This Commons Library paper provides an outline of the legal position of long leaseholders in blocks of flats in England and Wales who require adaptations to enable access into and around their homes. The paper also covers issues with securing disabled adaptations in the common parts of residential buildings, such as stairways.Jump to full report >>
Research in this area has established that disabled people face problems in finding adequate housing and that this acts as a major barrier to independent living. The English Housing Survey 2014-15 data showed that around 1.9 million households contained someone with a long-term limiting disability. 81% of households that required adaptations said that their home was suitable for their needs. The 2014-15 survey recorded an improvement on the number of households requiring an adaptation who had had them installed since 2011-12.
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, one recommendation was that the “Government should 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 for 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. However, the provisions (in section 36 and Schedule 4 to the 2010 Act) have not been brought into force (but see below).
The Coalition Government included the provisions in its ‘red tape challenge’ and delayed implementation pending the Scottish Government’s experience with implementing the parallel devolved provision in section 37. Regulations to implement section 37 have not been made so this learning process has not taken place.
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. In response, the 2015 Government said that the Government Equalities Office would review the question of the commencement of the common parts provisions. The expectation was that the review would be concluded by the end of 2017 – the 2015 Government said the decision would be reported to the Women and Equalities Committee.
The Government’s response to the Committee’s inquiry on Building for Equality: Disability and the Built Environment was published on 15 March 2018. The Government confirmed that section 36 and Schedule 4 would be brought into force.
This inquiry is looking at “whether the availability of accessible and adaptable housing, and the support services around it, is fulfilling disabled people’s rights to live independently." The report on findings is expected to be published in early 2018.
Commons Briefing papers SN03133
Author: Wendy Wilson