Disabled Access in Private Rental Properties
Having a disability certainly shouldn’t be a barrier when it comes to finding your next private rental. Unfortunately, it can prove challenging though.
Equalities and Human Commission research shows 93% of UK rentals are inaccessible to possible disabled tenants. That could be because there are too many steps, the entrance is too small or a disabled person finds reaching the taps impossible. It leaves a massive 365,000 people with disabilities living in homes which really don’t meet their needs.
Disability Renting and the Law
The Equality Act 2010 not only protects people from discrimination but includes the right of disabled tenants to ask for reasonable adjustments to meet their needs from both social and private landlords.
It creates a level playing field for both able bodied and disabled tenants competing in the rental market.
The adjustments needed can be quite simple and inexpensive, such as getting landlords to provide Braille copies of tenancy agreements. It could also involve installing appropriate taps or door handles, or even changing the colour scheme.
Other Important Considerations for Disabled Renters
What else constitutes ‘reasonable’? For instance, will landlords charge disabled renters for making those adjustments, such as installing a ramp?
Be warned – landlords aren’t duty bound to make major physical changes.
Substantial Disadvantages in Renting
Disadvantages can range from a hearing loss meaning you can’t hear a standard fire alarm, mobility issues preventing you from climbing steps to doorways, and tap styles making them simply unusable for a disabled individual in a wheelchair who can’t reach them, for instance.
Speak directly to the landlord or through the letting agent outlining your needs. Alternatively send them a letter or email explaining why you need these adjustments you’ve asked for.
Because the adjustments have to make the ‘reasonable’ criteria, emphasise they are needed to eliminate substantial disadvantage, and highlight that you meet the Section 6 definition of disability under the Act.
You might also consider including evidence from your GP, or any other medical professional who supports you since this will give additional strength to your case.
If It’s a “No” From Your Landlord
This is discrimination under section 21 of the Act. You can launch an informal complaint and, if this fails, launch legal action for victimisation.
Pull together your evidence and ask for legal advice to strengthen your case. It is vital to check the cut off times for taking action because you must begin legal action within six months less one day from the date your request was turned down.
Be prepared to dig in and remember this action can also be expensive. At the end of the day your landlord might want to avoid going to court and may come to the negotiating table instead. At this point you can let him or her know the resolution that would be acceptable for you. Perhaps you would settle for an apology? Better would be for the adjustment you need to be carried out – however late.
Other settlements could involve compensation to cover financial outlay or stress. Or, you could agree the landlord makes changes to their policies and practice to prevent the same happening to another disabled individual at a later stage.
If you’re threatened with eviction as a result of an adjustment request, don’t worry. That’s because you will be protected under Section 27 of the Equality Act.
Financial Help for Adjustments
If the adjustments are less than £1000 the local authority may agree to foot the bill following a care needs assessment.
For more expensive work, eg building a downstairs bathroom, then you or the landlord can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant. These are means-tested and payments can be agreed for as much as £30,000.
Applications cannot be turned down solely on the basis that you are a private tenant. However you and your landlord must jointly confirm that you intend to live in the property for the next five years at least.
Finally, knowing your rights as a disabled tenant combined with building a good rapport with the landlord or letting agent will help you find the property that meets your needs and a place to call home. Happy hunting!
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