When you are renting your house in the UK to a disabled tenant, you need to make some reasonable adjustments to your house so that the house is safe and comfortable for use for the disabled. According to the Equality Act 2010, as a landlord, the adjustments are your responsibility. In the UK, there are many disabled citizens who are stuck on the waiting list for housing or are forced to resort to an accommodation that gives them distress or discomfort. A research concluded that around 300,000 disabled people are on housing waiting lists. This is a depressing statistic and it reveals the dire need for housing that provides adequate accommodations for the disabled.
The Need for Providing Suitable Accommodations for the Disabled
In an article published in the Guardian, Carlene Evans, a cerebral palsy patient, described her troubles in accommodation:
“I can’t access my front door, I have to use the side entrance. Not all internal doors have been made wide enough for a wheelchair and the kitchen units are too high for someone who’s a full-time wheelchair user. On the basis that my house doesn’t meet all my needs that means there’s a costly social care package for everything I can’t do.”
There are many other cases in which the disabled people are not provided with the proper adjustments they need in order to live comfortably in their homes.
It is illegal to discriminate a tenant on the basis of disability and as a landlord; you need to make sure that the tenant is allowed the adjustments to live a safe, comfortable life. You are bound by law to follow these regulations:
- You cannot refuse to rent your home to a tenant because they are disabled
- You cannot refuse to change the ‘no pets’ rule and forbid the tenant to keep a guide dog or any other assistance dog
- You cannot charge a higher deposit or rent than the other tenants (however, if the tenant damages your house due to disability, e.g., floor damaged by the wheelchair, you can hold back the amount from the deposit that is required to repair those damages)
- You should provide the disabled tenants the same additional facilities that you would provide to other tenants, such as storage space, laundry room, drying green or a car parking space
- You cannot harass the disabled tenant in a verbal manner
- You cannot resort to a behaviour that would upset the disable tenant
- You cannot evict the tenant based on their disability or illness, however, you can evict them for other justifiable reasons like rent overdue or excessive damage to your property
- You are not allowed to discriminate in a tenancy agreement and include any terms that you would generally not include for a non-disabled tenant
- You cannot give a disabled person a less secure tenancy that you would for a non-disabled person
It is important that you follow these rules and avoid discriminating against the disabled tenants, which is against the law, which brings us to:
Rights for the Disabled in the UK
As we have mentioned before, the Equality Act 2010 was launched in order to provide a better protection to people who are most vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace and the society in general, and includes specific rights to the disabled.
What Counts as a ‘Disability’?
Under the Equality Act 2010, a definition of disability is provided in Part 2, Chapter 1, Section 6 as:
A person (P) has a disability if:
a) P has a physical or mental impairment, and
b) The impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on P’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.”
Rights for the Disabled in Northern Ireland
The Equality Act 2010 does not apply in Northern Ireland. However, there is the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) in place, which follows the same line of protecting the rights of the disabled as the Equality Act 2010.
Importance of these Acts
These Acts are laid in place to protect the disabled from living a crippled life. They have equal right to enjoy their lives, and the rights that are prescribed in these Acts are applicable to the rental sector, too.
What Adjustments Do You Need to Make When Renting Property to the Disabled?
When you are renting your home to a tenant with disability, you need to make some adjustments to the house so that you do not discriminate against them. You do not need to make structural changes, but allow for some adaptations that are reasonable, and well within your limits to comply. For instance, if your house has a doorbell and the tenant is deaf, if they ask for a replacement of the doorbell with a visual door entry system, it is a reasonable request which you are required to oblige.
