Disability Groups Call for More Accessible Housing for Private Renters

Mon,29 January 2024
News Housing

Advice for Renters has been working with disability organisations, Inclusion London, Disability Rights UK and Branch Properties, to persuade the Government to recognise the importance of promoting information about the accessibility of private rented homes. 

There are around 9.8 million Disabled people in England, who historically have been overrepresented in social housing, the most affordable and secure form of tenure. However, the shortage of social housing has meant that renting privately has become the only option for many Disabled people, with 18.8% of them currently relying on the private rented sector. Despite this, 1 in 3 Disabled renters in the private rented sector are forced to live in homes which are unsuitable for them. Living in unsuitable accommodation has profound negative implications not just for Disabled people but for society at large. Disabled people living in unsuitable accommodation are less likely to be in work, are more likely to experience a deterioration in their physical and mental health, are more likely to be admitted to hospital as a result of falls, are more likely to rely on social care and, most importantly, cannot live independently. 

Following an open letter to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, the Minister with responsibility for the Renters (Reform) Bill currently progressing through parliament, a meeting was held last week with ourselves and key officers from the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) with briefs covering the Property Portal as well as those leading on disability issues. 

We reminded the DLUHC officers that the existing housing stock across England is unfortunately often not accessible or adapted to meet Disabled people’s needs and currently there is no requirement for landlords to provide basic accessibility information about their properties. Additionally, only 6% of the Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) available to adapt properties to make them more accessible go to private renters. 

Our proposals to the DLUHC are, 

  • To provide information on the Portal about the housing needs of Disabled people, including how many properties can be adapted with relative ease and at low cost, as well as information about grants available. 
  • To ask landlords to complete a short questionnaire about the accessibility of the homes when these are registered through the Portal. 

We were encouraged by the fact that the DLUHC had agreed to open a dialogue with us on this issue, and to learn that active consideration is being given to making accessibility information available when private rented homes are marketed. 

However, we were not convinced that there was yet a sufficient understanding of the importance of ensuring that Disabled people had the same right to obtain and occupy a safe and secure home in which to live in peace and dignity as everyone else. 

Laura Vincinanza from Inclusion London commented, “The chronic shortage of accessible and adaptable housing in England has unfortunately resulted in a significant unmet housing need for Disabled people. Finding an accessible home in the private rented sector is extremely difficult for Disabled people, if not impossible.  We do not know whether advertised properties in the PRS have any accessibility features as properties lack classification in terms of accessibility. In fast-paced rental markets like London the situation is even more challenging.  With rising rents, competition between potential tenants attending mass viewings and bidding wars – there is no incentive for landlords to provide basic information about the accessibility of their properties. We believe the Government’s proposal to introduce the Property Portal in the PRS represents a vital opportunity to embed accessibility into the PRS. When registering their properties on the database, landlords could be asked to record the accessibility level of their property. Knowing the property accessibility features would certainly make it easier for Disabled tenants who are looking for an accessible property to find a home that meets their needs. We hope the Government will take on board our proposals and will work with us to ensure that living in a suitable home in the PRS is no longer a postcode lottery”. 

Open Letter to Secretary of State