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Adapting common parts for your disability

This advice applies to Scotland

This page applies to Scotland only.

Adapting common parts

If you're disabled, you can make certain adaptations to the common parts of your building. You'll need to get the support of a majority of the owners of the common parts that you want to change.

Under the law, 'common parts' means:

  • the structure or outside of the building you live in
  • any common facilities you share with other people in the building.

Adaptations to common parts should be tailored to your needs. There are many changes you could make, like installing a ramp to access a shared garden or widening a path.

You'll be responsible for getting the adjustments completed and paid for, but you might be able to get help.  

This page explains who can get adaptations to common parts, what issues you need to consider and how to formally get the agreement of the owners.

Who can adapt common parts

You have a right to ask for permission to make changes to common parts if you're:

  • disabled, and
  • a tenant or a homeowner, or you have permission to live in your home from the tenant or the owner, and
  • living there as your only or main home.

What adaptations can you make

The law says you can make 'relevant adjustments' to 'common parts' of the building you live in, if you get agreement from a majority of the other owners who share the common parts. 

This means changing, or adding to, the common parts so that you’re not at a 'substantial disadvantage' in using them compared with people who aren't disabled. It shouldn’t be harder for you to use the common parts of the building. 

In particular, you have a right to ask for permission to make changes to the common parts that allow you to enter the building, or make the building more suitable for you to live in.

Under the law, 'common parts' means:

  • the structure or outside of the building you live in
  • any common facilities you share with other people in the building.

Common parts are unique to the building you live in. Examples of common parts you might need to change include:

  • stairs, stairwells and closes
  • laundry rooms
  • bin stores
  • building entrances and paths
  • gardens, drying greens and backyards
  • car parks.

You can't ask to change any areas that are owned solely by one owner, because these aren’t common parts. You can check the title deeds for a property on Scotland's Land Information Service website if you aren’t sure who owns what.

Examples of adaptations to common parts might include:

  • widening paths
  • adding ramps at entrances
  • installing grab rails at the front door or up entrance steps.

There are many other adjustments that might meet your needs. If you're not sure what changes you need, you could ask your local council's social work department for an assessment.

The council will also need to do an assessment if you apply for a grant from the Scheme of Assistance. There can be long waiting times for assessments in some areas.

Checking building regulations and other consents

You’ll need to know if the adaptations:

  • need building warrants or planning consents
  • will meet building and fire regulations.

What's needed will depend on the adaptations and the building you live in. You'll need advice about your particular circumstances.

It's best to get advice on these issues from expert organisations.

Paying for adaptations

You'll be responsible for organising how the adaptations are paid for, and for the costs of maintaining, repairing and reinstating the common parts, if needed. 

Reinstating means putting the common parts back to how they were before you changed them. An owner might ask you to agree to do this if you move out. 

Your options for paying for adaptations include:

  • paying for the adaptations yourself
  • applying for a grant from the council's Scheme of Assistance
  • getting a grant or loan from a charity or other organisation in your area.

You might be able to share the costs with the other owners of the common parts, but they don’t have to agree to this. It's best to check your other options first.

Your local Care and Repair service can advise you about funding for adaptations. Find out more about getting help from Care and Repair on mygov.scot.

Grants from the council

You could apply for a grant under the Scheme of Assistance from your local council. The council is likely to require an occupational therapist to assess your needs to decide if the changes are essential and if you're eligible for a grant.

Find out more about the Scheme of Assistance and social care assessments

Find your local council on mygov.scot.

How to get permission for changes to common parts

There's a legal process you have to follow to ask owners for their agreement to adaptations to adapt common parts. You have to send an application form to all owners who share the common parts. 

If you're a tenant, you don't have to tell your landlord before you start this process. But you'll have to ask the person who owns your home to agree to the adaptations you need in the same way as the other owners. The person who owns your home is usually your landlord. 

Step 1: Get contact details

You'll need the names and addresses of each owner who shares the common parts. This includes your landlord if you're a tenant. You need these details so you can send the owners an application form.

If people in your building rent their homes, you'll need to get the names and addresses of the owners, who are usually the landlords. 

If you don't know who the owners are, you can search the Scottish Land Register. You'll need to buy copies of the title documents for a small fee. Find out how to search the Register on the Registers of Scotland website

For rented homes, you can also search the Scottish Landlord Register or ask the tenants to check their tenancy agreements. Find out how to search the Scottish Landlord Register

Step 2: Fill in the forms

You must send two forms to each owner:

  • a completed application form - fill in the Application for Consent to Relevant Adjustments in part 1 of the schedule to the regulations, following the notes for completion
  • a decision form - the form in part 2 of the schedule to the regulations, with space for the owner to write their decision.

You need to prepare both forms for each owner who shares the common parts. This includes the person who owns your home, if that’s not you. 

You can get help with filling in the forms from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

There are notes in the regulations to help you and the owners fill in the forms. It's best to include these notes for the owners too.

Step 3: Send the forms 

You must send the two forms to each owner who shares the common parts.

