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Discrimination in housing - duty to make reasonable adjustments

This advice applies to Scotland

If you’re disabled, you may need your home to be adapted or extra help when you want to rent a property. In some situations you may be able to ask your landlord or an estate agent to make changes to your home or provide extra services.  

The Equality Act 2010 calls this the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Read this page to find out more about the duty to make reasonable adjustments in housing.

Who must make reasonable adjustments

Only the landlord or the manager of a property has a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

This includes - for example:

  • the owner of a property
  • estate agents or a property management company
  • a local authority or housing association.  

What must a landlord or manager of a rented property do?

There are two things landlords or managers of a rented property must do to make it easier for you to rent or live in your home.

Change a policy or practice including the terms of a tenancy agreement

A landlord or manager must make changes to any policies or practices they have which disadvantages you because of your disability. This includes changing a term of a tenancy agreement. For example, a term saying pets aren’t allowed in the property could be changed to allow a disabled person to have an assistance dog.

Example

Your housing association has a policy of allocating one parking space per household. Both you and your partner have mobility impairments and so need your own car. You could ask the housing association to change its policy to allow both of you to have a parking space. This is likely to be a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act.

Provide extra aids or services

Sometimes you may need specific aids or additional services to enable you to rent or live in a property. The Equality Act calls these auxiliary aids and services.

Examples of auxiliary aids or services include:

  • providing a copy of your tenancy agreement in an accessible format like a CD, if you’re visually impaired or have a learning disability
  • allocate a staff member to help you apply for social housing through the local authority's choice based lettings system.

Does the landlord or manager have a duty to make adaptations to your home?

The landlord or manager of a property doesn’t have to make structural changes to your home. But there are some things you can ask them to do to adapt your home if you’re disabled and if it’s reasonable to do so.

When must a landlord or manager make reasonable adjustments?

Rented property

The duty to make reasonable adjustments only applies to rented property or property which is available to rent. This means you can ask the landlord or manager of a property to make changes if:

  • you’re a tenant or someone who has the right to occupy a property
  • you want to rent a property.

A landlord or manager only has to make reasonable adjustments if you ask them to. But this doesn’t have to be a formal request.

Example

You tell your letting agent you can’t read the print in your tenancy agreement because of your visual impairment. Your estate agent should consider this as a request to make reasonable adjustments and provide you with a tenancy agreement in accessible format.

Are you disadvantaged by something?

The landlord or manager of a property has a duty to make reasonable adjustments if you’re disadvantaged in relation to certain things because of your disability. You’re likely to be disadvantaged if you find it very difficult to do something.

You can ask the landlord or manager to make reasonable adjustments if you find it very difficult to do the following things:

  • becoming a tenant or occupying a property
  • enjoying the property you live in
  • using any facilities and benefits which are attached to the property - for example, a common garden or parking space.

The landlord or manager of a property only has a duty to make changes if they’re reasonable.

When is it reasonable to make the changes?

Adjustments only have to be made if it’s reasonable to do so. Here are examples of things to look at to decide whether it’s reasonable or not to make adjustments:

  • the type and length of the letting
  • how much it will cost
  • how much money and resources the landlord or manager has
  • how effective the proposed change is likely to be.

When might a landlord not have a duty to make reasonable adjustments?

There are exceptions to the duty to make reasonable adjustments in the Equality Act. Sometimes if the landlord is letting their property privately, they don’t have to make reasonable adjustments even if you’re disadvantaged by something because of your disability.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

►You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at www.equalityhumanrights.com.

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