and AccessaHome website.


    Kind regards,
    Katherine
  • Debbie_ScopeDebbie_Scope Posts: 893Member, Helpline, Community advisor Chatterbox

    Hi Katherine,

    Thanks for your reply. You really have been through it housing wise haven't you, you certainly have tried all means of finding housing. One of the difficulties you have now is that you are in privately rented accommodation, this is considered to be permanent housing despite the lack of long term security of tenure. Because you have statutory rights as an assured shorthold tenant including the right to a legally valid notice from your landlord if they want the property back; this means that you are currently well provided for (even though the property is not adapted for your needs). There are some provisions under homelessness legislation about whether it is reasonable for you to occupy the property but after all the changes over recent years it has become much harder to make a case on these grounds. You may benefit from talking to the housing and homeless charity Shelter www.shelter.org.uk  but I suspect that the answer will likely be the same and they do not have a service in your area providing casework. Unfortunately a lot of legal aid funding for housing, debt and welfare benefits was lost in April 2013 and this has made it incredibly difficult to get legal advice in these areas.

    It really is a case that there isn't any suitable accommodation available and unfortunately unless we start building homes this situation is not going to get any better.

    I don't mean to depress you further but the Leonard Cheshire Disability Charity published a report last year about the 'Hidden Housing Crisis'. The charity claims that as many as five million people now need a disabled-friendly home and this is a number that is set to rise as the population ages. It does not make particularly pleasant reading but I wanted to share the report with you and the rest of the community to highlight how significant this problem is. Read the report by clicking this link http://www.leonardcheshire.org/sites/default/files/Hidden%20Housing%20Crisis%20July%2014.pdf 

    We hear in the media all the time about the lack of housing but rarely do we hear about how this affects disabled people. It is such an important issue and has many implications on other public services. For example, the NHS and Social Care departments. You may have a patient who becomes disabled say through an accident or a stroke and they need adapted, accessible housing because their current housing is no where near suitable for their newly acquired disability. A suitable care package might be needed before they can be discharged from hospital but due to the lack of suitable housing, a care plan cannot be implemented and the patient cannot be discharged; therefore a bed is being taken up in the hospital that could be used for someone else. The media reported problems with the A&E departments over the winter and it really did highlight the issues with social care cuts, there wasn't really much mention of the lack of housing but it was most definitely there in the background and is probably more of an issue than we all realise.

    With regards to your OTs advice to taken any property offered which can then be adapted. Part of those adaptations can include access, so while a property might not be accessible at the time, it can be adapted (subject to planning, funding etc) to make it accessible and your OT would be able to assess the property when it is offered and tell you what can and can't be done and whether it would be suitable for you.

    I'm afraid that there is no easy solution to this problem but I hope that the information I have given helps in explaining why there is no easy solution.

    Kind regards

    Debbie  

  • Katherine HaywardKatherine Hayward Posts: 74Member
    Hi Debbie, I have experience of an acquired disability in my fsmily, as in my grandmother's case, she turned 90 last summer, and since about age 87 has began to have more mobility and balance issues due to old age. Fortunately, she's still able to live in her own home. since I was 18 I have experienced the fact that adult services for the disabled aren't the same as children's and you have to search more for what you need. I'm now 33 and hope to have my housing problem soon, but am running out of options despite being proactive. You say now I'm possibly seen as "adequately housed"- what else could I do to increase my chances of getting housing? I understand the process behind the OTs suggestion, thanks for explaining. the thing is, it's being offered something that's the hard part. Do you have any suggestions as to what I could do from here? thanks for the articles.
  • Katherine HaywardKatherine Hayward Posts: 74Member
    edited March 2015
    Hi Debbie, thanks for the PDF. I have saved it to my iPad. it's great to have more statistics. My family aren't particularly sympathetic, and my mum just says "we aren't the only ones (me and my fiancé) and my family and I have fallen out over all this. My parents wrote an eviction letter in 2011 behind my back and told my GP they "couldn't cope" with me in the house. As their daughter, this was really hard for me to hear and go through, but they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. My fiancé and I are strong. I was also told by social services that people who don't have anywhere to go are housed in hostels. I looked at hotels and hostels with no luck, and don't want to be in a care home while my fiancé is maybe somewhere else. I agree with the report case studies, about access meaning people can't wash in a dignified manner or sleep in their bedrooms because I have been through the same thing. I'm finding what the report says about estate agents to be true- most don't say whether there's wheelchair access or not or other adaptations. I suppose I'm lucky in that some had the decency to email me and say there was no access or room to manouvre.
    I know I'll apply for a disabled facilities grant once in a better home, but the real problem is HOW to get that home, given what I have done and am doing, and how long I have been fighting.
    What is the extent to which landlords can adapt for a person? What do I do if no propety Is offered, like in my case? could private rented properties also be adapted via a disabled facilities grant?
    Are there any current laws and legislation or documents that might be able to help me?
  • Debbie_ScopeDebbie_Scope Posts: 893Member, Helpline, Community advisor Chatterbox

    Hi Katherine,

    If your landlord wanted the property back and providing s/he served you the correct legal notice requiring possession then you would start going into homelessness territory, however it is highly unlikely that the local authority would consider you homeless until the landlord has taken possession of the property through the correct legal process i.e through the court. The possession process can vary in how long it takes and much depends on the type of tenancy you have, although in your case you probably have an assured shorthold tenancy. With ASTs although they offer little in the way of long term security of tenure it can be hard for a landlord to gain possession of the property if they do not serve the correct notice or if they do not protect your deposit in the right way (if you paid one). As there are so many issues relating to that it can take time to go through the process and really be considered homeless. I have dealt with homeless cases in the past where the housing department has not taken any action until the very day that the person has been evicted by court appointed bailiffs. Going through a homeless application can be very tough and if you are homeless, eligible and in priority need, the local authority will have a duty to provide you with interim accommodation while they make the rest of their enquiries to establish if they owe you a full housing duty. The interim accommodation could be a hostel, B&B or if this type of accommodation is lacking then yes it is possible for Adult Social care to arrange a temporary placement in residential care. Unfortunately the interim accommodation could be out of area, although I would not expect this for disabled people with extensive support networks however I could never guarantee this. It's incredibly complex and due to the lack of legal advice this makes it even tougher.

    Private rented properties could be adapted but it could be difficult to find a landlord willing to allow this. Also one of the requirements of the DFG is that the disabled person receiving the grant will remain in the property for 5 years after the grant has been awarded. Some landlords might be happy with this but I have yet to come across any who would allow major adaptations and there are many reasons for this, not least the restrictions they may have on their mortgage.

    In terms of getting offered properties, there is no easy answer to this. You may find yourself getting more offers if you find yourself at risk of homelessness but I cannot guarantee that this would not be preceded with a very long wait in temporary accommodation.

    In terms of legislation and documents, there is Part 6 and Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996. Part 6 deals with Allocations of housing and Part 7 is regarding homelessness legislation. However you need to bear in mind that there are all sorts of other bits of legislation around that might impact on this and then add to it the Localism Act 2011 and this can confuse things even more. You could go through the homeless process only to end up being offered privately rented accommodation because the Localism Act allows for this to happen.

    Shelter has some great information on their website by the way and it's still worth talking to them to see if they can offer any other guidance. You can also access advice from them via email. www.shelter.org.uk

    Sorry to be Mrs Doom and Gloom. I know it's not fair and it's not right that we have such a lack of housing but I can't see any light at the end of the tunnel at the moment.

    If you can access some housing advice in your area this might help but I can't guarantee this.

    Thanks for sharing your story, it's been great to have this discussion.

    Best wishes

    Debbie


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