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Asking for adjustments to help with your disability

This advice applies to Wales

If you rent your home or you’re looking for somewhere to rent, you might have a right to changes that will help you live there with your disability. The Equality Act 2010 calls these changes ‘reasonable adjustments’.

Reasonable adjustments can be changes to policies, practices or terms of your agreement. They can also mean providing extra equipment or support - the law calls this auxiliary aids. The law says that a person doesn’t have to do anything that would involve removing or altering a physical feature. They also don’t have to make any changes to common parts.

The law covers you if you’re one of the following:

  • a tenant or sub-tenant
  • a leaseholder
  • part of a commonhold

It also covers other people who live with you.

If the changes have to be made, the law calls this the ‘duty to make reasonable adjustments’. It’s covered in sections 20, 21 and 36 and Schedules 4 and 5 of the Equality Act 2010.

The duty will only apply to you if you have a disability under section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. Check if you’re disabled under the Equality Act if you’re not sure.

The duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ doesn’t apply to every situation. You need to check:

  • if the person you want to make the adjustment is covered - there are some exceptions
  • what adjustments you need and if they’re covered by the duty to make reasonable adjustments
  • if you can make the changes yourself or how to ask for them
  • what to do if they don’t make the changes or try to evict you because you asked for them

Check who has to make adjustments

The duty to make reasonable adjustments applies to anyone who manages or rents out the property. This is called being a ‘controller’ of the premises - it will usually be your landlord or anyone who in practice has control over how the premises are let or managed.

Controllers of premises might also include property management companies and estate agents.

A commonhold association which manages a commonhold unit also has a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

Who you can take action against is covered by section 36 of the Equality Act 2010. The law doesn’t currently cover action against a person responsible for common parts.

Not every person who manages or lets the property is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.

If the person renting out the home also lives or lived there

They’ll have to make adjustments unless both of these apply:

  • an estate agent hasn't been used to let the home or a property manager to manage the home
  • the property used to be or still is their main home

These rules are called the ‘owner occupier (reasonable adjustments) exception’ and are covered in Schedule 5 of the Equality Act 2010.

Example

Jane has a spare room in her home and knows her friend Daniel is looking for somewhere to live. She asks him if he wants to rent the room from her.

Daniel is visually impaired and wants a copy of the tenancy agreement that he can listen to. Under discrimination law Jane doesn't need to make any changes because it's her main home and she's letting the room out privately.

Example

Jane owns a flat that she rents out to students. She gets an estate agent to advertise one of the rooms for rent. Daniel sees the advert and agrees to rent the room from her.

Daniel is visually impaired and wants a copy of the tenancy agreement that he can listen to. Because the flat is not Jane’s main home and she’s used an estate agent, she has to make reasonable adjustments for Daniel’s disability.

If the person treating you unfairly or their relative also lives in the home

If it’s race discrimination, it doesn’t matter who else is living in the home or accommodation - you’ll still be covered by discrimination law.

If it's any other type of discrimination you won't be covered if your home or the home you’re hoping to rent counts as ‘small premises’ under the Equality Act 2010. This exception applies if you share it with the person discriminating against you or their relative. This person is called a ‘resident’ in the Equality Act 2010.

For example, if you’re a lodger and share a kitchen or a bathroom with your landlord’s daughter (the resident) you won’t be covered by the Equality Act 2010.

The small premises exception doesn’t apply if you only share storage areas and means of access.

A relative means the landlord’s or property owner’s:

  • spouse or civil partner
  • unmarried partner
  • parent or grandparent
  • child or grandchild (and the child or grandchild’s spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner)
  • brother or sister

It also includes relatives ‘in law’ of the above people - for example the daughter-in-law of your landlord would count as a relative.

The home counts as small premises if:

  • there are at least 2 households living there - yours and the resident’s household
  • it can’t accommodate more than 3 households in total

It also counts as small premises if it can’t accommodate more than six other people (apart from the resident’s household).

These rules are called the ‘small premises (reasonable adjustments) exception’ and are covered in Schedule 5 of the Equality Act 2010.

The landlord, property manager or controller only has to make adjustments if you ask them to and if they’re reasonable.