Basically, there are two basic requirements that you are supposed to follow if you are renting your property to a disabled tenant:
- Changing term(s) of agreement in a tenancy
- Providing the disabled tenants with extra aids or facilities
1. Changing Term(S) Of Agreement In A Tenancy
In the agreement of a tenancy, there may be some changes that you might need to make in order to make sure that none of your practices, policies or procedures discriminates unreasonably against the disabled people, and that they are provided with maximum comfort in your home. Some of the reasonable changes that a disabled tenant is lawfully able to ask you to change include:
- If you have a policy of giving notices, updating about any changes or providing the tenant with any other information in written or printed form, then the tenant may ask you to provide them the details through an alternate source depending on their disability. For instance, the tenants with sight impairments can ask for letters or notices in Braille or large fonts, and the tenants with reading or learning disabilities can ask you to provide them the information in person
- If your agreement forbids the tenants to use a certain entrance to your home or park in the grounds, the tenant is well within reason to ask you to provide them access
- If your tenancy includes a set rule of ‘no dogs allowed’, the tenant can ask you to change it to provide an allowance for assistance or guide dogs
2. Providing The Disabled Tenants With Extra Aids Or Facilities
The disabled tenants can also ask for any extra aids or facilities that they would need to live comfortably in your home. The reasonable aids and facilities that a disabled tenant can ask you to provide them include:
- A ramp for ease of wheelchair use
- Accessible taps in the bathroom or kitchen
- An agreement in large print, Easy Read or Braille
- An entry system of the choice of the disabled person (doorbell, visual entry system or phone system)
- Door handles in an accessible position
- Equipment to provide access needs of the disabled, such as a wider space in the car park or a ramp in the garden
- Furnishings to aid the disabled, e.g., a raised seat on the toilet or a stool in the kitchen to provide support when the tenant is cooking
- Important safety signs in Braille or large print
- Painting the window frames and doors in a darker colour so that they can be visible for the visually impaired
In Which Cases are the Landlords Not Required to Provide Auxiliary Aids to the Tenants?
There are some cases in which the landlords do not need to provide any equipment or services to the tenant, for instance, in cases when:
- The provision of the equipment or facility that the tenant ahs asked for is extremely expensive, and a cheaper alternative is available in the market
- The tenant asks for a change in the entry system for a block of flats, but other people living in the same building object to the change
There are some other cases as well, in which the landlords can refuse to provide auxiliary aids or any other services that a disabled tenant may ask for. These include:
- If you are renting your home to a tenant while you live in the same property, you can refuse to some changes or provision of services to the disabled tenant
- If you (or your family) are sharing some of the facilities with the tenant, like bathroom and a kitchen, then you can refuse the changes in these facilities such as accessible taps
- A maximum of six people live on the premises
- A maximum of two tenant or families live with the landlord and/ or their family
In Which Cases are the Landlords Not Required to Allow Disabled People to Rent their House?
There are some cases in which the landlords are exempted from providing tenancy to the disabled people. These include:
- The house on rent is where the landlord and/ or their family lives
- The property is not managed by a real estate agent
What Aids are Not Required by the Landlord to Provide to the Tenants?
There are some facilities and equipment that a person renting their home in the UK is not responsible for providing the disabled tenant. These include:
- Changes or adjustments that are permanent, for instance, an accessible bath, a lower workshop in the kitchen, an accessible shower etc. these changes are known as ‘physical changes’ and, as a landlord, you are not responsible for providing these services or changes
- Transport aids such as a wheelchair or a walking stick
However, many landlords may differ in their definition of an ‘auxiliary aid’ and a ‘physical change’, and what a tenant might call an ‘auxiliary aid’ may be perceived by the landlord as a ‘physical change’.
What Type of Tenants Should be Provided with Auxiliary Aids?
As long as the tenant is disabled, they have the right to be provided with the necessary services and changes that would help them live safely.
If the tenant whose name is on the tenancy agreement is not disabled, but a member that they are living with (wife, husband, partner, parent, civil partner, child etc.) is disabled, the landlord is required by law to provide auxiliary aids to the tenants.
The disabled people living in the UK who are looking to rent a house can talk to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) directly for more details about their rights. For people living in Scotland, they can contact the national disability information service, Update.
Make Sure that Your House is Safe for the Tenants
When you have a disabled person renting your home, it is important that you have made all the security checks, and that you regularly check for any problems. Here is a checklist that you need to go though to make sure that your house is safe for rent:
1. The gas equipment should be installed safely
As a landlord, you need to follow the regulations of Gas Safety to make sure that the tenants are provided with safely installed gas equipment.
2. The electrical equipment should be installed safely
The electrical equipment, if damaged or not properly installed, can pose as a serious threat to the safety of the tenants. It is your responsibility as a landlord to make sure that all of the electrical equipment is installed safely. Another thing to note is that the frayed wired should be observed, and replaced by a professional.
3. Install at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your house
Your house should include at least one smoke alarm on every floor of the house to ensure safety of the tenants. Make sure to install them in appropriate places (e.g. near the kitchen but nor inside the kitchen to prevent the alarm buzzing while cooking).
4. Install at least one carbon monoxide alarms in every room that includes a fireplace or woodburner
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas, and is a health hazard. Therefore, it is important to install a carbon monoxide alarm in every room that uses solid fuel (e.g. woodburner or fireplace).
5. The furnishings in your house should be fire-safe
When you are renting your home, make sure that all of the furnishings in the house are fire-safe. In addition to this, also clear away the escape routes, in case of a fire.
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