Disabled woman wins court case to make necessary adaptations to her home

Published: 30 Jan 2019

The Cardiff County Court has today ruled that a landlord acted unlawfully by refusing to allow a disabled homeowner to make necessary adaptations to her home. The case was supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Mrs Smailes has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which restricts her mobility, and needed to make adaptations to her home to accommodate her needs, such as moving the kitchen and the bedroom. Mrs Smailes and her husband own the leasehold for their flat, but a term in the lease prohibited alterations. When they asked the landlord, Clewer Court Residents Limited, to allow them to do this given their circumstances, they were refused.

The Smailes had to move out of their home and brought a disability discrimination case against the landlord with national law firm Weightmans LLP and Schona Jolly QC of Cloisters. The Equality and Human Rights Commission funded and supported this case.

The court has today ruled that the landlord should have agreed to let the Smailes carry out the alteration works, which were reasonable in light of her disability. The court also found that Mrs Smailes was harassed by the landlord at a meeting held to consider the proposed alterations.

We provided funding for this case to clarify the law and ensure that Mrs Smailes, as well as other disabled tenants, are able to make reasonable alterations to their homes, allowing them to live independently. The judgment means that landlords must allow disabled leaseholders to make alterations to their homes that are reasonable and necessary.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, 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.'

Mrs 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 judgement will finally allow me to do this and will protect other disabled people from going through what we have. We are incredibly grateful to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for supporting us in bringing this case and to our solicitor and barrister who worked so hard on our behalf.'

Partner Sarah Conroy from Weightmans said:

'We were delighted to secure this result for Mr and Mrs Smailes after lengthy and difficult litigation. This judgment provides 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.'

Last year we warned that disabled people have been left frustrated and trapped in unsuitable homes due to a chronic shortage of suitable housing and unnecessary bureaucracy.

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