If they fail to make a reasonable adjustment it’s discrimination under section 21 of the Equality Act 2010. You might be able to get the adjustments you need by making a complaint or taking legal action.

If the landlord, property manager or controller has a duty to make adjustments, they should meet the costs of complying with the duty - they shouldn’t ask you to pay or add the cost to your rent or service charge.

Check what you can ask for

The landlord, property manager or controller might have to make adjustments for you if you’re at a substantial disadvantage compared to people who don’t have a disability because of:

  • a rule, practice or way of doing things - the law calls this a ‘provision, criterion or practice’
  • not having extra equipment, aids or services - the law calls this an ‘auxiliary aid’

These requirements are called the first and third requirements of the reasonable adjustment duty and are covered in sections 20(3) and 20(5) of the Equality Act 2010.

A ‘provision, criterion or practice’ could include a term in your tenancy agreement or a way your landlord does things - like when or how they collect the rent.

An ‘auxiliary aid’ could include asking your landlord, property manager or controller to change some features in the home to make it easier for you to live there with your disability.

They don’t have to do something that would involve removing or altering a physical feature. Certain removable items like furniture, furnishings, materials or equipment aren’t physical features.

The following aren’t alterations to physical features:

  • replacing or providing signs or notices

  • replacing taps or door handles

  • replacing, providing or adapting your doorbell or door entry system

  • changing the colour of a wall, door or any other surface

This full rules about physical features are covered in Schedule 4, paragraph 2(9) of the Equality Act 2010.

The landlord, property manager or controller might also have to provide information in an accessible form, for example getting a copy of your tenancy agreement translated into Braille if you’re visually impaired.

If you need to make adjustments to physical features in your home

The reasonable adjustments duty only covers certain changes to your home. The duty doesn’t require your landlord to alter or remove ‘physical features’, for example structural changes, removing walls, widening doorways or installing permanent ramps.

If you need one of these things changed, you might be able to use other ways to get the improvements made.

You might be able to make improvements you need to help with your disability if you’re a tenant or leaseholder. Check your agreement to see if it says you can make such improvements with your landlord’s consent. You won’t be able to if you have:

  • a protected tenancy under the Rent Act 1977

  • a statutory tenancy under the Rent Act 1977

  • a secure tenancy - usually a council tenant

Improvements include:

  • adding to or altering the landlord's fittings and fixtures

  • adding or altering something linked to the provision of services to the premises

  • putting up a wireless or television aerial

  • carrying out external decoration

The landlord should not unreasonably withhold consent. If they do and you’re a leaseholder, get advice.

These rules are covered in section 190 of Equality Act 2010.

Read more about getting adaptations done in the EHRC guides.

If you’re not sure what type of tenancy you have, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Check your disadvantage is ‘substantial’ compared to people who aren’t disabled

You’ll first need to show that your enjoyment of the premises or the use of a benefit or facility which you get under the tenancy is being affected. For example being able to access and use a garage that’s also let with the property, or being able to live in the property comfortably without disturbance.

You’ll then need to show that you’re at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ before the landlord, property manager or controller has to make any adjustments. This means being affected in a way which is more than ‘minor or trivial’.

For example, if a rule that tenants aren’t allowed mobility scooters in the home causes a problem to someone who relies on using one, but they can get to it easily because there is space for it outside their front door, it might be so minor you won’t need an adjustment.

However, if there is no place to store it near the home and the tenant struggles to get to it, then it could be ‘more than minor or trivial’.

You’ll need to show that someone without a disability wouldn’t be affected, or would be affected less than you, by the particular rule or lack of equipment or support.

This is in section 20(3) and 20(5) and Schedule 4, paragraph 2(5) of the Equality Act 2010.

Check if they know what adjustments you need

The landlord, property manager or controller only has to make reasonable adjustments if you've asked them for adjustments. It’s important that you’re clear about what adjustments you want and why they’ll help you. It’s best to keep a record of what you’ve asked for in case you need this later.

Work out what adjustments you need

You don’t have to say what adjustments you want but it would be a good idea to think of what would help you and how it would help. You could speak to your doctor or other medical professional to see if they have any ideas about what would help you live in the home.

