Proposed Commencement of S36 of the Equalities Act

The Government is launching a new consultation on the commencement and implementation of the remaining parts of section 36 of the Equality Act 2010 (the Act).

The consultation, ‘improving disabled people’s access to let residential premises: reasonable adjustments to common parts, a new duty’, has been prepared by the Government Equalities Office which has responsibility for section 36 but it has also received input from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which naturally has interests in the policy.

The consultation is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/improving-disabled-peoples-access-to-let-residential-premises-reasonable-adjustments-to-common-parts-a-new-duty. It has a 10 week duration, which they hope will give plenty of time to gather and provide views.

As you may be aware, the Government have already committed to commence the remaining parts of section 36 of the Act and its associated schedules. These will place a duty on landlords in England and Wales (the equivalent provision for Scotland is already in force) to make or facilitate reasonable adjustments to the common parts of residential property, where a disabled resident requests this.

Most of section 36 has already commenced and imposes (for example) a duty on landlords/commonhold associations to permit and facilitate reasonable adjustments, on request, from disabled tenants, to their private dwellings. When commenced, section 36(1)(d) will extend this duty to common parts of residential property, effectively giving disabled tenants, leaseholders and anyone else entitled to reside at the premises the legal right to require landlords to make reasonable adjustments to the common parts of their flats – e.g. a wheelchair ramp at an entrance, improved lighting or rails in hallways and stairwells.

This new right would apply in all non-freehold housing sectors – leasehold-owned, the private rented sector and housing provided by local authorities and housing associations, where the premises has common parts, subject to certain exceptions. It should be noted that only tenants/occupants meeting the Act’s definition of disability will benefit from the new protection.

To minimise burdens on landlords/commonhold associations, the legislation makes clear that the landlord can insist, prior to an agreement, that the tenant funds any adjustment agreed as reasonable by the landlord, along with reasonable maintenance costs and, potentially, the cost of removal and restoration of the building upon vacating the property.

Prior to commencement, regulations will be needed to set out the detail for how the new arrangements will work. We also propose that guidance be drafted to assist both landlords and disabled people to understand their respective rights and obligations. The forthcoming consultation will be invaluable in helping to inform both the regulations and what the guidance needs to cover. We would very much value your views and input to this.