Did you know that approximately 700 million people have some form of disability? That is about 10% of the Earth’s population. Out of which, 12 million reside in the United Kingdom. Although many have made a few modifications in their homes such as the installation of grab rails and ramps, bathroom disability features are often still incredibly basic, especially in the rented space. Only 7% of the residential properties are even “visit-able” by a person with a disability.
Here is a quick look at bathroom disability requirements for those who want to rent their homes and apartments to the disabled in the U.K.
There are various legal requirements that every landlord must adopt before renting his/her property to persons with disabilities, as per the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 (DDA). Some of the fundamental requirements include:
- Correct dimensions with ample floor space. Ideally, the bathroom should be 2,200mm in length, and 1,500mm in width
- Doors that open outwards and are 900mm in width
- Washbasin designs that even a person with limited hand dexterity can use with ease
- Taps with lever handles or sensors
- Easy to operate locks and showers
- Grab rails at all relevant points, including near the toilet, washbasin, shower, etc
- Higher-seated toilet pan that is anywhere between 440mm and 500mm in height
- Compact shelf with a hole for draining water next to the toilet to place colostomy bag
- No clutter or storage options on the way or in the bathroom
- Proper light fittings that turn on and off physically, as well as using motion sensors
- Thermostatically-controlled taps and showers
- An accessible emergency alarm system
Once the legal procedures are in order, it is time to focus on the physical requirements. Here, the main focus should be on “accessibility” to ensure easy entry-and-exit to-and-from the bathroom. A toilet at the entrance-level is a perfect illustration.
Some of the other common adjustments that you could make include:
- Strong-fitted grab rails
- A walk-in bath
- A shower seat
- Toilets at a comfortable or an elevated height
- A modified toilet seat
- Toilet flush with a paddle-type design
- Different types of doors
- Extra space for free movement
Besides installation, you need to take care of the type and quality of each fitting. For example, while installing a grab rail, you should make sure that the rod is sturdy and that the walls of the bathroom are strong enough to hold the rail fitting.
Making bathroom alterations are not that difficult, especially with the numerous options that are available in bathroom equipment for the disabled. In fact, surveys reveal that disabled bathroom promotions have increased by 12% since 2009. Besides this, landlords are entitled to incentives and subsidies, to encourage renting “usable” homes to the disabled.
Your head might be spinning at this point but there are payoffs. Landlords can claim different incentives to renovate their properties and make it disability-friendly. Most of these policies focus on reducing the rents, improving the housing quality, enhancing affordability, and offering security during the lease tenure. The common ones include:
- Rent-A-Room Arrangement – It is a rental plan that is tax-free for both the owner and the tenant and comes with furnished accommodation.
- Deduction in Capital Gains Tax – The landlord is eligible for deductions from capital gains tax for the leased-out home and also for renovating the house and premise.
- Free Solicitation – Landlords can also avail free advice regarding smart home renovations that include fitting the home with energy-efficient options.
- Feed-in Tariffs – This reduces the electricity bill of the tenant.
- Tax Relief Incentives – Landlords are also eligible for tax reliefs on maintaining the rented premises if leased to persons with disability.
- Direct Pay Benefit – If in a situation involving vulnerable tenants or tenants with dues, then landlords can claim direct benefits in terms of rental payments.
- Accredited Landlord Organization – Under this scheme, landlords become a part of a local body that is run by local authorities to ensure smooth functioning.
- Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) – DFG is a simple option that allows landlords to finance themselves and use the funding to make changes to the rental property at subsidized rates.
Government Role and Subsidies
Apart from landlords, there are a few ways by which even renters can rent accessible properties and seek subsidies from the government. For instance, if the property that you wish to rent is not accessible, then you can apply for a DFG and get the landlord to make the necessary changes. You can use the grant to install ramps, widen doors, provide a better heating system, etc. However, your rental period should be for at least five years.
Other government programs that help disabled tenants with their rent, energy bills, and others include:
- Temporary Assistance – It is a fund provided by the federal government to gain access to basic needs such as food, rent, and others for a period of up to 60 months.
- Designated Housing Vouchers – It allows any non-elderly family with a disabled person to pay their rent by making them eligible for Section 8 of public housing.
- Certain Developments Vouchers – In this scheme, the government partly pays your rent, if there is a family member with a disability among you. The subsidized amount will be based on the applicant’s income level.
- Section 811 Vouchers – It focuses on arranging and paying for affordable housing. However, 30% of the rent should be paid by the family to invoke a sense of responsibility.
- Further, there are several home improvement agencies such as the Foundations, Turn2us, Charity Choice, and others that can help you with your bathroom improvements at subsidized rates.
As per the Equality Act of 2010 and the Care Act of 2014, everyone should have free access to bathroom facilities, irrespective of their incapacities. As such, landlords must ensure that disabled tenants find the home visit-able and the bathroom usable, whatever be their physical capabilities. We think that offering accessible property in the UK not only provides a public good but can also be financially rewarding as well.