Think about whether your request is ‘reasonable’

The landlord, property manager or controller only has to take reasonable steps to avoid you being disadvantaged, or to provide an aid if you need one.

There’s no definition of what’s reasonable but it will depend on lots of factors like how easy it would be to make the adjustment. It could also include the resources of the landlord, property manager or controller. For example, a landlord with many properties would be expected to do more than a landlord with one.

You should also consider:

  • if a particular adjustment would prevent the disadvantage for you - the more likely it is to do that, the more likely it is to be reasonable
  • how long you’re likely to be in the property compared to the cost and disruption of the adjustment
  • how much it will cost - a local authority might be able to spend more than a private landlord with only one property
  • how difficult it will be for the landlord, property manager or controller to make the adjustment
  • how difficult it will be to undo the adjustment when you leave the home

Example

Liz has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. There are 3 steps leading to her home and she finds getting in and out of the house on her own difficult. She also finds it hard to use some fixtures in the home.

She’s asked her landlord to:

  • provide her with a non-fixed ramp at her front door
  • provide accessible door handles
  • provide accessible taps in the kitchen
  • replace furniture so that she is able to use it - like a lower bed
  • change the colour of the walls because she doesn’t like it

All of these could be reasonable except the last - changing the colour of the walls won't prevent the difficulties that Liz has.

The cost of the special equipment will be a factor in deciding whether it's reasonable for the landlord to provide it, but so will the size of the landlord and the amount of money the landlord has like if they’re a private landlord with one property or a larger corporate landlord.

Asking your landlord or property manager for adjustments

Once you've made a request for reasonable adjustments, your landlord, property manager or controller is under a duty to make them. If you haven't asked for the reasonable adjustment yet, you should ask them. Make sure your request is polite and helpful - you’re trying to work out the best solution together.

If you’re asking for adjustments

Make sure you tell the landlord, property manager or controller about your disability and how this affects you in your home.

If the adjustments haven’t been made and you want to take it further

You have to be able to show that you - or someone on your behalf - made a request to take steps to avoid the disadvantage or provide the auxiliary aid.

It’s a good idea to explain in your request how you meet the definition of disability in section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. This will avoid the risk of them saying they don’t have to make the reasonable adjustment because you’re not covered by the Act.

Deciding how to make your request

It’s often a good idea to make an informal request first, and then make a formal one if that doesn’t work. In some cases, though, it might be better to go straight to making a formal request.

To decide whether to make a formal or informal request first, you should think about:

  • who you’re asking to make adjustments
  • what rights you have to stay in the home and the risk that you might be evicted for making the request - like if you’re an assured shorthold tenant or a council tenant
  • your current and ongoing relationship with the person you’re asking
  • if you’ve mentioned the problem before

Example

Christian rents a flat from a private landlord who he has a good relationship with. He has an assured shorthold tenancy which means he can be evicted fairly easily once his fixed term ends.

Christian was born with a visual impairment and his disability has recently got worse. He finds seeing the doors in his home difficult because they’re painted the same colour as the walls.

He needs to ask for reasonable adjustments (to have them painted another contrasting colour). He feels that his landlord is usually quite helpful and he doesn't want to annoy her, so decides to ask her informally for the adjustments.

If his landlord doesn’t make the change, he could ask more formally or he might decide not to ask formally and to take action another way.

If he’s going to take action another way, he should think about whether he has enough evidence to show he’s made a request. One way to do this is to ask formally or to write to the landlord to acknowledge the refusal.

You might need to write a more formal letter if one or more of the following apply:

  • you’ve already spoken to the landlord, property manager or controller but without success
  • you need adjustments to be made urgently
  • you’re asking a large organisation which is used to dealing with such requests - like a local council

If you’re making an informal request

You could speak to them in person or on the phone, but make sure you make a note of when you spoke and who said what.

You could put your request in writing so you’ll have a record of what you’ve asked for or if you don’t think speaking to them first will work. You can write a letter or an email.

Whichever way you make your request, you should follow up in writing if you don’t get a reply within a reasonable time - like 14 days.

