It is against the law for landlords to discriminate against disabled people - any person with ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day to day activities’.
This begins with any advert for prospective tenants (or instructions to agents) which must not be discriminatory in any way (not only against disabled people but also on grounds of race, sex, sexuality, or religion or belief).
Once tenants, disabled tenants have the right, under the Disability Discrimination Acts, to request reasonable changes to their tenancy agreements that would put them on an equal footing with other tenants. So they might request, for example, the lifting of an exclusion of pets to accommodate a guide dog – and the landlord might be found to have discriminated against the disabled tenant if he or she refused such a change without reasonable cause.
Disabled tenants may also request changes to the property they rent (other than structural changes) in order to assist them in their occupancy. Landlords do not have to pay for these changes but may not unreasonably withhold their consent to allow their disabled tenant to make the changes.
Disabled tenants may be able to obtain a Disabled Facilities Grant to make such changes. This a means tested grant to help with the costs of adapting a home to the needs of a disabled person.The grant is only available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, although different rules apply in Wales .
Landlords may apply for the Disables Facilities Grant on behalf of disabled tenants. The maximum amount is £25,000 in Northern Ireland, £30,000 in England and £36,000 in Wales. The money can be used for adaptations to give disabled tenants better freedom of movement into and around the property and/or to provide essential facilities within it. Acceptable types of work include: widening doors and installing ramps; providing or improving access to rooms and facilities - for example, by installing a stair lift or providing a downstairs bathroom; improving or providing a heating system; and adapting heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use.
The needs of disabled tenants must also be taken into account when conducting fire risk assessments.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which applies to the common areas of houses in multiple occupation and of flats and maisonettes, requires appointment of a ‘responsible person’ (a person who has control over the premises, for example the manager or owner) who must conduct a fire risk assessment paying particular attention to those at special risk, such as disabled people, those who it is known have special needs and children. The assessment should help identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fire precautions that are needed.