Providing accommodation that is suitable for tenants living with a disability in the Private Rented Sector could be a profitable niche market for landlords.
But landlords should be aware that the Equality Act 2010 gives all tenants or tenant applicants, those with a genuine disability, a right to have changes made; changes to the tenancy terms or the accommodation, changes that are termed “reasonable adjustments” in the legislation.
Landlords are not expected to make changes to the structure or physical features of their properties, or the common parts in the case of flats and apartments. But if the property is otherwise suitable for disabled living, they may be required to make reasonable adjustments to policies, practices or the terms of the agreement, as well as provide some extra equipment or support – the law calls these auxiliary aids.
Along these lines, the National Landlords Association (NLA) has been doing some work recently, looking into what is needed to encourage landlords to look into this as a potential letting option, and to educate them on their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
The NLA has co-opted in some key players in the aged and disability sectors in order to identify specific requirements and to promote the need for accessible housing within the private rented sector (PRS).
A roundtable discussion was hosted by the NLA with attendees to discuss the current state of landlords’ awareness of housing modification grants, the challenges they face and potential incentives to encourage landlords to make their properties accessible.
Participants at the meeting included representatives from Age UK, Foundations, the Nationwide Foundation, The Centre for Aging Better and Abode Impact (a housing modification company).
Research by Foundations shows that only seven percent of Disabled Facilities Grants go to private tenants, while three quarters (73 percent) of older renters live with a disability or chronic illness.
Meanwhile, the English Housing Survey 2017/18 shows that a quarter (23 percent) of private tenants live with a long-term illness or disability.
Meera Chindooroy, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at the NLA, says:
“There is an acute shortage of accessible housing in the PRS. But with the aging population, this is something that we need to be thinking about and changing now so it doesn’t become an even bigger issue in the years to come. Landlords need to be proactive in meeting this demand.
“The roundtable is just the first step; landlords and experts need to work collaboratively to ensure those living with disability, limited mobility and chronic illness have homes that are suitable for their needs. We’re developing a report outlining the changes that are required alongside guidance to support landlords to offer accessible properties to rent.”