I want to think about my options for a future move title header - woman walking down street with guide dog and cane with yellow border.

I want to think about my options for a future move

People decide to move to a new home for different reasons. You might be considering a move out of the family home for the first time; you might need to move to start a new job or a course; to move in with your partner (or out, following the breakdown of a relationship); or you might be looking for somewhere cheaper, more secure, bigger or better located.

The main housing options available involve:

This section includes:

If you are (or plan to be) a student, please go to our section on student housing 


General considerations before moving

It is important to think about what you need from your home.

What are your priorities for a new home and what are the aspects you would be prepared to compromise on?

The following podcast contains advice and pointers from a number of different visually impaired adults reflecting on their housing experiences.

Podcast – Advice on house-seeking from visually impaired people
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Checklist of features to consider

You might find it helpful to rate the following features for example from 1 to 5 – start with 1 for the most important. You could print out or record this list so you have a checklist for when you go to view properties.

Feature My rating (1 = most important)
Near to public transport
Easy route to work, college, other places you go to regularly
Near to family or friends
Roads that you can cross safely on your own
Access to shops – or could you do it online?
Good storage
Somewhere suitable for a guide dog?
Good lighting?
Easy to get in and around (steps, layout)
Somewhere I can adapt to meet my needs (e.g. decorating/ changing lighting/ labelling/ other adaptations)
An area that feels safe
Good support services in this area – mobility training? Local sight loss organisation/ peer groups? Council that supports with the bin collection?
Hob and cooker I can use confidently
Anything else that matters to YOU? (please add)


Types of housing

A new home can take different forms. Below is a list of the most common types. You can find a definition of each in the Jargon Buster.

  • Flat
  • House
  • Bungalow
  • Studio/Bedsit
  • Shared housing – living with other people
  • Supported housing -shared and self-contained (including ‘group homes’; clusters of flats; sheltered housing?)
  • Adult placement/supported lodgings
  • Own home with support tenancy
  • Community housing networks


Local authority area

It is important to be aware of which local authority your new accommodation will come under (or which local authority area or areas you are interested in living in). Services and support can differ according to your local authority area. The following links will direct you to either a list of local authorities or a local authority finder tool using your postcode or address.

England:

http://local.direct.gov.uk/LDGRedirect/Start.do?mode=1

Wales:

http://wlga.wales/welsh-local-authority-links

Scotland:

http://www.cosla.gov.uk/scottish-local-government

Northern Ireland:

https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/contacts/local-councils-in-northern-ireland

Renting

If you want to rent a property, the two main routes are social housing (from the council or a housing association) or private renting (from a private landlord).

There are pros and cons of each – social housing should usually be cheaper and you have more rights as a tenant so there is less risk of having to move if you don’t want to.

Housing associations and councils will often make adaptations for you or support you to get funding for bigger adaptations.  Even if this is not possible (or the wait is too long) they will usually be much more flexible than private landlords over allowing you to make changes to the property yourself.

However, social housing is increasingly hard to get (especially in safer, ‘nicer’ areas), you may find that in practice there is not much choice (if any!) and the waiting lists are often long.

Private renting can give you more flexibility and choice to rent the sort of property you want where you want it, but it can be more expensive. You will need to pay a deposit and sometimes a fee, and you don’t have as many rights as a tenant, so you may be given notice to leave (e.g. if the landlord wants to sell).

Private Renting 

The majority of people under 35 who are not living in their parents’ home are living in the private rented sector[1]. There are pros and cons of private renting, some of which may be particularly pertinent to young adults with sight loss.

Row of red brick houses


Advantages of Private Renting

  • There is often a choice of housing available.
  • It is sometimes the only way of getting the right type of property in the right place.
  • If it is available and affordable it can be a quick housing solution – this flexibility makes it ideal if you need to move in a hurry.
  • If, after 6 months, you decide you don’t like the property or the area, you can easily leave, so it’s good if you want to try somewhere out.
  • The landlord is responsible for structural repairs and the condition of the property.


