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Demand for home adaptations

Challenges to securing appropriate home adaptations can act as a significant barrier to independent living. The 2019-20 English Housing Survey report on home adaptations recorded 8% of all households in England (1.9 million) as having at least one person with a long-standing physical or mental health condition who required adaptations to their home.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report, Housing and disabled people: Britain’s hidden crisis (2018) noted particular difficulties with securing adaptations to common areas of dwellings: “Disabled people told us that requests for adaptations to common parts were sometimes refused ‘unreasonably’, even when there was no cost to the other people living in the premises.”

Leaseholders: gaining consent for adaptations

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 made it easier for long leaseholders to obtain a landlord’s (freeholder’s) consent to carry out adaptations to the internal areas of let premises. These provisions were carried over into the Equality Act 2010.

There remained a problem with securing adaptations to the common parts of residential dwellings, such as doors and stairways. A Review Group on Common Parts was set up in 2005 which made several recommendations in relation to commons parts, including a call for the Government to:

…develop (and consult on) legislation for England and Wales which would ensure that when requested by a lessee to make a disability-related adjustment to the common parts of let residential premises, the landlord would be under a duty to make the adjustment where that is reasonable.

Subsequently, the Equality Act 2010 provided a new requirement for disability-related alterations to the physical features of the common parts of let residential premises, or premises owned on a commonhold basis. The provisions are set out in section 36 and schedule 4 to the 2010 Act but have not been brought into force yet.

When will section 36 and schedule 4 be brought into force?

The Coalition Government included the common parts provisions in its ‘red tape challenge’ and delayed implementation pending the Scottish Government’s experience in implementing similar provisions in section 37. The Relevant Adjustments to Common Parts (Disabled Persons) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, which gave effect to the provisions, were not brought into force in Scotland until 24 February 2020.

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability investigated the Act’s impact on disabled people over 2015-16 and called for the immediate implementation of section 36 and Schedule 4.

The Government response said the Government Equalities Office would review the commencement of the common parts provisions and report the decision to the Women and Equalities Committee.

In 2018, the Government response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry on Building for Equality: Disability and the Built Environment confirmed that section 36 and Schedule 4 would be brought into force.

When pressed on a commencement date, the Government referred to ongoing work to quantify the additional costs of commencement for local authorities and said: “Agreement on this figure, and whether and how best such costs can be met, will be a key factor in determining the timescale for commencement.”

The National Disability Strategy (July 2021) referred to a future consultation on adjustments to common parts:

The Cabinet Office will progress work to require landlords to make reasonable adjustments to the common parts of leasehold and commonhold homes. A consultation is planned for 2021.

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