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Duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be extended to common areas

An extension of the requirement for landlords to allow ‘reasonable adjustments’ to their properties for the benefit of disabled tenants has been proposed by the Government.

The consultative document, Improving disabled people’s access to let residential premises, suggests that it is now time to ‘switch on’ remaining parts of the 2010 Equality Act applying to common parts of leased and rented properties.

This would place a duty on landlords to make reasonable adjustments to common parts where these are requested by a disabled person, explained Minister for Equalities and Levelling Up Communities, Kemi Badenoch.

‘Our intention is to enable a disabled person to require a landlord to make reasonable physical changes to communal spaces outside the disabled person’s home – including outside areas, entrances, hallways, landings and stairwells – so they can more easily use them’, she said.

However, there is no duty for the landlord to pay for such changes. ‘Our policy position – as reflected in the legislation – is that it is always reasonable for the landlord to insist that the disabled person pays for the alteration (including costs arising from the works and any restoration costs)’, said Badenoch.

The Government has needed to take account of burdens, costs and other priorities in deciding to move forward with commencement of the remaining parts of the 2010 Act, she said. ‘But I am delighted that we have now reached a point where implementation of the provisions can soon proceed’.

Implementation will place a duty on landlords to make reasonable adjustments to the common parts of let residential premises when requested by a disabled person.

‘Common parts’ include outside areas, entrances, hallways, landings and stairwells.

Before deciding what is reasonable and what must be done, landlords will have to consult with anyone they think may be affected by the proposed changes; including any other tenants and leaseholders.

The Equality Act 2010 already imposes a duty on landlords and commonhold associations to allow and make reasonable adjustments, on request from disabled tenants, to their private dwellings. Disabled people can also make such requests regarding common parts although there is currently no legal duty on their landlords to make reasonable adjustments to such common parts.

When commenced, section 36(1)(d) will extend this duty to common parts of residential property. This will effectively give disabled tenants, leaseholders and anyone else entitled to live in the premises the legal right to require landlords to make reasonable adjustments to the common parts of their flats. These might include, for example, a wheelchair ramp at an entrance, improved lighting or rails in hallways and stairwells.

This new right would apply in all non-freehold housing sectors – leasehold-owned, the private rented sector and housing provided by local authorities and housing associations, where the premises has common parts, subject to certain exceptions.

The legislation makes clear that the landlord can insist, before an agreement, that the tenant (or their guardian) funds:

  • any adjustment agreed as reasonable by the landlord
  • reasonable maintenance costs
  • the cost of any removal and restoration of the building upon vacating the property

However, the consultative paper points out this does not preclude other possibilities – for example, the landlord paying for the adjustments or paying part of the cost.

The consultation is open until August.