If you don't own your home, you'll need to send an application to the owner. This is usually your landlord.

You can send the application forms by post or email. It's best to send the forms by recorded delivery so you have proof they've been received. 

Make sure you send the forms on the date you put on them.

Step 4: Owners' replies

The owners should reply using the decision form you sent them, within one month of receiving your application.

After one month has passed you'll need to check how each owner has replied. 

Owners can:

  • agree without any conditions
  • agree with reasonable conditions attached to the work
  • reject your application.

They should put the reasons for their decision on the form. 

Owners can't reject your application unreasonably. There's no definition of what's unreasonable, but when owners are considering your application, they're entitled to think about:

  • the health, safety, welfare and convenience of occupiers and other people using the common parts
  • costs they're likely to have as a result of the proposed changes
  • whether the changes will reduce the value of their home, the common parts or any other part of the property, or make it less suitable for letting or selling
  • whether the common parts could be put back to how they were before
  • The Equality and Human Rights Commission code of practice for reasonable adjustments for disabled people.

You can appeal if a majority of the owners reject your application. The sheriff will decide if the adaptations can go ahead. 

If owners don't reply

If an owner doesn't reply within a month of getting your application you have to count it as a rejection. 

You can appeal if a majority of the owners reject your application. The sheriff will decide if the adaptations can go ahead. 

If the owners agree to your adaptations, with conditions

Owners can attach reasonable conditions to agreeing to your adaptations. They should write any conditions in the decision form you sent. 

Conditions might require you to:

  • complete the work to a particular standard, taking into account the age, condition and appearance of the building and the cost of doing this
  • return the common parts to how they were before, if you stop being a tenant, sell the property or move out 
  • make a plan for maintaining the adjustments once they're made.

You can choose to accept or reject the conditions. If you reject them, you have to treat their reply as a rejection of your application. 

Remember that rejecting conditions could affect whether you get a majority of support from the owners.

You can also appeal to the sheriff court against conditions, for example if you think they're unreasonable. 

Step 5: Send notice of the outcome

A simple majority of the owners have to agree to the adaptations you want to make. This means at least one more person has to agree than disagree.

If more people disagree, your adaptations can't go ahead. You can appeal against this and ask the sheriff to decide if they can go ahead. 

You must send a notice of the majority decision to all owners. The notice form is in part 3 of the schedule to the regulations on the UK legislation website

If you get support from a majority of the owners, and none of the owners appeals to the sheriff court, you can begin work on the date you stated on your application form. 

If an owner appeals to the sheriff court, you can't do any work on the adaptations while you're waiting for the sheriff's decision. 

Appealing against a decision

You, or an owner, can appeal to the sheriff court about the majority decision or a condition attached to the work. 

For example, you may want to appeal if your application is rejected by a majority of the owners. 

An owner may want to appeal if they don't agree the adaptations should go ahead. 

The appeal must be made to the sheriff court under a legal process called Summary Application. The process is complicated so you'll need legal representation from a lawyer. 

There's more information about Summary Applications on the Scottish courts website

If someone wants to appeal against a decision to agree to the adaptations, they have to tell you and all the owners of the common parts. 

If an owner appeals to the sheriff court, you can't do any work on the adaptations while you're waiting for the sheriff's decision. 

The sheriff can:

  • allow the adaptations to go ahead with or without conditions
  • decide that you can't make the adaptations.

Getting help with adaptations to common parts 

Your local council

If you're not sure what changes you need, you could ask your local council for an assessment by the social work department.

The council will also need to do an assessment if you apply for a grant from the Scheme of Assistance. There can be long waiting times for assessments in some areas.

Your council's planning department can advise you if you need building warrants or planning permission.

Find your local council on mygov.scot.

Care and Repair service

You should contact your local Care and Repair service. They guide and support people who need to adapt their home.

Find out more about getting help from Care and Repair on mygov.scot.

Housing Options Scotland

Housing Options Scotland gives information, advice and support on renting, buying and adapting homes. They can help you decide if it's better to adapt your current home or find another place to live that is suited to your needs. Find out how to get help on the Housing Options Scotland website.

Disabled Living Foundation

The Disabled Living Foundation website has a number of fact sheets that are relevant to adapting common parts, including planning and funding and access into and around your home. You can also phone the Disabled Living Foundation helpline for advice on finding and buying adaptations and equipment. 

Disabled Living Foundation (DLF)
Helpline: 03009 990 044
Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm
Switchboard: 020 7289 6111 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Email: helpline@dlf.org.uk or info@dlf.org.uk
Website: www.dlf.org.uk

Disabled Living Foundation Unit 1
34 Chatfield Road
Wandsworth
London
SW11 3SE

Shelter Scotland

Shelter provides advice on housing, including adaptations. 

Shelter Scotland
4th Floor, Scotiabank House
6 South Charlotte Street
Edinburgh
EH2 4AW

Tel: 0344 515 2000 (main switchboard)
Free housing advice helpline: 0808 800 4444
Website: scotland.shelter.org.uk

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