Limited rental properties for the disabled could prompt regulatory changes

In recent times many property market headlines have focused on an acute shortage of new properties, a lack of rental accommodation and ever-increasing house prices. Very little focus has been placed on suitable accommodation for the disabled until this week. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a frightening report which suggested that 93% of the 8.5 million rental properties in the UK were not accessible to the disabled. While there are regulations in place to force landlords to make some of their properties suitable for disabled tenants, it seems that the regulations are not being enforced.

Consent to reasonable changes

The Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government has issued a statement in response to the report confirming that:

“We expect landlords to adapt properties for tenants. We are clear they must not unreasonably withhold consent if they are asked to make changes to homes”

It is also worth noting that the UK government has put aside almost £1 billion to enable local authorities to adapt and upgrade properties for disabled people. However, when you consider that the 18 month EHRC review found a staggering 365,000 disabled people in homes unsuitable for their situation, this prompts the question, what have local authorities been doing about the issue?

Lack of data

What is also surprising is the relative lack of data gathered by local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales on the matter of homes more suitable for disabled people. At the moment it is believed that around four in 10 new homes built in the UK are more accessible and adapted to the needs of the disabled than we have seen in the past. However, wheelchair accessible housing and unhindered access around the home is still a big problem.

The investigation by the EHRC has also uncovered the fact that just seven councils in the England, Scotland and Wales have taken any kind of action against developers who did not deliver sufficient properties suitable for disabled tenants. When you consider that the Equality Act 2010 states that changes/adjustments should be made to properties with a disabled tenant, and the tenant should not have to pay, it does look as though protection for disabled tenants is being overlooked.

Strong headlines but no substance

Prior to the report by the EHRC the vast majority of the UK population would have been unaware of the difficulties facing disabled tenants. We hear cases of individuals literally confined to one room in their property, unable to make it upstairs with limited access to kitchens and toilets. In recent times we have seen many local authorities working hand-in-hand with developers to improve care home numbers, is now the time to focus on the needs of disabled tenants?

A separate investigation by the BBC has upheld the concerns expressed by EHRC with BBC reporters even confirming that disabled access to estate agent offices, in the pursuit of suitable accommodation, has itself been challenging. Many people will assume that talk of adapting a home involves major changes but this is not necessarily the case. A lot of the changes are minor but they will release many disabled tenants from the misery of unlawful confinement.

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