A report released at the end of 2014 and reported on in The Guardian revealed that around 300,000 disabled people were “stuck on housing waiting lists across the UK” and were being “forced to make do with accommodation that does not meet their needs”. This suggests that there is a large market of potential tenants in need of homes that offer independent living, which landlords in the Private Rental Sector (PRS) could provide. With a few adaptations, landlords could tap into that market, having their properties occupied by people who have struggled to find somewhere, potentially meaning more long term tenancies. People looking for accessible housing can search for suitable rental properties in the PRS, from websites such as accessible-property.org.uk and www.thehouseshop.com both of which allow you to advertise your property for free.
There are however a number of factors to consider, such as legal requirements and providing the right facilities and accessibility.
- UK Rights for the disabled
The Equality Act 2010 was introduced to protect people from “discrimination in the workplace and wider society” as well as trying to make the law easier to understand.The protection of this act extends to the rental sector and subsequently provisions must be made to ensure that a property meets these standards. Equally, it is illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a disabled tenant. You can find further details about disabled tenants’ rights here: england.shelter.org.uk
- What a property might need to have in place
The nature and severity of individual disabilities can be very varied. Consequently, what needs to be in place within a property can also be varied. If you are a landlord in the PRS who is considering providing housing for disabled tenants, or the circumstances of your current tenants have changed, then you may have to make a number of alterations.These could include:
- Level and solid approaches to the property to allow access
- Another level or ramped approach to the main entrance
- Door widths of 750mm plus to accommodate wheelchairs
- Switches and handles for controls to be at a height between 750mm and 1200mm
The Discrimination Act also talks about “auxiliary aids and services” which may be needed to ensure disabled tenants aren’t disadvantaged in any way. For example:
- Providing a copy of a tenancy agreement in an accessible format like a CD
- Changing a term of a tenancy agreement, for example to allow an assistance dog.
You can find more examples here: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
- Covering the cost of making changes
Of course in order for a landlord to consider targeting the disabled market the cost implications are a deciding factor. To help cover the cost of any alterations, a landlord, or indeed a disabled tenant, can apply for what is known as a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG). For a landlord who finds themselves with a tenant who has become disabled whilst renting their property, this could be a lifesaver.A DFG is basically funding from the local council to subsidise any changes that need to be made to the property. Each application will go through an eligibility assessment to ensure the work is appropriate and can be completed. You can find more details on this, and how to make a claim, at gov.uk
Whatever the cost, as a landlord it is imperative that any modifications are completed properly, if you are renting to someone with a disability, otherwise you could face substantial legal costs should you fail to provide the right facilities for disabled living.
NEXT TIME: Part 9 – How can I reduce the risk of problem tenants?