Find out what you can do if you feel your rented accommodation is putting your health at risk, in this expert blog by Foothold partner Shelter.
What to do if your rented accommodation does not meet your health or care needs
A home is often described as a place of safety and refuge, but for some people that idea is far from reality.
Illness and disability impacts many households across the UK, and with homeownership becoming less obtainable and the funding of new social housing lacking, it can be difficult for people to find accommodation that is suitable for their health needs, or a private landlord who is willing to welcome adaptions.
Whilst there may not be a ‘quick fix’ to overcome these issues, there are some steps you can take to help improve those situations.
But before we continue, it’s vital to note that in this blog, the term ‘suitability’ is used with reference to the legal definition of the word. It is important to be mindful that this may be different from individual opinions on what is or isn’t suitable with reference to housing.
Home adaptions and Occupational Therapist assessments
Firstly, we need to look at how you can establish whether your home is or isn’t suitable for your health and care needs.
Your word alone is usually not enough. You need to be able to show, with supporting medical evidence, why the property does not accommodate your needs, and this is usually where an Occupational Therapist (OT) comes in.
Occupational Therapy aims to help improve your ability to perform everyday tasks and activities, with the aim of increasing independence and wellbeing.
Most people are assessed by their local authority via their Social Care (Services) department, but some local care teams also include an OT, and there is the option to go private if it’s affordable.
You can find out who your local authority is here: Find your local council – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
During your assessment your OT will want to establish whether you need anything in place to support you in your home. They will then write a report about your circumstances and make recommendations for adaptions if needed.
It’s important to note that getting an assessment and adaptions via the local authority can be a slow process and you should expect some delays.
Whilst a private assessment will likely be quicker, there could still be significant wait times if you apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant to fund adapting your accommodation following your assessment.
If you do not own your home (for example if you rent privately), you will need permission from your landlord (the property owner) to make any changes to the property. Your landlord is legally obligated to make reasonable adjustments to the accommodation under s.20(2) and Sch 4 and 5 of The Equality Act 2010.
Duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people
Any service provider, including private landlords and local authorities, must make reasonable adjustments, if requested to do so, to enable disabled people to use their services.
If requested to do so by (or on behalf of) a disabled person put at a substantial disadvantage, a landlord must:
make reasonable adjustments to a provision, criterion or practice
make reasonable adjustments to a physical feature
provide an auxiliary aid
consent to the making of disability-related improvements to rented residential premises by the tenant unless the request is unreasonable.
What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the particular circumstances relating to each individual request.
So for example, what is considered a reasonable adjustment for a large organisation may be different for an individual landlord. It is about what is practical in the service provider’s individual situation and what resources the provider may have.
Therefore, the provider will not be required to make any adjustments that are unaffordable or impractical.
If it’s not possible to adapt your current accommodation to make it suitable for your needs or it’s not reasonable for your landlord to make these adaptions, you will need to consider your options to move.
If your current accommodation is not suitable for your needs and cannot be adapted, we would advise that you make a Homeless Persons Application in accordance with Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 (‘the Act’) as soon as possible.
The council must help you if you’re legally homeless or threatened with homelessness. If you can show, with supporting evidence, that your current accommodation is not suitable for your health needs and cannot be adapted, then you may be classed as homeless and the council may need to supply you with emergency accommodation.
You can read more about emergency accommodation here: Emergency housing from the council – Shelter England.
If the council agree that you need to move to more suitable accommodation, they should at the very least assist you under what is known as the relief duty.
The council must carry out an assessment if you’re homeless or facing homelessness. This usually involves a face-to-face interview with a housing officer. You’ll be asked to bring certain documents, such as wage slips, proof of benefits and evidence of medical needs.
Once the assessment is complete the council draws up a personal housing plan. They should then help you, over a 56-day period, to take steps to find alternative accommodation.
It is very important that you make sure you are actively participating in attempting to find alternative accommodation for yourself – if you do not this could compromise the assistance the council provides going forward.
Alternative accommodation options
Whilst applying for social housing is a good long-term option, it will not necessarily be an immediate solution depending on how long it takes to successfully bid for and secure a property.
If accepted onto the register you will be placed in a specific band or given a specific amount of points depending on your current housing situation. The social housing provider will then use their allocations policy to assess which position or category you fall into.
It is worth checking their allocations policy at this point to clarify if they have awarded you the correct points or position. If you disagree with their assessment, you can request a review of the decision if there is merit to do so. If successful, this could speed up your wait time.
You can read more about applying for social housing here: How to apply for council housing – Shelter England.
Private rented accommodation:
Whilst private renting is not always ideal or the most affordable housing option, in a lot of cases there aren’t many alternatives. The council must help you find alternative suitable accommodation when you make a Homeless Persons Application.
You can find tips on how to find a private rented property here: How to find a private rented home – Shelter England.
To summarise, first and foremost, if you (or someone on your behalf) does not feel your current accommodation is suitable for your health needs, seek a professional opinion as soon as possible.
Discuss it with your local authority’s Adult Social Care team or your GP and request for an OT assessment to take place if needed. Remember, if adaptions are required and your current home can accommodate these, you will need to seek your landlord’s permission first before making these adaptions (make sure you get any agreements in writing).
Should you be unable to alter your current accommodation, you will need to consider a move, and whilst social housing is a great option it may take time and you might need to consider a move to suitable private renting instead.
You may wish to seek additional advice from the following services:
If you’re facing a housing crisis and are fearing for your and your family’s safety and security, you don’t have to go through it alone. Get in touch today and let’s talk about how Foothold might be able to help.