Most of us enjoy working with homeowners in various ways to help them remain living in their homes long-term. Whether our focus is on aging in place strategies, universal design features, visitability solutions and treatments, or accessibility needs, we mainly focus on working with homeowners. However, many renters can benefit from these designs as well.
There are two main things going on with aging in place and similar design approaches – (1) the structure, living space, or building, and (2) the needs and abilities of the individual occupants and how they relate to and function within their space.
There are plenty of opportunities for us to work with homeowners (again across a wide variety of home sizes, age of structures, price points, and needs) to provide safe, comfortable, convenient, and accessible solutions to their daily activities of coming and going and living in their homes. Some jobs are going to be relatively small in scope and total cost to the client. Others are going to be more complex.
Regardless, we have a similar opportunity to enhance the safety, comfort and convenience of renters in the places they call “home.” Nevertheless, the chief issue with renters is the financial one. Who pays for the improvements, and does a typical renter want to put their money into something they don’t own? Actually, their rent does that every month anyway.
While the idea of an apartment building (from a few units on one or two floors to several units in a multi-story building or even multiple buildings in a complex) may come to mind when we think of renters, people rent single family homes, duplexes, lofts, and other types of properties also. The question isn’t so much the type of dwelling, the size of it, or how many other units are located in the same building. The larger question is what solutions might be appropriate for the occupants and are they going to be willing to pay for these improvements themselves or are they going to be expecting the property owner or manager pay for them?
Some solutions are going to so inexpensive and easy to do that many renters are going to be willing to have them completed even if they are paying for them and even if those improvements remain in the home or apartment when they leave. While they are living there, they will get the benefit of them, and future renters will also after they leave.
In many cases, with rising home prices and the tremendous initial investment that people need to purchase a home, they are electing to remain renters – many for years or even indefinitely. They really are aging in place much the way that homeowners are doing it. Thus, making improvements to an apartment or home that someone is staying in for several years is not a stretch at all in terms of whether it is feasible or realistic for someone to consider doing it and the financial one about who is paying for the improvements.
The building or property owner may choose to pay for some improvements – especially when we explain to them that such improvements will be a deductible expense that will enable their property to be more appealing to anyone in the future – but the renter may be willing to do so even if the owner does not. We’re talking about basic convenience items that a renter (or the building owner on their behalf) might install, such as lever door handles, single-lever kitchen sink faucets, and rocker light switches. From that, a strategically placed vertical grab or assist bar near the entrance to the master tub or shower, adding handheld showers and a fold-down shower seat, and installing wi-fi or low voltage technology are good items to include that everyone can benefit from and use.
Flooring, lighting, ventilation, and cabinetry are other areas that can be explored. Some of these improvements are going to be major changes so the building owner will have to consent to them – regardless of who pays for them. They legally own the property and are the only ones who can consent to such changes and authorize the possibility of a mechanic’s lien being placed on the property.
Just keep in mind, that we aren’t limited to providing solutions just for homeowners, and that many additional people can benefit from what we have to suggest and offer. This is especially important to consider when factoring in the number of people who are choosing a rental lifestyle long-term and who desire a safe, comfortable, convenient, and accessible dwelling the same as any homeowner.