It can be hard finding accessible housing and even harder securing it. To celebrate Housing Week, your VP Wellbeing & Diversity has put together this blog to try and help you understand your rights and how to access support if you need it.
VP Wellbeing and Diversity
It can be hard finding accessible housing and even harder securing it. I’ve put together this blog to try and help you understand your rights and access help if you need it.
The Equality Act of 2010 means that if you have a condition or impairment that has lasted for at least 12 months, will continue to be long-lasting and affects your function on a daily basis, you are protected against discrimination – this means that you cannot be discriminated against or treated unfairly because you are disabled.
A private landlord cannot reject your application to rent a home because you are disabled or receiving benefits. Disabled people have the same right to access housing as non-disabled people do. Therefore the landlord cannot:
It is worth noting here that direct, indirect, and associative discrimination all count!
The Equality Act also means that you cannot be evicted because you have asked for adjustments to be made to the property as this is victimisation.
Private renting is when your landlord is an individual or a private company. Key things to consider in the private housing sector:
Social housing is owned by a housing association (Registered Provider), a council (local authority), or a housing cooperative/charity. It is intended for people on low incomes and is usually rented to them; though some housing associations also offer shared ownership (part-rent, part-buy) properties. Unlike private landlords, housing associations are not profit-making; they must use any surplus money they make to maintain existing homes and build new ones.
In many areas, most – if not all – housing associations and any remaining council properties are let through a ‘Common Housing Register’. This is a single point of access for social rented properties, so you do not have to approach each provider separately. You can find out about how this works in your area online or in person through your council’s housing options team or advice centre. You can enter a postcode to find the local authority covering your area on their website.
Councils must allow disabled people or those with health or welfare needs to join the register. Councils may require people to have a strong ‘local connection’. You need to fill in a form to apply to join the Common Housing Register – sometimes this is online, sometimes in person, or often you can choose. If you need help to fill in the form, due to access or communication needs, the council should provide this. Libraries can also often offer assistance and online access. You must make sure the information on your application is kept up to date if there are changes to your household or current housing circumstances, or if a medical condition worsens, for example.
The landlord or property manager has the duty to make reasonable adjustments if you’re a tenant, sub-tenant, a leaseholder, or part of a commonhold, and you directly ask them to make a change and if the change is deemed ‘reasonable’.
These adjustments can be made to policies, practices, and terms of your agreement (meaning a term in your tenancy agreement, or the way a landlord does things e.g. how they collect rent) and they can also provide extra equipment or support (auxiliary aids) to make it easier for you to live in that property with your disability.
Changes can be made to furniture, furnishings, materials, or equipment. Some examples of what the landlord can change are:
The landlord may also have to provide all information in an accessible format – e.g. converting documents into Braille.
For changes to be agreed you have to evidence that the disadvantage is substantial – you need to show that your enjoyment of the premises or the use of a benefit or facility which you get under the tenancy is being affected. For example, being able to access and use a garage that’s also let with the property, or being able to live in the property comfortably without disturbance. You’ll need to show that someone without a disability wouldn’t be affected, or would be affected less than you, by the particular rule or lack of equipment or support.
You will also need to check that the adjustments you have asked for are reasonable. Here are some questions to help you decide if it is or not:
What is not covered – anything that involves removing or altering a physical feature – e.g. structural changes, removing walls, widening doorways, or installing permanent ramps.
You may not be able to make changes if your tenancy is statutory, protected, or secure as classified under the Rent Act 1977. If you are unsure what tenancy agreement you have, you can check with your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
It is important to note that if you do make changes to the property without your landlord’s permission, you could be evicted as you have broken the terms of your lease.
The actions of decisions of a landlord are not final. You can challenge them.
If a landlord or letting agent has not given you a reason why they rejected your application to rent, you can ask them to provide one. If their answer falls under discrimination due to your disability, you can challenge this decision.
You can do this by writing an email/letter to your landlord or letting agent. In this letter you may want to include:
You can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau if you want some help with writing your letter. It’s a good idea to keep a copy of your letter and any other documents you may send.
What a positive response might look like:
The landlord or letting agent may apologise to you, commit to changing their practices, offer to help you find a suitable home.
What a negative response might look like:
You do not receive a reply, the landlord or letting agent disagrees that it was discrimination, the landlord or letting agent refuses to help you or change their practices.
In these cases, you may wish to take legal action. To make a claim you have 6 months since the discrimination that you want to report occurred, after that, it is too late to take legal action.
Before taking legal action, there are a few things you should consider: getting the opinions of your friends and family on the matter, thinking about what outcomes you want, checking what evidence there is to support your case, and looking into getting legal aid.
You can also challenge a landlord’s decision to decline your request for adaptations, take action against them if they agree to make adjustments but then don’t follow through, and if they ignore your request.
We've got plenty of events running throughout Housing Week! Check out our campaign page for more events and blog posts.
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