Disadvantages of Private Renting

  • Lack of security of tenure: properties are usually let on an assured shorthold tenancy which will last for 6 months, however these can continue for longer by mutual consent. The landlord may decide they want the property back and could ask you to leave (though they would need to give you a minimum of 2 months’ notice to do this).
  • Adaptations can be difficult to secure as the landlord may be reluctant to make such changes to the property.
  • Quality of management and maintenance may be poor or unreliable and the service is not often not regulated and inspected as it is in social housing.
  • Deposits are usually required, typically alongside a month’s rent in advance, which means you need a lump sum upfront to get started.
  • If you are on a low income, you may be asked to provide a guarantor (person responsible for rent payments if you are unable to afford the rent).
  • If you leave a private rented property, there can be long waits for the deposit to be returned.


Finding a private rented property

Here is a useful checklist to remind you of all the things you might forget to ask when you are viewing private properties:

https://www.depositprotection.com/documents/dps-tenant-checklist.pdf

Private rented housing can typically be found in the following ways:

  • Direct from a private landlord
  • Through a lettings agency
  • Through an estate agency
  • Renting from relatives or friends

Word of mouth is often a useful way of finding out about vacancies because you may know your future landlord or have an acquaintance who knows them. This is good in terms of being able to judge whether they are helpful, understanding and have a good reputation as a landlord. Word of mouth may also assist to identify a suitable property for your needs. For example, an acquaintance may understand the necessity to have a guide dog pen in the garden for spending.

Another way people tend to find private rent properties is through online advertisements. There are a range of search engines including:

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/

This website provides a search tool where you can enter the area of postcode of where you would like to find private rent. A useful feature is the filter of results. You can look at the most recently added, sort by lowest to highest prices or highest to lowest price.

www.gumtree.com

Gumtree is another popular website for people to advertise private rent properties. The search tool will let you explore by area. It is worth noting that Gumtree tends to attract private landlords that do not use a letting or estate agent.

https://www.openrent.co.uk/find-property-to-rent-from-private-landlords

Open Rent is a website that lists private rent properties by area. All communication and essential documents such as the lease are conducted online.

Podcast – Visually impaired people discuss the accessibility of property search websites

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What is a letting agency and should I use one?

Many landlords use letting agencies (sometimes operated by estate agents) to find tenants and sometimes also to collect rent and organise repairs and maintenance. Renting through a letting agency usually means you will pay a registration fee to the agency on top of the rent to the landlord.

Shelter has produced the following online information about letting agencies and your rights:
http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/private_renting/renting_privately/letting_agencies

Struggling to get a deposit together?

The following page gives details of schemes which might be able to help you, though most have strict criteria (e.g. you need to be homeless or have children):
http://www.crisis.org.uk/find-pr-scheme.php

My rights and responsibilities as a private rented tenant

What are my rights?

Your basic rights include:

  • the right to live in a property that’s safe and in a good state.
  • receiving your deposit back when your tenancy ends.
  • being able to challenge any charges you deem to be excessively high.
  • being protected from unfair eviction and unfair rent.
  • to not be treated unfairly because of your disability, gender, pregnancy, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.


What are my responsibilities?

  • taking good care of the property.
  • paying the agreed rent, even if repairs are needed or you are in dispute with the landlord.
  • paying charges as agreed with the landlord in your tenancy agreement, for example, utility bills or council tax.
  • repairing or paying for any damage that you have caused.

If you don’t fulfil these responsibilities, your landlord has the right to take legal action or even evict you.


Frequently asked questions

What do I do if my private landlord refuses to give me my deposit back?

Your landlord must put your deposit in a government-backed tenancy deposit scheme. To find out more about what this means and get support if there is a dispute, see:

England and Wales:                https://www.depositprotection.com/

Scotland:                     http://safedepositsscotland.com/

Northern Ireland:        https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/tenancy-deposit-scheme-introduction-landlords


Podcast – Private renting: landlords, lettings agencies and discrimination


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What can I do if I feel that I am being discriminated against by my landlord or a lettings agency?

