A court has ruled that a disabled woman faced unlawful disability discrimination after her landlord refused to allow her to make vital adaptations to her flat.
Lawyers believe that the ruling by Cardiff County Court could provide important legal clarity for other disabled homeowners – and those who rent their homes – who want to make adaptations to their own properties but are prevented from doing so by their landlords.
In a case supported and funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the court heard that Stacey Poyner-Smailes, who has a mobility impairment, had needed to make changes to her flat in Clewer Court (pictured), Newport, including moving her kitchen and altering her bedroom.
But Poyner-Smailes and her husband, who owned the leasehold for the flat, were prevented from making the adaptations because the lease they had signed prevented such alterations.
The landlord, Clewer Court Residents Ltd – which represents fellow leaseholders – refused them permission to ignore that part of the lease agreement.
As a result, they were forced to leave the flat.
Now a county court judge has ruled that the company discriminated against Poyner-Smailes because the alterations she wanted to make were reasonable adjustments under the act.
The court also found that she had been harassed by the company at a meeting held to discuss the proposed alterations, another form of disability discrimination under the Equality Act.
A further hearing in April will decide on the “remedy and compensation”, an EHRC spokesperson said.
EHRC said it had funded the case to clarify the law and ensure that Poyner-Smailes, and other disabled people with landlords, were able to make reasonable alterations to allow them to live independently in their own homes.
Although it will not set a binding precedent, because it is a county court judgment, the commission believes that it will still have “persuasive value” for other similar legal actions.
Last year, an EHRC inquiry concluded that disabled people faced a “hidden crisis” and had been left “demoralised and frustrated” by a chronic shortage of accessible housing, leaving them trapped in unsuitable homes.
Poyner-Smailes said: “All that we have sought throughout this matter is for me to be able to live independently and use my home as anyone else would.
“We are relieved that today’s judgment will finally allow me to do this and will protect other disabled people from going through what we have.”
Rebecca Hilsenrath, EHRC’s chief executive, said: “Your home should be a place of safety and security, not a source of anxiety and restriction.
“We are pleased the court has clarified that landlords must change lease agreements to allow alterations that are reasonable and necessary.
“This issue affects many disabled tenants and we hope that today’s ruling will go a long way to ensure that disabled people can enjoy their right to independent living.”
Sarah Conroy, a partner with legal firm Weightmans, which represented Poyner-Smailes in court, said the judgment provided “crucial clarification on the law, and we hope that it encourages a wider shift for disabled leaseholders allowing them to enjoy independent living in their own home”.
The firm of solicitors representing Clewer Court Residents Ltd was approached for a comment but had not responded by noon today (Thursday).
Picture of Clewer Court by Google
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