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Discrimination - Adaptations in private rented housing

If you rent your home from a private landlord, you will need to ask their permission to make adaptations. However, your landlord cannot refuse consent unreasonably as this can be seen as discrimination.

The Equality Act 2010 grants rights to disabled people for landlords to make necessary changes to their homes. This is called the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Can I get adaptations done if I rent from a private landlord?

If you live in private rented accommodation, you may be able to adapt the property to help you live there more easily. However, this will depend on:

  • the kind of adaptations that you need
  • whether your landlord allows you to make the adaptations.

Some adaptations may not involve making changes to the property itself, for example, getting a ramp or a raised seat for your loo. These are known as 'auxiliary aids', and it's likely that your landlord will need to provide them for you, if you ask. Read the page on renting rights for disabled people to find out more.

Other adaptations, such as a stairlift or handrails, will involve making changes to the property itself. In this case you will need to get your landlord's permission to carry out the adaptations. 

Who has these rights?

All private tenants have these rights, including common law tenants (for example, tenants who share with their landlord), agricultural and crofting tenants and service occupiers or service tenants. Unfortunately, these rights don't apply if you rent a mobile home.

These rights apply if:

  • you or another person you live with is disabled, and
  • the property you want to adapt is (or will be) that person's only or main home, and
  • you need to carry out the adaptations to make your home suitable for the accommodation, welfare or employment of the disabled person (for example, if they need to work from home).

What do I have to do?

First of all, you'll need to write to your landlord explaining what work you need to and why. Your landlord then has a month to decide whether or not to grant permission. If they don't reply within a month, you'll have to assume that the answer is no.

Do I need to get social work involved?

You may find it helpful to get advice from an occupational therapist or health worker, as they will be able to suggest adaptations 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 - your landlord must still consider your request.

What does my landlord need to consider?

When considering your application, your landlord can take into account:

  • what your disability is
  • whether the work proposed is really necessary to make your home suitable for a disabled person (for example, is it necessary to build a toilet on the ground floor? Could a stairlift be installed more easily instead?)
  • your safety and the safety of anyone who lives with you or near you
  • the costs the landlord may incur, as a result of the adaptations
  • whether the work is likely to reduce the value of the property or make it less suitable for letting or sale in the future
  • whether the property could be put back to its original condition when you move out
  • the nature of your disability and how it affects you
  • how well the adaptation you request will meet your needs
  • the effect on your well-being if the adaptation isn't carried out
  • your ability to pay for the work
  • what kind of tenancy you have
  • the length of time you're likely to live in the property
  • how much work is involved
  • how disruptive the work will be for your neighbours
  • whether the work will comply with planning permission and building standards requirements
  • whether it will be possible or necessary to put the property back to the way it was before the work was done
  • the Code of Practice issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The first two instances don't apply if you wish to carry out work under the energy assistance package.

Can my landlord say no?

Having taken all these things into account, your landlord cannot refuse consent unreasonably. For example, they can only refuse if:

  • giving permission would breach any legal obligation in the title deeds of the property
  • you can't get planning permission or a building warrant for the work (see below)
  • their mortgage lender won't give them permission to alter the property
  • the adaptations would make the property unsafe
  • the adaptations would affect common areas and other owners in the building object.

Can my landlord impose any conditions?

If your landlord does agree to they work, they are allowed to impose reasonable conditions. For example, they can:

  • insist that you obtain the necessary planning permission and building warrants (see below)
  • if the repairs affect common areas, ask you to get consent from the other owners
  • set certain standards of the work, taking into account the age and condition of the house and the likely cost of complying with these standards
  • insist that you stick to a plan or specification that they've approved and give them an opportunity to inspect the work
  • state that you're responsible for the maintenance of the adaptation
  • ask you to put the property back the way it was before, when you move out.

What about planning permission and building warrants?

You may need to get planning permission, listed building consent or a building warrant to carry out the necessary work. If the work will affect common areas of the property such as the stairs or main entrance, you may need to get permission from other home owners in the building. Go to the section on building work to find out more.

How should my landlord let me know?

When your landlord has made their decision, they should write to you to let you know. If the answer is yes, they should outline any conditions attached and let you know why they are imposing these conditions. If the answer is no, they must let you know why. In both cases, your landlord must let you know how you can appeal against their decision (see 'how do I appeal' below).

Can my landlord get round these rights?

Your landlord can't include any clauses in your tenancy agreement to get them out of this duty. If they do, these clauses won't be binding.

What happens if my landlord says no?

If your landlord refuses you permission to adapt your home, you may be able to persuade them to change their mind - an adviser at a disability rights agency or Shelter advice centre may be able to help you negotiate with your landlord. Alternatively, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) operates a disability conciliation service, which can help you reach a satisfactory agreement with your landlord - contact the EHRC to find out more. This will be cheaper, faster and less stressful than taking your case to court.

If your landlord refuses to take part in the conciliation process, or if you can't come to an agreement, you may be able to appeal in court.

How do I appeal?

After your landlord has let you know their decision, you have six months to appeal to the sheriff court. You can appeal if:

  • your landlord imposes conditions on their consent that you're not happy with, or
  • your landlord refuses consent.

The sheriff has the power to:

  • set aside your landlord's decision
  • instruct your landlord to remove or vary a condition
  • consent to the application with or without conditions
  • make an order about payment of expenses in relation to the appeal.

The sheriff must take into account the EHRC's Code of Practice when making their decision.

The sheriff's decision is final, so you won't be able to appeal again.

Can I get help to appeal?

If you decide to appeal, get in touch with an adviser at a law centre or disability rights agency as soon as possible.

In some situations, you may be able to get legal advice and representation from the EHRC - read the page on tackling disability discrimination to find out how the EHRC can help and call their helpline for further information.

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The important points

  • If you rent your home from a private rented property you need to ask your for permission before carrying out any adaptations that alter the property.
  • Your landlord cannot withhold their consent unreasonably.
  • If your landlord says no to the adaptations, contact the disability conciliation service operated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which can help you reach a satisfactory agreement with your landlord.

If you're still looking for help, try searching, or find out how to contact us

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