The following pages from Citizens Advice Bureau explain your rights in relation to discrimination in housing:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/discrimination-in-housing/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination-in-housing/discrimination-in-housing-because-of-something-connected-to-your-disability/

And what ‘reasonable adjustments’ might include in relation to housing:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/discrimination-in-housing/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination-in-housing/discrimination-in-housing-duty-to-make-reasonable-adjustments/

You can get advice and information if you feel you have been discriminated against through the Equality Advisory Support Service:

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)
FREEPOST
Equality Advisory Support Service
FPN4431

Telephone: 0808 800 0082

Textphone: 0808 800 0084

Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm

Saturday, 10am to 2pm

Website: www.equalityadvisoryservice.com

[1] http://www.youthandpolicy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/rugg-quilgars-young-people-and-housing1.pdf

 

Shared accommodation

Renting can involve sharing accommodation with others – this certainly makes the costs more affordable and it can be a lot of fun, however, there are risks here, particularly for someone who is visually impaired. You will need to think carefully about your needs, spend time choosing the right flat mates and setting some ground rules.

Factors to consider before deciding where to live and with whom might include:

  • Will you have similar lifestyles – in terms of staying up late, getting up early, playing loud music, or having friends round?
  • Do they understand your needs as a visually impaired person, such as:
    • How important it is to you that things are put back in the right place?
    • That there are some household tasks you may find difficult to do without support?
  • If everyone in your house has sight loss, will you need regular support (e.g. cleaning) and/ or occasional support (e.g. if the boiler needs re-filling or a light bulb goes)?
  • Are you happy cooking in and around others – or do you need space to do this?
  • What will you do about sharing bills?
  • Will you shop, cook and eat separately or do some of these together at least some of the time? It can be a good idea to have a ‘kitty’ for basic items like toilet roll, cleaning products, milk, tea, etc. Each person puts some money into the kitty each week to cover these items.



House share tips from people with sight loss

Organisation is key for people with sight loss; but it may not be such a priority for everyone else.

Don’t be afraid to be assertive with house mates about what you need and try to find compromises that work for everyone.

For example, Emma from Dublin explains:

“I make sure that one stretch of the counter is kept clear and that my housemates respect that. The other areas of the kitchen they can do what they like with”. From: http://www.rnib.org.uk/young-people-leaving-home/life-skills-cooking

Agree one cupboard, part of the fridge, coat hook by the door, shelf in the bathroom, etc where you will store your things; your housemates need to understand that everything here needs to be left in exactly the same place, or you will struggle to find it again.

There may be some parts of the house where it is really important for you to have a clear walkway; you may, for example, need to educate your house mates not to leave things on the stairs and to pack away the hoover/ broom/ ironing board so you don’t fall over it.

Cleaning and washing up are often contentious in shared housing! Unless you can afford to employ a cleaner (around £20 is typical for a 2-hour session), a common way of managing this is to agree a rota and/or agree particular tasks that you each do. The second approach would mean that you could pick a job or two that become your speciality and you can then find and learn a way of doing them. Be honest with your flat mates about what you can or can’t do – for example, you might need one of them to check whether you have ‘missed a bit’ and you’ll need others to tidy up first if you are going to hoover. However, finding a way to contribute (and making sure others play their part too!) is crucial if you are all going to live alongside each other.

We spoke to Tim who has a visual impairment and has had several experiences of house sharing – ranging from good to disastrous. His advice to others considering a house share was:

“If you are going to share, you need to thoroughly vet the person, and make sure you’ve got contingency plans for support in case they can’t – or won’t – help you over something to do with your sight loss (or anything else, for that matter); and you need to make sure you can rely on them financially because, if you can’t that can really come back to bite you!”

