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Finding Wheelchair-accessible Privately Rented Accommodation

Last year the Equalities and Human Rights Commission shockingly revealed that 93% of privately owned housing in the UK is not wheelchair accessible. Consequently, around 365,000 disabled people live in buildings that are not suitable for their needs.

Legislation is unclear on who has ultimate responsibility to make sure that there is enough wheelchair accessible housing for those who need it, and finding such property is difficult especially if you are on a limited budget.

In an attempt to alleviate this problem, Dwell estate agents bring you some advice on how to find accessible housing when looking for private accommodation, and how to make reasonable adjustments to your current rented home.

Finding accessible homes

Sadly there are no comprehensive guides, either online or in print, to all the available wheelchair accessible homes in the UK.

There have been attempts to create such databases, such as The Accessible Property Register, but at the time of writing there are very few properties actually listed on this site.

Newer online property portals such as Zoopla and PurpleBricks have filters that show you only bungalows. Although these are intended for house-hunters who may have difficulty getting up stairs, there is no guarantee that these properties are wheelchair accessible from the outside.

Given the scarcity of wheelchair friendly property available on the market it’s vital that buyers start their hunt as early as possible, are willing to cast their net as wide as possible and use estate or lettings agencies with a deep knowledge of the local area so that they are aware of all the suitable properties available in your desired location.

What are the rights of disabled tenants and house-hunters?

The rights of disabled tenants and house-hunters are protected by The Equalities Act 2010.

The key tenets of this act, with regards to finding accessible housing are:

  • Landlords and Lettings Agencies cannot refuse to house a tenant due to their disability
  • Disabiled tenants cannot be charged a premium on their rent due to their disability, or any adjustments associated with their disability
  • That a potential tenant with an assistance animal cannot be refused tenancy under the “no pets rule”.

Unfortunately, there are no legal requirements for landlords to make their accommodation accessible to people in a wheelchair.

Newer residential builds are having to meet minimum requirements for accessibility (as in a percentage of their dwellings have to be wheelchair accessible) but the effects of these new regulations will only be felt in the future.

Funding reasonable adjustments to privately rented housing

When making reasonable adjustments to your home, such as the fitting of wheelchair ramps, the decision to undertake any work needs to be agreed upon by both yourself (the tenant) and your landlord.

Public funding is available for reasonable adjustments to a residential building with “reasonable” in this context being defined by what is practical and what is affordable.

Funding is usually supplied by either your local council, or a public body called the Disabled Facilities Grant.

When deciding what adjustments are reasonable, these bodies will look at:

  • What the adjustments are, how much they will cost, and how they will benefit the tennant.
  • Whether there are any alternative adjustments that can have the same benefits but be made at a cheaper cost.
  • How long the tennant plans to stay in the building (the longer this is, the more likely adjustments are to be made).

Any adjustments that can be made for under £1,000 can be covered by the local council. The application for this is fairly simple and is usually accepted.

Any adjustments over £30,000 will need to be funded by the Disabled Facilities Grant. This requires a much more complex application that needs to be made by both tenant and landlord. It also requires an agreement by the two parties that the tenant will reside in the home for at least 5 years.

The Disabled Facilities Grant can also cover adjustments that need to be made to the common areas of apartments or HMOs. This still requires agreement from the building manager and HMO landlord.

Can you get funding to make a prospective home wheelchair accessible?

At the moment you cannot get funding to make reasonable adjustments for a home that you do not currently reside in. This includes both funding from the local council and from the Disabled Facilities Grant.

The lack of housing for disabled people has opened up an opportunity for buy-to-let landlords to increase the appeal of their rental homes by making them accessible to wheelchair users.

This can help both ease the problems that disabled people have in finding suitable accommodation, while at the same time make it easier to find tenants for your rental properties.

Original article provided by: Dwell Estate and Letting Agents

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