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Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Disability Discrimation Act came into force in 1995 with the objective to end the discrimination which many disabled people face in their everyday lives. Since it's introduction additions to the Act have put greater pressure on companies to open their doors to the UK's 10 million disabled people.

By October 2004 all service providers had to have made made reasonable adjustments to physical features of their premises to overcome physical barriers to access of the premises. Examples are:Putting in a ramp to replace steps providing larger, well defined signs for people with a visual impairment improving access to toilet or washing facilities.

In April 2005 a new Disability Discrimination Act was passed by Parliament, which amends or extends existing provisions in the DDA 1995, including:

  • making it unlawful for operators of transport vehicles to discriminate against disabled people
  • making it easier for disabled people to rent property and for tenants to make disability-related adaptations
  • making sure that private clubs with 25 or more members cannot keep disabled people out, just because they have a disability
  • extending protection to cover people who have HIV, cancer and multiple sclerosis from the moment they are diagnosed
  • ensuring that discrimination law covers all the activities of the public sector
  • requiring public bodies to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people

Rental Properties in the private sector - Disability Discrimination Act 2005

Legislation came into force on the 6th December 2006 aimed specifically at the services connected to the provision of housing in the private rented sector as well as issues relating to the property itself. The relevent clauses of the Act are in Chapter 13, section 13, clauses 24(a) to 24(k)

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA), as amended by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA 2005), exists to stop discrimination against disabled people in the United Kingdom. It gives disabled people new rights in the areas of employment, property and access to goods, facilities and services

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The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA 2005) - PainSmith Legal Update 07 October 2005*

The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA 2005) changes the way that landlords and their agents will be required to react to disabled tenants. While much of these changes do little to alter the fundamental requirement for the landlord to respond positively to “reasonable” requests they do shift the burden somewhat in both evidence and monetary terms.

Currently landlords are required to consider 'reasonable' requests to make alterations to a property in order to make life easier for a disabled occupant. Provided these requests are indeed 'reasonable' the landlord should accept them on the understanding that the tenant will pay for alterations. Ultimately this may largely be to the landlord's benefit as they will have the use of any such alterations after the tenant leaves, meaning that they have access to a wider rental market.

This though is now subject to change. The amendments contained within the DDA 2005 codify more precisely what is and is not a reasonable request and they, to some extent, broaden this beyond mere physical alterations to the premises. They also change the burden of proof in that previously tenants were required to demonstrate that their landlord had been unreasonable whereas it is now the case that landlords are required to show that it is the tenants' request that are unreasonable. They also place the onus on paying for such improvements squarely on the shoulders of the landlord rather than on the tenant.

The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) has published a consultantion document available on their website at www.drc-gb.org part of which gives their interpretation of the new rules as they apply to private landlords. While this is a consultation and there is still a certain amount of regulation. Read the full Legal update here

The free Adobe Acrobat Reader is available to download direct from Adobe by following the link.

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Disability Discrimination Act 1995 - Disability Discrimination Act and Stairs - PainSmith* Solicitors Legal Update 23 May 2007

A recent case before the court of Appeal has clarified the position regarding the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and it application to residential premises.

In the case of Richmond Court (Swansea) Ltd v Dorothy Williams the Court of Appeal was asked to consider whether Richmond Court had discriminated against Mrs Williams by refusing consent for her to install a stairlift. Mrs Williams is the owner of a long leasehold of a third floor flat but, at 81 years old, she has had increasing difficulty negotiating stairs. She asked her immediate landlord for permission to install a stairlift in the common stairwell to assist with her mobility problems which was to be paid for entirely by a Local Authority grant.

Permission was refused even though Richmond Court's head landlord had no objection to the stairlift being installed. The first judge concluded that discrimination had occurred and this was appealed to the Court of Appeal. In concluding that no discrimination had occurred the Court of Appeal raised some very important points.

The first of these relates to the duties required in regard to property under the DDA. An employer is under a positive duty under the DDA to make physical adjustments to work premises where a physical feature puts a disabled person at a disadvantage. The same is not true of residential property. Just because an individual is disadvantaged by some aspect of a property there is not an automatic duty to make adjustments except for certain minor auxiliary features such as furnishings or door handles.

This difference in the legislation attracted sharp commentary from the Court of Appeal and has been the subject of some criticism in commentary on this case. See for example "The Legislation Should Raise Its Game" Estates Gazette, 10 February 2007.

The second point made by the Court was a criticism of the Judge who initially heard the case and the way he had reasoned his decision. Usefully, though the Court set out a 5 stage test which should be used when deciding if there has been discrimination:

  1. Identify the treatment that is alleged to constitute discrimination
  2. Identify the reason for that treatment
  3. Determine if the reason relates to the person's disability
  4. Identify comparable persons to whom the reason does not apply
  5. Identify if the treatment is less favourable than that accorded to comparable persons

It was because the treatment of Richmond Court of Mrs Williams did not satisfy all of these tests that the Court of Appeal concluded that she had not been discriminated against. Specifically, Richmond Court made clear that no person, whatever the reason, would ever be allowed to install a stair lift in the property and, as this was not challenged by Mrs Williams, there was clearly no discrimination in this matter.

The full judgement of the Court of Appeal in this matter can be found at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2006/1719.html. Dr David Smith is a trainee solicitor with PainSmith Solicitors, a niche practice specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. He can be contacted on 01420 565310 or by email at david@painsmith.co.uk.

PainSmith Solicitors Legal Updates are provided for information only and are not legal advice. If you do have a legal problem, you should talk to a lawyer or adviser before making a decision about what to do. You may wish to use the CLS/CDS Directory (www.justask.org.uk/public/en/directory) to locate an adviser. The information provided here is written for people resident in, or affected by, the laws of England and Wales only. You should note that date given in the update and be aware that the information given may become inaccurate due to changes in the law or its implementation.

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* PainSmith Solicitors are a niche practice specialising in Landlord and Tenant Law. Based in Medstead in Hampshire, they are ideally situated to provide an efficient service to clients nationwide as well as those based in Central London and the Home Counties.

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*See also Section 13 Notices and Is the deal closed? The use of the 'Subject to Contract' formula- For full article Click Here

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*See also Safety Glass and Defective Premises Act - The Information on a Court of Appeal decision (7th February 2007) regarding the Defective Premises Act 1972 For full article Click Here

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*See also Implementation of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) England & wales) Order 2005 Click Here

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*See also Energy Performance Certificates in Let Property - 29 January 2008 Click Here

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ARLA’s Response to the Law Commission Report - August 2008 and The Law CommissionHousing: Encouraging Responsible Letting Click Here

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* Articles courtesy of PainSmith Solicitors are a niche practice specialising in Landlord and Tenant Law. Based in Medstead in Hampshire, they are ideally situated to provide an efficient service to clients nationwide as well as those based in Central London and the Home Counties.

Implications of the Equality Act for Letting agents accepting Landlord instructions - November 2010 - More on this here

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