March the 16th is Disabled Access Day in the UK – a day specifically marked for raising awareness about the needs of the disabled to a long list of buildings and amenities, including the homes in which they live.
If you are a landlord, therefore, the occasion may also serve as a timely reminder about what you need to know when letting your property to a disabled tenant.
As a landlord – as in any other walk of life – it is unlawful to treat someone differently because they are disabled. If you do, they may take you to court on allegations of discrimination.
Protection against such discrimination is underwritten by the Equality Act 2010. Part 4 of that law contains provisions with respect to “Premises”, the definition under which disabled tenants receive protection against discrimination in housing matters.
At its most basic, this means that you cannot legally refuse someone a tenancy simply on the grounds of their disability – even if you consider your property to be inappropriate for someone with their disability. For the same reasons, you cannot prohibit access to communal areas of your property solely on the grounds of someone’s disability.
You must carry out repairs, renovations and improvements for a disabled tenant in just the same way as any able-bodied tenant and you must not show a disabled tenant any less favourable treatment or consideration than anyone else.
Reasonable adjustments and improvements
A disabled tenant is entitled to ask you to make reasonable adjustments or alterations to your property in order to accommodate their disability.
That, of course, leaves open to question just what you consider to be “reasonable”. Although you need to consider any reasonable request made in writing by the tenant, you do not have to foot the entire bill for any changes, even if you agree to the alterations being appropriate. The tenant might be asked to contribute, or you may be eligible for a grant from the local authority.
Among the reasonable demands for auxiliary aids and services that would make it easier for a disabled tenant to live in your property are some of the examples suggested by The Property Landlord in an article dated the 8th of March 2020:
- installing suitable furniture and furnishings;
- renewing or putting up signs and notices;
- modifying taps and door handles that are easier for a disabled person to use; or
- modifying doorbells or door entry systems.
You will not be discriminating against a disabled tenant if you decline requests for certain alterations or modifications to the physical structure of your property.
It would be considered an unreasonable request, for example, to have to make the following types of changes to the physical features of your let property:
- alterations to the design or construction of the building;
- features that are an integral part of the approach, access to, or exit from the property; or
- changing or removing fixtures in the property.
Although you might be asked to facilitate access, for example, you would not be reasonably asked to re-design and change the entire communal entrance to a block of flats or converted property.