Equality Act 2010
A Landlords Guide
This page looks at the Equality Act 2010. In particular, the most common duty under the Act for landlords will be adapting premises for disabled persons.
The Equality Act 2010 primarily took effect on 1 October 2010, consolidating and replacing acts and regulations relating to discrimination for protected characteristics.
The protected characteristics are:
- gender reassignment;
- marriage and civil partnership;
- pregnancy and maternity;
- religion or belief;
- sexual orientation.
[s.4 Equality Act 2010]
A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.
If the protected characteristic is age, A does not discriminate against B if A can show A’s treatment of B as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Suppose the protected characteristic is a disability, and B is not a disabled person. In that case, A does not discriminate against B only because A treats or would treat disabled persons more favourably than A treats B.
If the protected characteristic is race, less favourable treatment includes segregating B from others. [s.13 Equality Act 2010]
Discrimination arising from disability
A person (A) discriminates against a disabled person (B) if—
A treats B unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of B’s disability, and A cannot show that the treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. This does not apply if A shows that A did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that B had the disability. [s.15 Equality Act 2010]
For this article, we will split the duty to make adjustments into three categories, namely:
- Adjustments to the services a landlord (or agent) offers, including adjustments to lettings literature and tenancy agreements
- Structural alterations to office premises in connection with letting
- Structural adjustments to the tenancy property include physical adjustments such as ramps or stair lifts.
Adjustments to the service, including literature and tenancy agreements
The Act states that where the absence of auxiliary aid or service places a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage, and this relates to the provision of information, the steps which it is reasonable for a service provider to take include steps to ensure that the information is provided in an accessible format. [para 7.48 Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice] This would include printed literature and tenancy agreements for the visually impaired to be available in larger print formats.
Alterations to office premises
The Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice provides a helpful example concerning a property selling agent, but the principle applies to letting agents. Para 7.59:
An estate agent is marketing a new residential property development. It decides to hold detailed presentations for prospective buyers at the company’s premises, at which there will be a talk illustrated with slides. However, the only meeting room available in the building is along a narrow corridor and up a short flight of stairs making access impossible for some and for others allowing access only with discomfort or difficulty. The estate agent obtains a quotation to make its premises more accessible, but the cost is more than it anticipated, and it delays making the alterations. When disabled people, who are unable to attend a presentation because the room is inaccessible to them, make enquiries, they are merely sent copies of comparatively brief promotional literature. This is unlikely to be a reasonable alternative method of making the service available, and may well leave these disabled people at a substantial disadvantage. If an issue arose under the Act as to whether the estate agent had failed to comply with its obligations to disabled people, consideration would be given to whether it would have been reasonable to avoid the substantial disadvantage by altering or removing the relevant physical features, or by avoiding them (for example, by holding the meeting at another venue) or whether there was a more effective alternative method of providing the service that could reasonably have been adopted.
If the managing agent's office premises are rented, and consent is required from their landlord, the Equality Act provides it is reasonable not to make any alterations until the landlord gives permission (but the managing agent must seek the approval, and the landlord must not unreasonably withhold consent)
Alterations to let premises
There is no requirement under the Act requiring a landlord to alter a “physical feature” (see below) of the dwelling itself but see below for common parts. However, suppose a term of the letting prohibits the tenant from making alterations and puts the disabled person at a disadvantage. In that case, a landlord is required to change the term only so far as is necessary to enable the tenant to make alterations to the let premises to avoid the disadvantage (and would be reasonable).
Physical features include steps, stairways, kerbs, exterior surfaces and paving, parking areas, building entrances and exits (including emergency escape routes), internal and external doors, gates, toilet and washing facilities, public facilities (such as telephones, counters or service desks), lighting and ventilation, lifts and escalators, floor coverings, signs, furniture, and temporary or movable items (such as equipment and display racks). Physical features also include the sheer scale of premises (for example, the size of a shopping centre). This is not an exhaustive list. [para 7.61 Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice]
There seems no reason why the Court of Appeal ruling Richard Court (Swansea) Ltd v. Williams 2006 where a landlord was under no obligation to install a stair lift, won’t apply under the new Equality Act.