Resources that you might find helpful:

Haggeye (the RNIB Scotland Youth Forum) has produced the following video giving tips to sighted people as to how they might best guide a blind or partially sighted person:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WY3tWbVub8E

This American site has some hints on cleaning for people with vision loss:

http://www.visionaware.org/info/everyday-living/essential-skills/housecleaning-tips/125

This article gives advice on cleaning in shared houses:

http://www.themix.org.uk/housing/your-place/my-housemate-wont-clean-8029.html

Spare Room gives six tips for picking compatible flat mates:

https://www.spareroom.co.uk/content/info-tenants/choosing-a-flatmate/

 

Rent from a housing association or council

In most local authority areas, you need to register through your council first if you want to be considered for council and/or housing association properties in your area.

Google your council (use the council finder tool links above if you are not sure which council an area comes under) and ‘housing register’ or ‘apply for housing’ and you should find the right web page.

You can usually apply online, but most councils give a phone number to call if you would like to discuss your options or if you need assistance with the form.

Through applying in this way, the council will work out your level of housing need’, they will give you a priority band’ (people with different levels of need are placed in bands – this effectively tells you the priority for housing the Council has assessed you to have) and advise on what size of home you are eligible for (usually based on the number of people in your household, including the age and sex of any children).  However, there may be flexibility to get an extra room for guide dogs, carers, equipment, etc. – though this has become tighter since the introduction of the bedroom tax.

The allocation policy’ tells you how they decide who is eligible and how they work out what your ‘priority band’ is.
The following two web pages give you an introduction to social renting:

https://www.housingandsupport.org.uk/renting-from-a-council-or-housing-association-bf

http://www.thesite.org/housing/renting/can-i-go-on-the-housing-register-8087.html

In many parts of the country, the demand for social housing massively outstrips the supply. A common theme from the research which Thomas Pocklington Trust has undertaken with young adults with sight loss is that, in many parts of the UK, it is really hard to get social housing unless you are in really desperate housing circumstances.

The challenge for those who are wanting to make a planned move is that people who don’t have a home or are about to lose theirs will almost always have a higher priority.  If you are living in really poor, inaccessible and/or overcrowded conditions, you will certainly have a higher priority.   People in serious ‘medical need’ also get higher priority but an ongoing condition like sight loss is, alone, unlikely to automatically qualify you.  Some local authorities let a proportion of their properties to people who are in education, employment, training or volunteering in order to create ‘balanced and sustainable communities’ so this may be a way into the system for some people with sight loss.

All councils will supply a list of social landlords operating in their area as well as where and how to access private rented sector housing locally.

Most areas now operate a ‘choice-based lettings’ system. Typically, this works as follows:

  • The applicant is placed in a ‘band’ according to the urgency and need to move.
  • Those in the highest priority ‘band’ are often those who are statutorily homeless.
  • Medical and/or social needs may secure a higher ‘band’.
  • Properties are advertised as they become available each week. They are typically shown on a website but may be available in other formats.
  • People who are on the housing register of a local authority bid for properties that are suitable and in the right area.
  • The highest priority bidders are invited to view the property.
  • The successful person is usually the person who wants the property and has been waiting longest.

Application processes vary and where the landlord is a housing association there may be an interview.

Some areas have set up a good system for supporting people with access and communication needs to use choice-based lettings systems:

“Within this authority, they had a provision where once you were in the system you’ve got people helping you to bid on your behalf and look around and telling you what you are or are not entitled to in terms of benefits…….”

(Person with a visual impairment, p.22 TPT/ The Campaign Company: Housing Opportunities research)


Supported housing

Supported housing is where some form of support and potentially care is linked to the housing. You generally need to demonstrate you have a need for support as well as housing.

Supported housing may be:

  • Shared housing – where a person has a room in a house shared with others, usually between 2-5 other people. An individual will typically have a tenancy for a room in a shared house and share the communal space (e.g. kitchen, bathroom) with other residents.
  • Self-contained housing:
    • This may be a self-contained flat that is ‘ordinary’ housing but comes with some support, or
    • This may be a self-contained flat within a building where all or some of the flats are for people who also need support.