Explain why you need the adjustment

Your disability might not be obvious to the landlord, property manager or controller, so make sure you tell them exactly what it is and how it affects you.

Give them enough information about your impairment for them to understand that you are, or could be, disabled. You need to make it clear that your impairment has lasted, or is likely to last, at least 12 months and that its effect on your day-to-day life is more than minor or trivial.

Check the definition of disability under the Equality Act if you’re not sure.

You also need to describe how the thing you want changed is causing you problems. Explain why you’re at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone without a disability.

In an informal complaint, you don’t have to use legal language, but you can if you think it will persuade the person you’re writing to take action. You might also have to explain the law to them if you think they won’t be aware of their legal obligations - like if they’re a small or inexperienced landlord.

If you want to use legal language or if you’re asked for more information, tell them that they have a duty to make reasonable adjustments under sections 20, 21, 36 and Schedule 4 of the Equality Act 2010.

You should also say why you’re at a substantial disadvantage without the adjustment. For example, say what part of the home or which rule in your tenancy agreement puts you at a disadvantage and describe the effect it has on you.

Explain what you want them to do

Tell the landlord, property manager or controller how you want them to change things to help with your disability. Be as specific as you can - they’ll find it easier to make the adjustments.

You can end the letter or conversation by asking them to consider the adjustments and let you know in writing if they can’t make them. You should ask them to respond within a certain time - 7 to 14 days is usually reasonable.

Example

Dear Bill

I’d like to discuss issues I have with your request to pay you rent in person at your shop. Those issues are related to my health. I’d like to arrange a time to discuss these with you.

I have severe arthritis in my hip and have had this for the past 2 years. My doctor said it’s not likely to clear up any time soon.

The arthritis affects my ability to walk to your shop and climb the steps to the shop floor.

I know you can’t leave the shop floor unattended to collect rent from me, but I think it would help if you could allow me to pay by bank transfer or send you the money in the post.

I’d really like to discuss this with you further, please can we talk for half an hour or so next week?

Yours sincerely

John

If you’re making a formal request

You should put a formal request in writing so you’ll have a record of what you’ve asked for. You can write a letter or an email.

You could also get someone to ask your landlord, property manager or controller on your behalf if you don’t feel confident doing it on your own. They’ll have to show that you’ve given them permission to do so.

It’s a good idea to use legal language, especially if you think it will persuade the person you’re writing to to take action. Your letter should:

1. Explain why you need the adjustment

Your disability might not be obvious to the landlord, property manager or controller, so make sure you tell them exactly what it is and how it affects you.

Give them enough information about your impairment for them to understand that you are, or could be, disabled. You need to make it clear that your impairment has lasted, or is likely to last, at least 12 months and that its effect on your day-to-day life is more than minor or trivial.

If you’re using legal language, say you have a disability as defined by section 6 of the Equality Act 2010.

Check the definition of disability under the Equality Act if you’re not sure.

You also need to describe how the thing you want changed is causing you problems.

2. Mention their duty to make reasonable adjustments

If you’re using legal language or if you’re asked for more information, tell them that under sections 20, 21, 36 and Schedule 4 of the Equality Act 2010, they have a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

You should also say why you’re at a substantial disadvantage without the adjustment. For example, say what part of the home or which rule in your tenancy agreement puts you at a disadvantage and describe the effect it has on you.

Say if you’re asking for an adjustment to a rule or way of doing things (a ‘provision, criterion or practice’) or extra equipment or support (an ‘auxiliary aid’).

If you’re asking for an adjustment to a rule or way of doing things, you could say something like:

'As the landlord of the property, under the Equality Act 2010 you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments to a provision, criterion or practice that puts me at a substantial disadvantage due to my disability.

Failing to make reasonable adjustments is against the law and amounts to disability discrimination.'

If you’re asking for an auxiliary aid, you could say something like:

'As the landlord of the property, under the Equality Act 2010 you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where the lack of extra equipment or support (called an ‘auxiliary aid’) puts me at a substantial disadvantage due to my disability.

Failing to make reasonable adjustments is against the law and amounts to disability discrimination.'

