Living on Your Own

As you finish high school, you may start to think about living on your own. Housing is a basic need and one of the first things you will want to think about. There are many different living situations, and it is up to you to choose what is right for you.

Housing Options

Here are some of the different housing options you can consider:

  • Rent your own apartment – this means you live in a separate apartment by yourself
  • Rent an apartment with one or more people – this means you share an apartment with others. You will have your own bedroom, but share your kitchen, bathroom, and living room
  • Living in a college dormitory – this is an option for college students where you live in a room and eat meals in a cafeteria
  • Live in a group home – this means living in a larger building, usually with many other people. Group homes have support staff that handle cooking, cleaning, and personal assistance
  • Live with your parents, guardian, or other relatives

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing between these options. You’ll have to think about how much money you have, what accommodations you need, where each is located, and which you would prefer. Here we’ll look at renting an apartment, which is a common option for young people moving out of their parents’ homes for the first time.

Finding Affordable Housing to Rent

Every community has some apartments and houses that are called “affordable housing.” That means that it costs less to live there than it costs in an average apartment. There are lists of affordable housing in your community and when you look for an apartment, you can ask apartment managers if they have affordable housing. You can read more about affordable housing in DB101’s Housing article.

  • Here are some resources for finding affordable housing:
  • Housing Link is a website that specializes in affordable housing
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also has a searchable database of affordable housing organized by city, county, or zip code, type of apartment, and number of bedrooms
  • Independent living centers can give you phone numbers and addresses for affordable apartment complexes in your area. They can help you fill out rental applications, and they can help you identify places that are accessible to you
Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers

This program can help you pay for an apartment. It is designed to assist people with very low incomes. With the voucher, the government pays a portion of your rent directly to the landlord. To learn more, read DB101's Housing article.

Basics to Remember about Renting

Renting an apartment isn’t always simple. You have to find one you like and that you can afford. Then, when you get an apartment, you’ll sign a lease, which says how much money you’ll have to pay each month and what rules the landlord has. Leases are a type of rental contract and often last an entire year. It’s really important that you make sure you read everything the lease says because you may find things you disagree with. You don’t want to sign something and pay lots of rent if you’re not satisfied with the terms!

Once you’ve signed your lease, make sure you have a photocopy of it for your records. Then, you’ll have to pay a security deposit, which is money that the landlord will return to you when you move out of the apartment. If you damage anything while you live in the apartment, the landlord will use money from your security deposit to pay for repairs.

When you move in, pay your rent on time every month. Pay by check or get receipts because you want to make sure you have a record that you paid, in case there’s ever any confusion. If you have any problems with the apartment, let your landlord know immediately. It is your landlord’s job to handle basic maintenance, like making sure that the heat, water, and other important things are all in good working condition.

Finding Roommates

You may be able to save money on rent by finding people you would feel comfortable sharing an apartment with. If you do this, make sure you have a written agreement with the other people you rent your apartment with, showing how much each person will pay for rent and whether you will share the expenses for utilities, like electricity, water, cable, and Internet.

Frequently Asked Questions about Renting

Is my landlord required to make my apartment accessible?

No. Your landlord is not required to put in a ramp, a visual doorbell, or any other modifications. our landlord does have to allow you to make changes, as long as you agree to change things back when you move out. Click here to read more about legal issues related to being a renter with a disability.

What happens if I can’t pay the rent?

Before you move into an apartment, make sure that you will be able to pay the rent on time every month. If something happens, like you lose your job and can’t pay the rent, call your local independent living center or local fair housing agency to see if you can get one-time assistance, and make a plan to get the rent paid the next month. If you don’t pay your rent, your landlord can evict you and force you to leave the apartment.

What if my landlord won’t make repairs?

Your landlord is required to keep the basics working: hot and cold running water, heat, and electricity. If you request a repair and nothing happens, write a letter to your landlord and keep a copy for yourself. If still nothing happens, go to your local fair housing agency or independent living center. They can help you take action to make sure your landlord gets things fixed.

Can I be discriminated against because of my disability?

  • No. The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate in any type of housing-related transaction on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, color, if you have children under the age of 18, or if you are disabled. If you believe you have been discriminated against, contact your local fair housing or legal services agency.

Transportation

Being able to get around is an important part of being independent. If you can drive and have a car, that’s one good option for getting around. If you can’t or don’t want to drive, there are other options.

One option is to get rides with friends, family members, or co-workers. For example, if you have a job, you could arrange to carpool to work every day. Another option is to use public transportation. If you’re a bit nervous or unsure about how to use public transportation or are worried about how to pay for it, agencies like Vocational Rehabilitation Services or other job placement services can help you with a public transportation pass and training on how to use public transportation.

Another option is Paratransit. Paratransit offers door-to-door transportation services to individuals with disabilities. Click here to find a Paratransit service where you live.

New Responsibilities Checklist

The decisions listed on this worksheet are topics discussed in this article. If you aren't sure about some of them, that's okay. This article and the resources it lists can help.

After high school, I plan to live:

  • In an apartment
  • With roommates
  • College dorm
  • Group home
  • House
  • With parents

I will need a personal care attendant to live independently.

  • Yes
  • No

What will I need my personal care attendant to assist me with:

  • Dressing
  • Bathing
  • Grooming
  • Cooking

I know how to find, hire, and manage a personal care attendant.

  • Yes
  • No

I can drive and have a car.

  • Yes
  • No

If I cannot or do not want to drive, I plan to get around using:

  • Paratransit
  • Bus
  • Parents
  • Bicycle
  • Walk

I know how to find accessible, affordable housing in my area.

  • Yes
  • No

I know how to obtain a disabled transportation pass or sign up for Paratransit.

  • Yes
  • No

I know where my local independent living center is and plan to stop by.

  • Yes
  • No

I know someone with a similar disability who I can go to for advice.

  • Yes
  • No

To print this worksheet, click here.

You can also talk to your parents, a peer counselor, or another person you trust and see what they think. While you are the key person in directing your independent life, it's always good to get advice from people you trust.