Do you need to alter the communal areas of your block?

Disabled Access Day on 10-12 March 2017 is a timely reminder of how challenging life can be for some people.

After a successful launch last year, more properties ranging from shops, theatres, fitness centres and restaurants are now planning to go the extra mile and make sure their facilities are easily accessible.

Under the Equality Act 2010*, as the director of a Residential Management Company or Residents Association, or if you are a freeholder of a block of flats, you have a statutory duty to allow reasonable adaptions to the communal areas of the block** where a request is made by a resident leaseholder.

All residents have the right to be consulted before adaptations can be made to any communal areas. This includes a consultation process involving all ‘affected persons’ and usually culminate in a written agreement as to how the adaptations will be made.

A simple access ramp or grab rails are unlikely to cause consternation, but sometimes widening doors or installing stair lifts may cause significant disruption for a few days or more.   Not least, don’t forget to make sure your insurer is aware of any alterations – proposed, during and after the work is complete.

The costs are usually met by the individual requesting the alterations, who most likely will also warrant that the building will be reinstated to its original condition if they move away.

And what if a resident wants to make internal alterations to their flat?  Most leases contain a covenant against alterations or improvements.  Typical wording includes “not to make any alterations to the demised premises without the landlord’s consent.”  Once again, the golden rule of leasehold flat living applies:  always check the lease”.

* Citizens Advice Bureau (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/discrimination/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination/duty-to-make-reasonable-adjustments-for-disabled-people/)

** www.lease-advice.org