The amount of support within supported housing can vary from a minimal level to 24/7 on site support.

Examples of supported housing specifically for people with visual impairment are provided by specialist organisations such as:

Sense: www.sense.org.uk

Royal London Society for the Blind: http://www.rlsb.org.uk/our-services/dorton-college

 

Taking over someone else’s tenancy in social housing

How can you make sure the people you live with will not be evicted in the event of your death?

Can you ‘succeed’ to your parents’, partner’s or other family member’s tenancy?

Succession rights’ (whether or not this can happen) will depend on the type of landlord and the type of tenancy:

If the landlord is a:

  • Local authority: the family member (usually son or daughter) has a right to succeed to the tenancy provided there has not already been a succession. However, the succession rights of people living with secure council tenants in England where the tenancy was created after 1 April 2012, in these cases, a statutory right to succeed is limited to the spouse/partner of the deceased tenant.
  • Housing association: your right to inherit or succeed to a housing association tenancy depends on the type of tenancy and your relationship with the person who died. Most housing association tenants have an assured tenancy. You can inherit an assured tenancy if the tenant who died was your husband, wife, civil partner or cohabitee, as long as it was your home at the time they died. Family members of an assured tenant can only inherit the tenancy if the tenancy agreement says this can happen.
  • Private landlord who has granted an assured shorthold tenancy: there is no right to succession.



Home ownership

There are a number of ways in which home ownership may work for some younger adults with visual impairment, including where an individual has a benefits based income or a low income from employment:Google Maps App on Iphone

  • Outright ownership
  • ‘Shared ownership’ options; what they mean; who they apply to
  • Home ownership for people with long term disabilities
  • Shared ownership with family investment
  • Inheritance and gifted property


Outright ownership

Outright owner occupation is an aspiration for many younger people. Getting your own place can be particularly attractive to someone with sight loss because it can give you security (knowing you won’t need to move again unless you choose to – assuming you can keep up the mortgage repayments) and the possibility of adapting and setting up your home the way you want and need it.

But how realistic is it for me and how do I navigate the complicated process of buying?

The Site has a number of useful resources to help you think about different aspects of buying a house – there’s expert advice on the process, on different types of mortgages and the ‘hidden costs’ plus advice on buying with friends or family. There’s also a Mortgage Affordability Tool.

http://www.thesite.org/housing/buying-a-property

Help to Buy is a government scheme that means you could move home with a deposit as low as 5%. Rightmove explains the two options available: Mortgage Guarantee and Equity Loan:

http://www.rightmove.co.uk/help-to-buy.html/svr/3114;jsessionid=2947373D845DAEA2649B529758355D3A

If you are in Wales, go to: http://helptobuywales.co.uk/?lang=en

Podcast – In which visually impaired people describe how they overcame some of the challenges in the house-buying process

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Shared ownership

With shared ownership agreements the homeowner buys a share of the property – anything from 25% to75% – and pays rent on the remainder.  It gives people who would otherwise be excluded from home ownership the chance to buy a share of a property.  Most schemes are offered through housing associations: sometimes the property is one of their existing developments; sometimes they will buy a property with/ for you on the open market.  Further information can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/affordable-home-ownership-schemes/shared-ownership-schemes


In England:

A shared ownership housing model known as Home Ownership for people with Long-term Disabilities (HOLD) is available in England.  However, the scheme criteria mean that applicants need:

  • To be in receipt of DLA High or Middle Rate Care/PIP (under 60s) or Attendance Allowance (over 60s) together with other qualifying benefits
  • Unable to work in conventional employment (under 60s only)
  • Ideally to be looking to live on their own
  • To be in possession of a suitable care and support package confirmed by a social worker

London Underground Station

Further information:

http://www.mysafehome.info/index.php

It is also possible for families to invest in home ownership and shared equity home ownership options to benefit a family member with disabilities.

http://www.housingandsupport.org.uk/family-investment-in-housing

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/shared-ownership-housing-schemes-explained


