Backyard storage for rental with no shed or garage?
May 14, 2022 11:29 AM   Subscribe

After 30+ years of home ownership, I am re-entering the rental market with my 14yo. The houses that are the best fit for us often lack outdoor storage, such as a garage or shed. Have you had this experience? How did you handle it?

My relationship of 29 years is ending, and I am leaving with the assistance of the local domestic violence agency (there was no violence in the relationship but other forms of abuse and neglect). We have been approved for a program that will pay application fees, security deposit, and twelve months of "fair market" rent.

The fair market limit for the program is surprisingly accurate—most places we're considering are less than $100 more than the rent stipend, which is an amount we'll be responsible for.

But. There are two of us, so we're limited to two bedrooms. I'm disabled, and it is nearly impossible to find an accessible apartment in our area—we've been looking for months. There are, however, plenty of cute little two-bedroom houses with only a single-step stoop, for instance, which is manageable.

Unfortunately, many of these houses have no garage or shed. We will need a push mower; my son has bicycles and a lot of dog sport equipment like agility tunnels; and I have two wheelchairs and a mobility scooter, all of which I use regularly in different situations.

These tiny two-bedrooms houses also have very limited indoor storage. We might be able to store my chairs and scooter inside the front door, in the living room, but the rest of it? Giving over half the living room to storage may be our only option, but we'd love to have a small shed or suchlike. Are there sheds that can be moved when we move? Other options I'm not thinking of? I'd think about a chainlink enclosure but we don't want everything exposed to the weather, and anything like that that's not firmly embedded in the ground could be easy to lift up and steal from.

Simply locking things with bike locks or the like has the weather problem, and also the problem of how easy it is to cut a bike lock. My own very nice bike, which I can no longer ride so had lent to a friend, was stolen in this way from outside her apartment just weeks ago.

A bigger house is not an option. And limiting ourselves to 2BRs with outside storage is extremely restrictive in the area we're looking. There is a whole bunch of these tiny houses, built in the 40s and 50s or even earlier, almost none of them with garages.

If we need to come up with a permanent solution, like a shed, it might be possible to negotiate with the landlord for some kind of cost-sharing, but we're not at that point.

We have found a house that is, itself, almost perfect in its layout, amenities, and location, so it would be great to figure this out.

I know I've shared not-specifically-relevant info, but I wanted to be clear: our resources are limited, and "why not just rent a bigger place, or a place with a garage?" is not a very viable option.

Brainstorm! Suggest anything!
posted by Well I never to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Are you responsible for the yard? I feel like (perhaps paying for it yourself but) being allowed to put a shed up is a pretty reasonable request to a landlord who is making you take care of lawn care.

If they aren’t making you take care of the lawn, then I would say give up the living room space :/ certainly not ideal (perhaps create a false wall with curtains so it doesn’t feel like storage?).

Another option is becoming friendly with a neighbor who has a garage or shed, though I can understand not wanting to put medical supplies in a place that isn’t your own
posted by raccoon409 at 11:40 AM on May 14, 2022

You can buy a small plastic shed for under $1000, depending how much space you need. You can move this with you as they do not take that much time to take apart and put back together (and don't weigh that much).

Maybe you can negotiate some kind of cost sharing agreement with your landlord, either that you pay a little extra per month and they pay for a shed or you pay for a shed that stays with the property and they discount the rent by a little bit for a year.
posted by ssg at 11:43 AM on May 14, 2022 [3 favorites]

I don't know where you live, but here you can buy plastic sheds that can be knocked down and transported fairly easily. The quality is not excellent, though, but might suffice. Maybe you can have a look at a garden centre or something.
posted by Harald74 at 11:44 AM on May 14, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you. It is helpful to know that those plastic sheds are moveable—that seems like a good option but I didn't know if they can be knocked down and moved, or installed without a foundation.

We are responsible for the yard, but it's more of a "lawn" than an actual lawn, and it's teensy. Heck, it occurs to me now that my teen could probably mow it easily with a reel mower.
posted by Well I never at 12:02 PM on May 14, 2022

Response by poster: I'm looking at sheds online now, and it occurs to me that a low shed, of the type that can hold a couple of rolling garbage bins, might serve our purposes, and they're not expensive. It occurs to me that a shed that can't hold everything would at least allow us to keep our most-used things inside with some things out of sight.