3. Explain what you want them to do

Tell the landlord, property manager or controller how you want them to change things to help with your disability. Be as specific as you can - they’ll find it easier to make the adjustments.

You can end the letter or conversation by asking them to consider the adjustments and let you know in writing if they can’t make them. You should ask them to respond within a certain time - 7 to 14 days is usually reasonable.

Example

Dear Mr Evans

I would like you to accept this formal request for a reasonable adjustment to your property to help with my disability.

As you know, I’m deaf, so have a disability as defined by section 6 of the Equality Act 2010. I can’t hear the doorbell when it rings. I can’t tell when someone’s at the door unless they know to call my mobile phone which I carry with me on vibrate mode. I’ve missed at least 3 deliveries in the past month because of this.

I need a visual doorbell and not having one puts me at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who isn’t disabled.

As the landlord of the property, under sections 20 and 36 of the Equality Act 2010 you have a duty to make reasonable adjustments where the lack of an auxiliary aid causes me a substantial disadvantage due to my disability.

Failing to make reasonable adjustments is unlawful and amounts to disability discrimination under section 21 of the Equality Act 2010.

You can make an adjustment by installing a visual doorbell system that uses a flashing light to tell me when someone’s at the door. Without this, I’ll still be at a substantial disadvantage compared to someone who isn’t disabled. Systems like these are available online.

This is a formal request that you consider the above adjustment. If you feel you can’t do this, please respond to this letter to explain why.

I look forward to receiving your response within 14 days.

Yours sincerely

Ms James, tenant at 22 Acacia Avenue

If you want to make the adjustments yourself

Whether you can make the adjustments yourself depends on what your lease or tenancy agreement says.

You might be able to make improvements you need to help with your disability if you’re a tenant or leaseholder. Check your agreement to see if it says you can make such improvements with your landlord’s consent. You won’t be able to if you have:

  • a protected tenancy under the Rent Act 1977

  • a statutory tenancy under the Rent Act 1977

  • a secure tenancy - usually a council tenant

If you’re not sure what type of tenancy you have, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Improvements include:

  • adding to or altering the landlord's fittings and fixtures

  • adding or altering something linked to the provision of services to the premises

  • putting up a wireless or television aerial

  • carrying out external decoration

These rules are covered in section 190 of Equality Act 2010.

You must make sure you get this consent before you make any changes. You should do this in writing. You should give your landlord details of the changes you want to make and ask for their consent. You should also say if you’re planning on putting things back the way they were before you leave.

The landlord should not unreasonably withhold consent.

If they unreasonably withhold consent you might be able to make the changes yourself or take action against them at court. You should get legal advice before you do this because there’s a risk that they could take steps to try to evict you or take you to court for breaking your tenancy agreement.

If you’re a leaseholder and they refuse consent you can also get advice from LEASE. 

Your landlord is allowed to ask you to meet some conditions, as long as they’re reasonable. If you make the changes and don’t meet those conditions (if reasonable), you’ll be breaking your tenancy agreement.

A reasonable condition could be that:

  • your landlord is able to approve the builder or firm that will do the work
  • you explain how you’ll put things back the way they were before you leave

The full process you need to follow if you need adaptations because of a disability is in section 190 of Equality Act 2010.

It’s a good idea to read your tenancy agreement carefully because it might allow you to make more changes than under discrimination law.

If your lease or tenancy agreement says you can’t make changes or doesn't mention changes at all

If there’s a section in your lease or tenancy agreement that stops you from making the alterations that you need and this puts you at a substantial disadvantage, you should ask your landlord to change the wording.

They have to change the wording of your agreement so that you can make any reasonable adjustments needed but only so far as is necessary to avoid the disadvantage. It will never be reasonable for them to have to take a step which would involve removing or altering a physical feature.

This is covered in Schedule 4, paragraph 2(7) and 2(8) of the Equality Act 2010.

If your lease or tenancy agreement doesn’t say whether you can make changes or not, you’d normally not be able to make changes unless they agree.

You should always get your landlord, property manager or controller to agree before making any adjustments to the home - it’s best to get their agreement in writing.

