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Tenants and discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 came into force in October 2010. It has a potential impact on landlord and tenant relations in a number of areas.

In particular, the landlord or manager of property may be required to carry out or allow works, or to change the terms of its leases, or change its practices or criteria it applies, to avoid discrimination against the disabled. Section 36 (and Schedule 4) imposes upon the controller (i.e. landlord or manager) of let premises or premises to let, and a person responsible for common parts, a duty to make reasonable adjustments. In outline, a controller owes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to its practices, provisions (including lease terms) or criteria, or take reasonable steps to provide an auxiliary aid, where a request is made. A request can be made if a disabled person is put at a substantial disadvantage as a result of the practice etc., or absence of the aid (where the premises are to let, the disadvantage relates to the disabled person’s becoming a tenant). There is no obligation to make changes to the physical features of the premises (although “physical features” does not include, e.g., furniture). A person responsible for common parts owes a duty to consult, and – if they think it reasonable – to act (including by carrying out works, albeit at the disabled person’s cost) where a disabled tenant or other permitted tenant (who uses or intends to use the premises as their “only or main” home) makes a request that steps be taken to avoid a disadvantage. 

By section 190, where a lease allows alterations, but only with the landlord’s consent (NB not when it prohibits alterations), a landlord must consent to requests for improvements within a reasonable time and can only refuse on reasonable grounds. Any conditions imposed must also be reasonable. Failure by the landlord means consent is deemed given. Improvements are those which, having regard to the disabled person’s disability, are likely to facilitate that person’s enjoyment of the premises. They include, for example, external decoration. The section does not apply to protected, statutory or secure tenancies. It does not apply insofar as the lease makes provision of a “like” nature – whatever that may mean. 

Other sections of the act impose restrictions on discrimination in the selection of potential buyers or tenants for a property (s 33). Discrimination on various grounds is prohibited, including for example gender reassignment, pregnancy, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual belief, but not age or marital status. There are limitations on refusing permission for a disposal, where it is required (s 34). Property managers must not discriminate on prohibited grounds (s 35). Harassment (s 26) and victimisation (s 27) are also outlawed. This is only a very brief summary and an area in which study of both the act and more recent developments will be required in each case. 

/ 1st Feb 2011


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