Disabled people's rights in rented accommodation
This page looks at your renting rights if you are disabled and what to do if you feel your landlord is discriminating against you because of your disability.
What are my rights in rented accommodation?
If you rent your home you will have certain legal rights. These depend on the kind of tenancy you have. If you have a disability it's illegal for your landlord to discriminate against you on the basis of your disability and you also have additional renting rights.
What can't my landlord do?
It's illegal for landlords and letting agents to discriminate against you if you're disabled. This means that they must not treat you less favourably than a non-disabled person because of your disability.
For example, your landlord or letting agent can't:
- refuse to rent a property to you because you are disabled
- refuse to let you keep a guide dog or other assistance dog under a 'no pets' rule
- charge you a higher rent or a larger deposit than other tenants (although they are allowed to keep back some or all of your deposit if you've damaged the property for a reason related to your disability, for example your wheelchair has damaged the flooring)
- refuse to let you use additional facilities which are available to other tenants, such as a laundry room, storage space, car parking space or drying green, or make it impossible for you to access them
- harass you in any way (harassment can include the use of offensive language or any other behaviour that upsets or disturbs you)
- evict you because you are ill or disabled - you can only be evicted for legitimate reasons, such as rent arrears or antisocial behaviour, so long as these are not related to your disability
- include terms in your tenancy agreement which they wouldn't include in a non-disabled person's
- make you wait longer on a council or housing association waiting list because you have a disability
- give you a less secure tenancy - for example, it would be unlawful for a council or housing association to give you a short Scottish secure tenancy rather than a Scottish secure tenancy because you have a mental health problem.
There are some exceptions to this, see below for more information.
Positive steps a landlord must take
Your landlord must make reasonable adjustments to their letting practices and policies to prevent disability discrimination. They must also provide extra services or equipment for the property if you ask for it. These extras are called 'auxiliary aids'. If you think a landlord is refusing to let a property to you to avoid these duties, this is discrimination.
How should my landlord change their letting practices and policies?
If your landlord's letting policies, practices or procedures unreasonably discriminate against disabled people, they must change them when they are asked to. For example:
- if your landlord has a 'no dogs' policy, they should change this to allow assistance dogs
- if your landlord doesn't allow tenants to park in the grounds or use a certain entrance, you can ask them to change this policy to allow you access
- if your landlord usually writes out to tenants to inform them about rent arrears, antisocial behaviour or any changes to the service, they should be prepared to send out letters in Braille or large print to tenants with sight impairments, or should visit tenants with dyslexia or learning disabilities in person.
What auxiliary aids should my landlord supply?
If you ask your landlord for reasonable aids or equipment to help you to get the most out of your home, they must provide them for you. These include:
- a tenancy agreement in Braille, large print or Easy Read
- a ramp for a wheelchair user
- any special furnishings you need to use the house, such as a stool in the kitchen to support you when you're preparing food, or a raised seat for your toilet
- accessible taps for the kitchen or bathroom
- accessible door handles
- signs (such as fire notices) in large print or Braille
- a doorbell or entry phone system you can use more easily
- painting doors and window frames a darker colour so you can see them more easily
- equipment to help you access any other facilities available to tenants, such as a ramp so you can get into the garden or a wider space in the car park.
You can find out more about choosing equipment to make things easier for you at the Disability Living Foundation website.
When is my landlord not required to provide auxiliary aids?
Sometimes it might not be reasonable for your landlord to supply you with services or equipment, for example where:
- it's very expensive and a cheaper option is available
- your landlord doesn't have the right to make the change, for example if you want a new entry system for your block of flats but other owners in the building object.
Also, some kinds of services and equipment aren't included,for example:
- aids to help you get about outside the property, such as a walking stick or wheelchair,
- fixed adaptations or installations, such as an accessible shower or bath or a new, lower workshop in the kitchen (called 'physical features').
You and your landlord may not always agree on what counts as an 'auxiliary aid' and what counts as a 'physical feature', and the law is not entirely clear. For example, you could argue that a handrail is an aid, because it's easily removable, but your landlord might see it as a physical feature, because it has to be attached to the wall.
If your landlord refuses to provide the extra equipment or services you need to get the most out of your tenancy, speak to an adviser. They may be able to help you negotiate with your landlord.
What kind of tenants can get auxiliary aids?
If you are disabled and you rent your home you will have these rights. They apply even if your name is not on the tenancy agreement, for example if you're the tenant's husband, wife, civil partner, partner, child or parent. There are some exceptions to this, see below for more information.
For information on local disability services in Scotland, contact Update, the national disability information service.
Can I ask social work for help?
You may find it helpful to get advice from an occupational therapist or health worker, as they will be able to suggest equipment that will help you get the most out of your home. However, you don't need to get social work involved if you don't want to. Even without social work's advice your landlord must still consider your request.
If your landlord says they can't provide extra aids without an assessment, talk to an adviser at a disability advice centre.
Can my landlord get out of their responsibilities?
If your landlord tries to include terms in your tenancy agreement to get out of their responsibilities, these terms won't be binding. For example, your tenancy agreement might say that:
- you can sublet your home to non-disabled people but not to disabled people
- no pets are allowed, including assistance dogs
- you do not have access to facilities which other non-disabled tenants use.
If you think your tenancy agreement may be unfair, talk to an adviser. They can help you negotiate with your landlord to get your tenancy agreement changed.
Are there any exceptions?
There are some situations where it's not reasonable to expect landlords to make adjustments for disabled people, for example where:
- your landlord and/or their family live in the property with you, and
- your landlord and/or their family share facilities with you (for example, a kitchen or bathroom - not just access or storage facilities), and
- no more than six people usually live on the premises, or
- no more than two other households live on the premises with the landlord and/or their family.
In addition, a landlord can decide not to let a property to a disabled person where:
- the property is, or has been, the landlord's main home, and
- the landlord doesn't use an estate agent or letting agent to manage the property.
For example, where a landlord is working abroad and renting their house out while they're away.
What responsibilites do letting agencies have?
Letting agencies have the same responsibilities as landlords when it comes to renting out properties. Letting agents must also make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people can access their services. This could include making their offices are accessible. For example by installing a ramp or producing written materials in Braille, large print or on CD.
Can I get adaptations made to my rented accommodation?
If you need to get disability-related adaptations or improvements carried out to make your rented home more suitable for you, you'll need to ask your landlord's permission. Your landlord won't be able to refuse permission unreasonably. The section on getting adaptations done has more information on this.
Where can I get help and advice?
If need help and advice on any of the issues or you think you are being discriminated against contact:
- Citizens Advice
- Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
- your local disability advice centre - use the national disability information service Update to find a service near you.
If you think you are being discriminated against, there are several steps you can take. Read the page on dealing with disability discrimination to find out more.