In Scotland:

There are several schemes in Scotland to support home ownership by disabled people. Housing Options Scotland has an extensive list of useful resources and publications on their website.  These cover aspects such as: costs of home-ownership, ways that benefits can be used to purchase a home, and available schemes that aim to assist disabled people enter home ownership.  http://www.housingoptionsscotland.org.uk/our-resources/leaflets/

In addition to the leaflets, Housing Options Scotland also offer a brokerage service, which offers personalised support to people with disabilities to weigh up and pursue their housing options. Complete their Get Help form http://www.housingoptionsscotland.org.uk/get-help/ or ring up (0131 247 1400) or email (info@housingoptionsscotland.org.uk) if that’s easier.


In Northern Ireland:

There is a Co-Ownership Scheme. See the following page for more information: http://www.nihe.gov.uk/index/advice/buying_a_home/co-ownership.htm


In Wales:

You might want to consider the HomeBuy or Homes within Reach schemes:

http://gov.wales/topics/housing-and-regeneration/housing-supply/buying-and-selling/help-for-buying/homebuy/?lang=en


An example of home ownership in Scotland:

Case Study: Marie (Housing Options Scotland)

Marie is registered blind and previously lived in a two bedroom ground floor flat with her 5 year old daughter that she owned with a mortgage. After living in this property for several years with a young child, Marie found that this property was no longer suited to her needs. The property was near the town centre, and the volume of noise was a source of considerable distress and anxiety: night revellers would litter in her garden and the road outside her house was very busy. In addition, Marie had problems with her neighbours storing things and leaving rubbish in the communal spaces, causing a trip hazard for her.

The stress of this situation led to Marie becoming depressed. She couldn’t take her child out in to the garden to play; she found it hard to access local services; her networks of support were at a distance and she was far away from her family.

Marie wished to live in a property that was closer to her parents and sister. She wanted a secure garden, in a quieter area, near to her daughter’s school and her support networks.

Unfortunately for Marie, the area that she wished to live in was more expensive than the area that she currently lived in. Although she did have equity in the property she owned, she could not raise the extra mortgage needed to purchase in her preferred area. Her income from benefits was insufficient to allow her to secure additional mortgage funding and she is unable to work. Marie explored the option of social renting, but she realised that any capital monies from the sale of her house would affect her entitlement to benefits. In any event there was a lack of suitable social stock in the area where she wanted to stay.

Housing Options Scotland helped Marie to fully explore all of her housing options and helped her to find the right house, in the right place. Housing Options Scotland assisted Marie by brokering a shared ownership arrangement called Access Ownership. This scheme is specifically designed for disabled people and enables them to purchase properties on the open market. Horizon housing association (part of the Link Group), which manage this scheme invest between 25 to 75% of the equity of a property and the individual invests the remaining percentage. Horizon then charges a rent on their share, which, if the individual is eligible, can be covered by Housing Benefit.

Horizon can also offer a maintenance package which establishes a fund to cover the cost of repairs. This service can be funded through housing benefit as part of the occupancy charge.

Marie was accepted for Access Ownership and identified a property that was ideally suited to her needs. The property was inspected and considered suitable by Horizon who decided to invest in a 62% share. Housing Options Scotland then assisted Marie by finding her independent financial advice enabling her to look at her mortgage options for her share of the property.

The property was purchased for £120,000, Marie holding a share of £45,600 including equity and mortgage and Horizon HA a share of £74,500. The rental charge for the property is based on a percentage of their share plus a management fee, this worked out at £498 per month.

Once the property had been purchased, Housing Options Scotland then assisted Marie to apply for Housing Benefit to cover the occupancy charge.

Marie and her daughter have been living happily in their new home for over two years. She now no longer has the problems that she previously had with neighbours and noise levels, which has reduced her stress levels considerably. She has benefited from being nearer her family and networks of support, but most importantly for Marie, she has been able to walk her daughter to and from school every day.
(Source: Housing Options Scotland)

 

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