Thanks so much. Don't you find sometimes that just asking a question helps to unlock your brain? Happens to me.
posted by Well I never at 12:07 PM on May 14, 2022 [11 favorites]

Best answer: If you will eventually be receiving HUD, there are processes by which you can request and often receive an accommodation for housing size funding that could possibly increase your payment standard due to needing storage for disability related equipment. (In other words, a third bedroom when you'd normally be approved for just two.)

I don't know if there is any way of doing so for the domestic violence agency.

And there *are* storage options that are easier to move, and along with that, they're also less likely to need permits, because they wouldn't be considered "permanent", but that's going to vary depending on your location. There may be organizations in your area that could help provide monetary, supplies, or other help in your area, again, connected with your disability.

That's going to be key - you need to emphasize that you need the space to store your disability-related equipment, NOT the lawnmower or the dog agility materials. You have paths available to request disability accommodation, but if you bring up storing "convenience", "luxury", or "recreation" items, it dilutes the importance of the accommodation. (I realize that these items are not "luxury" items by any means, but those providing help and/or accommodations may refer to them as such or similar. Basically, anything other than absolutely minimal survival needs might be dismissed in this manner, which is why for effectiveness, the focus needs to be on the disability accommodations.)

Some of the information in these links isn't going to be quite as useful if you're not seeking HUD, but the general concept of seeking housing accommodation from a landlord still applies. (As in, you could request accommodation from the landlord to be allowed to install a shed at your own expense - or one that was gifted to you by an organization.

Here is a useful website: How To Get On
And a Facebook Group: Disability Support and Self-advocacy in HUD, Section 8 & Low-Income Housing

And please, no matter what you do - include security for your storage in your planning. Good locks and as sturdy as realistically possible. You'll have a better idea, of course, what the current situation is in your area, or you can find out from those nearby, but it's not at all unusual, these last couple years, for disability equipment to be the target of theft, sometimes repeatedly.
posted by stormyteal at 12:07 PM on May 14, 2022 [13 favorites]

Just a small suggestion but if you do decide to go the 'buy a shed' route, there may be some used ones on craigslist or Facebook marketplace or even freecycle. Perhaps the cost savings of buying used could pay for someone to help move and erect it for you.
posted by latkes at 5:30 PM on May 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

As well as plastic sheds there are a variety of galvanized steel sheds in the 10x10 (a common limit for no building permit erection) or smaller range for less than a C$1000 so I'm guessing less than US$700. They aren't quite as simple to assemble as the plastic sheds because there are a hand full of screws/bolts involved (but still not more difficult than say a piece of Ikea furniture) but they pack smaller and are 100% recyclable at end of life which is likely to be longer than a plastic version (barring hail or something they'll last good 25 years or more). Each manufacturer also generally makes a handful of different colours and they can be painted with a good metal paint if colour matching is a requirement.

They also are available in shallow styles designed to be placed against your house which both reduces the cost and can increase security as you can attach them to the house.

Be aware that while plastic and metal sheds often don't require a foundation the free standing ones require something to secure them against wind. This can be as simple as some screw anchors or as complex as floor of sidewalk slabs but often whatever the manufacturer offers it is an extra cost option because not everyone needs the attachment system.
posted by Mitheral at 9:37 PM on May 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's tough - basically, you minimize the amount of outdoor equipment and do what you can with what's actually necessary. A lot of people keep their bicycles in their bedrooms - there are a variety of products to mount a bicycle vertically indoors. The dog will probably need different activities. A lot of landlords take care of lawn care, or you hire a service, or I've known people who use a push mower or even just a scythe (yes really).

The real problem is the wheelchair. You may need to park indoors, or try to find an apartment with a good size hallway, serious locks, or a porch and locks...locks, locks, locks.

But no, there is no secret technique. You hang it on your wall, keep it in the apartment, or do without. It's a different lifestyle.
posted by epanalepsis at 12:28 PM on May 15, 2022

Find out if a neighbor has a lawnmower with storage for it. Or, for a small enough patch of grass, a weed whacker might work. Ask the landlord where they’d like you to store lawn equipment.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:42 PM on May 15, 2022

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