Reasonable adjustments for disabled people
Landlords must make reasonable adjustments when requested to enable a disabled person to use a property.
Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people
Any service provider, including private landlords and local authorities must make reasonable adjustments if requested to do so to enable disabled people to use their services.
If requested to do so by (or on behalf of) a disabled person put at a substantial disadvantage, a landlord must:
make reasonable adjustments to a provision, criterion or practice
make reasonable adjustments to a physical feature
provide an auxiliary aid
consent to the making of disability-related improvements to rented residential premises by the tenant unless the request is unreasonable.
What is 'reasonable' will depend on the particular circumstances relating to each individual request.
It is not possible for service providers to justify not making adjustments that are reasonable when they relate to the enjoyment of the premises, or the use of a benefit or facility to which the tenant or occupier of the premises is entitled as a result of the letting.
The Court of Appeal considered the meaning of 'enjoyment of the premises' for the purpose of the provision of an auxiliary aid for a disabled person and held that the phrase had a technical meaning, in that it referred to the use and benefit of the tenancy rather than deriving pleasure from it.
Avoiding a substantial disadvantage
'Avoiding a substantial disadvantage' includes a reference to:
removing or altering physical features (including fixtures and fittings), or
providing a reasonable means to avoid a substantial disadvantage to the disabled person caused by such a feature
What is considered a reasonable adjustment for a large organisation may be different for an individual landlord. It is about what is practical in the service provider's individual situation and what resources the provider may have. The provider will not be required to make adjustments that are unaffordable or impractical.
Further factors to be taken into account in deciding whether it is reasonable to make adjustments are set out by regulations. Current regulations prescribe that physical features do not need to be removed, or altered, if they were originally provided for the purpose of assisting disabled people to access, or to use facilities at, the premises, and they satisfy the requirements of Approved Document M: Access to and use of buildings under the Building regulations.
Adjustments to a physical feature
A physical feature is defined as:
a feature arising from the design or construction of a building
a feature of an approach to, exit from or access to a building
a fixture or fitting, or furniture, furnishings, materials, equipment or other chattels, in or on premises
any other physical element or quality
If the adjustment requires the provision of an auxiliary aid or service, the service provider must take such reasonable steps to provide it. An auxiliary aid or service is anything which provides additional support or assistance to a disabled person. This could include:
removing, replacing or providing any furniture, furnishings, materials, equipment or other chattels
replacing taps or door handles
replacing or providing any signs or notices
replacing, providing or adapting a doorbell or door entry system
Landlord's consent to alterations and improvements
Most leases and tenancy agreements restrict the tenant or occupier's right to improve or alter residential premises. As such, the Equality Act 2010 provides for a procedure to enable disabled tenants or occupiers of premises occupied as their only or main residence to seek the landlord's consent to make a 'relevant improvement'.
These provisions do not apply to Rent Act tenancies and secure tenancies, as they largely replicate existing provisions. Equally, they do not apply in respect of other tenancies if the respective tenancy agreement already contains rules about how to obtain the landlord's consent.
A relevant improvement is one which, having regard to the disabled tenant or occupier's disability, it is likely to facilitate that person's enjoyment of the premises (ie disability-related improvement) and can include:
an addition to or alteration in the fittings and fixtures
an addition or alteration connected with the provision of services to the premises
the erection of a wireless or television aerial
the carrying out of external decoration
When a disabled person applies in writing for the landlord's consent, the landlord must not withhold it unreasonably, as an unreasonably withheld consent will be taken as having been given. However the landlord can impose reasonable conditions.
When the landlord refuses consent, they must give the tenant or occupier a written statement with the reasons why they have withheld consent.
A landlord is deemed to have refused consent to an alteration if, within 42 days of the date on which the application for consent was received, they fail to reply or, where the consent of a superior landlord is needed, they fail to seek that consent within that period of time.
A landlord will automatically be taken to have acted reasonably in refusing consent for the alteration of premises where there is a binding obligation on their part to obtain the consent of a third party, eg a superior landlord, and that consent has not been given, or has been given subject to conditions that make it reasonable for the landlord to refuse consent.
Exceptions to the duty to make reasonable adjustments
The duty to make reasonable adjustments does not apply to a person who rents a property that was their principal home, unless they employed a professional manager (such as a letting agent) to manage the letting.
There are also further exceptions in relation to small premises in which the landlord, or their relative, resides. Premises are small if the:
only other people occupying the accommodation are members of the same household
premises also include accommodation which is let, or is available to let, to at least one other household
premises are not normally sufficient to accommodate more than two other households
premises are not normally sufficient to provide residential accommodation for more than six persons (in addition to the landlord or their relative).
Some examples about how the reasonable adjustment provisions may operate in practice are given in the Explanatory Notes to the Equality Act 2010.
Cost of the adjustments
The cost of the adjustments cannot be passed on to the disabled person, unless expressly authorised to do so under the Act. For example (when the relevant provisions come in to force) where a disabled person would require adjustments to common parts of leasehold and commonhold premises, an agreement can be made as to the costs to be paid by the disabled person.
Last updated: 24 March 2021