If you make changes your landlord hasn't agreed to, they could take steps to try to evict you or take you to court for breaking your tenancy agreement unless you asked for their consent and it was unreasonably withheld.

Your landlord is allowed to ask you to meet some conditions, as long as they’re reasonable. If you make the changes and don’t meet those conditions (if reasonable), you'll be breaking your tenancy agreement.

A reasonable condition could be that:

  • your landlord is able to approve the builder or firm that will do the work
  • you explain how you’ll put things back the way they were before you leave

If reasonable adjustments aren’t made after your request

If the landlord, property manager or controller refuses your request without a good a reason or they don’t make the adjustments they promised, you can take action.

If they say they can’t make the adjustment because there is a term in their own tenancy that says they can’t make alterations then you could ask them to get written consent from their own landlord to let them make the change. This is covered in Schedule 21 of the Equality Act 2010.

If they don’t reply to your request at all, it’s the same as if they have refused to make the adjustments. You’ll need to decide what to do about the discrimination.

If the landlord, property manager or controller has failed to make reasonable adjustments and you want to take legal action for discrimination, you must do so within 6 months less one day.

It’s important to know when the time limit starts to run so you know how long you have to start legal action. The time limit usually starts when they decide not to make reasonable adjustments.

If they haven’t made a decision, the time limit starts after they’ve been given a reasonable period to comply with their duty. If you’re not sure if the landlord, property manager or controller, has made a decision or the date of their decision, it might be safer to calculate the time limit from the date you made your request. This will mean you’ll be within the deadline.

You could make a late claim if the court thinks it’s fair - this is called being ‘just and equitable’. They might consider things like the reason for the delay, the length of the delay and the effect of a late claim on the other side.

You shouldn’t rely on this though as the court might decide not to allow you to make a late claim. Act quickly as this will give you a better chance of the court accepting your claim. Check what to do if you’ve missed the deadline

The court’s power to allow a late claim is in section 118 of the Equality Act 2010.

In some cases, if you’ve missed the deadline, you could ask for the adjustment again, explaining why you still need it and any change in circumstances - it won't give you a new deadline but might prompt the other side to actually make the adjustment.

You shouldn’t make changes to physical features yourself just because you haven’t heard from your landlord or they haven’t made the adjustments you asked for. If you make changes your landlord hasn't agreed to, they could take steps to try to evict you or take other legal action against you for breaking your tenancy agreement.

If your landlord tries to evict you because you asked for adjustments

The Equality Act 2010 protects you if your landlord tries to evict you because you asked for adjustments - this is known as ‘victimisation’ and is covered in section 27. Read more about what to do if your landlord tried to evict you and get discrimination advice.

Defending an eviction when your landlord hasn’t made reasonable adjustments

You should think about whether the landlord failed to make reasonable adjustments after you asked for them. You might be able to use the landlord’s failure to make reasonable adjustments to defend the eviction.

The landlord’s failure to make reasonable adjustments could help you defend an eviction if the reason you’re being evicted is:

  • linked to the lack of a reasonable adjustment
  • rent arrears but you can reduce the amount owed because a reasonable adjustment wasn’t made by getting compensation

Example

Sandy couldn’t pay the rent through an online system because she has a learning disability that makes using computers difficult. She asked her landlord if she could pay in person or over the phone. Her landlord said she had to pay the rent online.

Her landlord is trying to evict her because of the rent arrears. In her defence, she could try to say the landlord failed to make reasonable adjustments which would have avoided any rent arrears.

She should explain how she tried to pay the rent another way or, if she couldn’t pay another way, that she has money in an account and can pay them if they give her another way of paying.

Example

Afzal has mobility problems and has previously asked his council landlord to make reasonable adjustments - like providing accessible taps and door handles.

He owes £1,000 in rent and the council wants to evict him. Afzal has calculated that his claim is worth around £1,000. He can try to defend the rent arrears eviction by saying that the compensation he's owed will cancel out the rent arrears. He can do this even though the reasonable adjustment isn’t linked to his rent arrears.

Read more about what to do if your landlord tried to evict you and get discrimination advice.

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