Making Reasonable Adjustments
Looking to rent a home but don’t know where you stand? Have no fear, YouRent is here. We understand the complications and legalities surrounding renting a property to a disabled person in the UK. According to Scope, there’s more than 13.9 million individuals living in Britain with varying degrees of disability – including more than 1.2 million wheelchair users. A report created by the European Court of Human Rights stated it’s ‘Britain’s Hidden Crisis’. The demand is there for easily accessible properties, but are landlords catering to the tenants requirements?
The necessary adjustments need to be considered to make a tenants life as easy as possible, aiding where possible so they can live comfortably while renting. Laws were passed on the 4th of December 2006, meaning landlords have an obligation to make the ‘reasonable adjustments’ where suitable when asked by a tenant. With roughly a fifth of the UK’s population in rented accommodation (including those that are disabled), not all properties provide support. A greater number of new properties are now designed with suitable features in mind to support increased accessibility, but is a landlord obliged to consider this before letting out his property?
The Disability Discrimination Act forbids the discrimination of tenants as well as prospective tenants due to a disability. Any wheelchair-bound tenant may ask the landlord to make reasonable exceptions to policies, rules and practices that will provide them with an equal chance of enjoying the free hold rental home to the same extent that an able-bodied tenant would. While changes can be made upon request from the tenant, there’s a careful line between what is permitted, can be adjusted and what is expected of the landlord. If the changes have to be made, the law calls this the ‘duty to make reasonable adjustments’. It’s covered in sections 20, 21 and 36 and Schedules 4 and 5 of the Equality Act 2010. Factors such as cost, whether you’re categorised as disabled under ‘section 6 of the Equality Act 2010’ and how long you will be renting the property will all be considered.
While a landlord is required to listen to the request made by a tenant, they must check the tenancy agreement to see where they stand and work together to find a solution. After all, it is a business first and foremost, with the landlord needing to weigh the benefit financially before making possible changes. Perhaps they will only be there for four months and the costs to add a ramp to the front door might be more than the mortgage payments during that period. However, the tenant might decide to make the changes themselves if the landlord is not legally obliged, so that might be an avenue you wish to pursue without financial implications. Changes such as modified doors, lower counters, wheelchair ramps and specialised door handles could be made by the landlord to provide a home that supports a wider array of tenants. As a landlord, you are legally required to provide what the government calls ‘Auxilliary Aids’, but you’re not required to remove or change physical features in the house. Putting signs up in the house as warnings, providing taps that are easier to use or allowing a guide dog are all expected, which will help the tenant and yourself to create a positive and friendly environment.
When making the necessary changes, there’s a few duties for the landlord which must be adhered by, including changes to the tenants contracts regarding alterations, making sure that each change follows strict health and safety guidelines to ensure tenant safety, while it’s also important to weigh up the financial implications for yourself as an investor. You’ll need to consider how easy it will be to remove the improvements for your disabled tenant when they leave. How much will it cost to remove? Will it alter the design or structure of your property?
Another area to consider is how your property is advertised, if you have disability features already installed in the property. It should benefit both parties – those who are disabled and those who are not – making clear to both parties what installments you have and allowing suitable candidates to make an informed decision. You’re stating from the get go what you have in your property, not wasting anybody’s time who wish to view, creating a fair system which creates a niche for yourself as a landlord who welcomes all. Maybe those who are not disabled will not want to opt for an apartment with a shower rail, but at least you’ll be in the 7% who offer an accessible property to those who are disabled, increasing your chances of letting your property to a large market of those in need.
Overall, equality and fairness between both parties should be the deciding factor. Coming to a mutual agreement that benefits everyone will go a long way to avoid disputes and court proceedings, while also making sure it’s still a worthwhile investment for the landlord. The laws have been put in place to help a large proportion of society who need flexibility and beneficial living arrangements that support them. If it is something you can do as a landlord with minimal fuss and cost, it will be a win win situation for you and your tenant.