The requirements for letting premises are contained in Schedule 4 of the Equality Act. The most significant need of a landlord (or managing agent) is the duty to provide an “auxiliary aid or service”. An auxiliary aid or service is defined by r.8 The Equality Act 2010 (Disability) Regulations 2010 as:
(a) the removal, replacement or provision of any furniture, furnishings, materials, equipment and other chattels (but does not include the “provision” of any item which would be a fixture when installed.)
(b) the replacement or provision of any signs or notices;
(c) the replacement of any taps or door handles;
(d) the replacement, provision or adaptation of any door bell, or any door entry system;
(e) changes to the colour of any surface (such as, for example, a wall or door).
Under (a) above, it seems “equipment” may include an audio-visual fire alarm [para 7.47 Equality Act Code of Practice].
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 requires that the “occupiers” be considered when deciding what fire precaution equipment is needed.
A disabled person may request structural alterations (known as physical features in the act) in relation to common parts.
Consent must be requested to carry out the works, and that consent must not be unreasonably withheld.
If such a request is made, all persons (such as other occupiers who share the common parts) who may be affected by any alteration must be consulted.
If the landlord agrees works are reasonably required, the landlord and the disabled person must agree in writing the rights and responsibilities of each of them concerning the step.
The agreement must, in particular, make provision as to the responsibilities of the parties about—
(a) the costs of any work undertaken;
(b)other costs arising from the work;
(c) the restoration of the common parts to their former condition if the relevant disabled person stops living on the premises.
It is always reasonable before the agreement is made for the landlord to insist that the agreement should require the disabled person to pay—
(a) the costs referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) above, and
(b) the costs of the restoration referred to in paragraph (c ).
Any agreement made passes with the interest in land with any subsequent disposal of the property.
What is meant by ‘reasonable’ steps?
The duty to make reasonable adjustments places service providers under a responsibility to take such steps as it is reasonable, in all the circumstances of the case, to have to take in order to make adjustments. The Act does not specify that any particular factors should be taken into account. What is a reasonable step for a particular service provider to have to take depends on all the circumstances of the case. It will vary according to:
- the type of service being provided;
- the nature of the service provider and its size and resources; and
- the effect of the disability on the individual disabled person. However, without intending to be exhaustive, the following are some of the factors which might be taken into account when considering what is reasonable:
- whether taking any particular steps would be effective in overcoming the substantial disadvantage that disabled people face in accessing the services in question;
- the extent to which it is practicable for the service provider to take the steps;
- the financial and other costs of making the adjustment;
- the extent of any disruption which taking the steps would cause;
- the extent of the service provider’s financial and other resources;
- the amount of any resources already spent on making adjustments; and
- the availability of financial or other assistance.
[paras 7.29 – 7.30 Equality Act 2010 Code of Conduct]
A managing agent's office may need to alter physical features to comply with the duties under the Act.
Tenancy agreements and letting literature will generally need to be made available in other formats.
There is no requirement to alter a physical feature of a let dwelling (but you must not unreasonably withhold consent for the tenant to make reasonable alterations)
A landlord will typically have to provide an auxiliary aid or service, which is:
- the removal, replacement or provision of any furniture, furnishings, materials, equipment and other chattels (but does not include the “provision” of any item which would be a fixture when installed.)
- the replacement or provision of any signs or notices;
- the replacement of any taps or door handles;
- the replacement, provision or adaptation of any doorbell or any door entry system;
- changes to the colour of any surface (such as a wall or door).
Subscribers get full access to exclusive content, including forms, articles and discounts, plus our time saving Tenancy Builder tool.
Signup for our free weekly digest and get the latest news and guidance straight to your inbox (some content requires a paid subscription).
View Related Handbook Page
There are legal obligations on landlords, both in public and private sectors, as service providers and employers, to take reasonable steps to ensure that people are not discriminated against directly or indirectly due to their “protected characteristics” like race, colour, gender or disability. The specific legislation is the Equalities Act 2010.
Landlords’ Responsibilities for Repair and Maintenance
In addition to any repair responsibilities explicitly set out in the tenancy agreement, common law and statute will imply terms to the agreement between landlord and tenant.