Disabled tenants allowed to alter homes

07 February 2019, Katie Coyne

Stairlift

Landlords must allow disabled leaseholders to make alterations to their homes that are reasonable and necessary, a court has said.

Cardiff County Court has ruled that Stacey Smailes was unlawfully discriminated against after her landlord refused to allow her to make adaptations to her flat. Smailes has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which restricts her mobility.

Even though Smailes owned the leasehold of her home, the case provides clarity on this issue for both disabled homeowners and those who rent privately. The case was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Smailes said: “All that we have sought throughout this matter is for me to be able to live independently and use my home as anyone else would.

“We are relieved that [the] judgment will finally allow me to do this and will protect other disabled people from going through what we have.”

Smailes owned the leasehold on her flat but the landlord Clewer Court Residents Ltd, representing fellow leaseholders, prevented her from making alternations and she and her husband were forced to leave their home.

Smailes wanted to swap over the kitchen and bedroom but a clause in her lease prevented her from doing so and the landlord refused to agree to waive this stipulation.

The court found that the landlord should have agreed to the alteration and also that Smailes was harassed at the meeting held to consider the proposed changes.

EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “Your home should be a place of safety and security, not a source of anxiety and restriction. We are pleased the court has clarified that landlords must change lease agreements to allow alterations that are reasonable and necessary.

“This issue affects many disabled tenants and we hope that today’s ruling will go a long way to ensure that disabled people can enjoy their right to independent living.”

The case could have significant impact as the EHRC has previously identified a chronic lack of suitable housing within PRS for those with disabilities but this ruling makes it clear that tenants must be able to adapt their homes if necessary and reasonable.

The EHRC report Housing and disabled people: Britain’s hidden crisis identified 365,000 disabled people saying their homes were not suitable for their needs.

Partner Sarah Conroy from solicitors Weightmans said: “We were delighted to secure this result for Mr and Mrs Smailes after lengthy and difficult litigation.

“This judgment provides crucial clarification on the law, and we hope that it encourages a wider shift for disabled leaseholders allowing them to enjoy independent living in their own home.”

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