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  • HMO & Multi-Lets

    Seeking any experiences of taking on HMO tenant with disability

    We have had a tenant inquire about renting a room in an HMO we have coming on stream shortly.

    He has cerebral palsy, but is pretty mobile and able to negotiate stairs, but is slow, a little unsteady on his feet and accordingly needs to brace himself holding walls/rails etc. He drives and has a wheel chair - but said he keeps that in the car.

    He said an ensuite room would be better for him so he doesn’t hold other tenants up getting ready, and because he takes long showers as the water can help ease his condition.

    He has a decent job lined up as an IT lecturer and seems like he would make a good professional tenant for us.

    We thought through whether he would get grief from other tenants…but concluded that the kind of tenants that might give him problems are not the kind of tenants we would want anyway. We have a large upstairs ensuite room that he checked out and he said it would be fine for him, but we want to make sure we’re providing the right quality of accommodation.

    We asked him if there is anything we can provide that would help and he just said an extra stair rail.

    Has anyone any experience of taking a tenant on with a disability (particularly cerebral palsy) and what is required? Are there any insurance implications?

    We called out local council "re-ablement team" and they said you can be obliged to make adaptations, but can also ask the council to find more suitable accommodation.

    We also called the NLA advice line and they had similar advice. Other investors have warned of the risks in taking on disabled tenants as there are some 'professional troublemakers' who go round looking for compensation claims against employers and landlords.

    Similarly, a tenant may later demand modifications be made to the house such as stair lifts, widening corridors for wheelchair access and seats in showers. One landlord suggested we have the tenant sign a declaration stating that the facilities in the house, communal room, bedroom and bathrooms, all paths leading up to the house at the time of moving into the house are adequate and the house requires no further adaptation.

    If adaptations are required it might well fall under disability grant allowance, but I understand from the council that in that situation where they pay for adaptations you have to keep the tenant for at least five years…what happens if the tenant turns out to be a nightmare…

    An added problem is the disruption major adaptations would cause for other tenants. Any perspectives on the above would be welcome -- the easy option is just to say no, plenty of other folks could fill the room, but he seems like a decent guy and deserves a break (I think other landlords have been turning him down point blank).

    Thanks Guy

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    Guy Brown
    Blue Infinity Property Group
    M 07791-661491 | T 0118 3360366 | E guy@blueinfinityproperty.com<script data-cfhash='f9e31' type="text/javascript">/* http://www.blueinfinityproperty.com

    * New build residential developments and flat conversions in the Home Counties
    * High end HMOs in Reading and Bracknell

    No direct experience but my wife has cerebral palsy. Firstly no two people with cerebral palsy have the same needs. People with cerebral palsy tend to find physical task a lot harder the first few times they do them, so don’t judge how well he will cope on the bases on the first time you see him doing something.

    It sounds like he knows his needs well so should not be a problem to you. Think about parking, if needed the council will put in a disabled parking buy on the road provided it is safe to do so.

    Ask him about his experience at university and what issues he had with housing and sharing with other students etc, this should tell you all you need to know. Remember that the other tenants you are taking on are likely to have been to school with disabled people, as unlike when we were at school integration is now the norm.

    A fridge and kettle in his room will help, as I expect he will not be able to carry hot drinks up stairs. If you need to fit any grab rails in the ensuite, look at John Lewis as my wife says “they don’t look disabled” so you will not have to remove them.

    You should have rails on both sides of stairs anyway unless you don’t have the space for them. Check that they are will fixed with lots of long screws, likewise with all other fitting. Door locks etc need to be installed well so they are easy to use. He may find it very hard to cope if something is in a poor state when other tenants can just make do until they find a better landlord.

    If you put a bit of thought into any adoptions that are needed, you can do them in such a way as they benefit all your tenants. For example look at the “good grip” kitchen range, there were designed for disabled people, but now everyone loves them. Don’t have lights on stairs on a 30 second timer, movement detectors with at least 5 minutes overrun are a lot better for everyone.

    There should be no insurance problems as it would be illegal for an insurance company to take a tenants disability into account.

    You only have to make reasonable modifications, e.g. hand rail in showers if needed. Stair lifts etc would not be reasonable in a HMO. E.g. the disruption major adaptations would cause for other tenants make them unreasonable.

    He does not sound like a “professional troublemakers” to me, given that he has chosen to get an education and a good job, when it would have been easy for him to have a life on disability benefits.

    I expect that you will keep him for a long time maybe even until he has saved enough to buy his own place.
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    Thanks Ian, what a wonderful response, thanks for taking the time to give such good detail.

    I spoke to someone this evening about cerebral palsy and they said a person 'maps' out routes, for instance where to place hands for optimum ease getting up and down stairs…it's quite a skill.

    Good point on parking, will see what the council says.

    We have thumb turn locks on the inside of doors, and everything has just been refurbished so is in great condition.

    We don't have timers/movement detectors on stairs -- LED lights everywhere to minimize electricity usage, and I think they work out much cheaper than installing timers/movement detectors.

    Good to know on insurance and 'reasonable modifications' being the norm.

    Agreed, he's got a good professional job, and his own web business too I think.

    Keeping tenants happy and long term is certainly how we go about things so assuming references are all fine I think we can provide him with a great home.

    Thanks again,

    Guy
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    Guy Brown
    Blue Infinity Property Group
    M 07791-661491 | T 0118 3360366 | E guy@blueinfinityproperty.com<script data-cfhash='f9e31' type="text/javascript">/* http://www.blueinfinityproperty.com

    * New build residential developments and flat conversions in the Home Counties
    * High end HMOs in Reading and Bracknell

    Hi Nick,

    Unfortunately the tenancy never materialised...we started referencing but he pulled out as the job offer he had fell through so he didn't relocate in the end (he was living on the south coast as I recall).

    Best,

    Guy

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    Guy Brown
    Blue Infinity Property Group
    M 07791-661491 | T 0118 3360366 | E guy@blueinfinityproperty.com<script data-cfhash='f9e31' type="text/javascript">/* http://www.blueinfinityproperty.com

    * New build residential developments and flat conversions in the Home Counties
    * High end HMOs in Reading and Bracknell

    Thanks for the quick response Guy.

    Interesting ethical thought/question:

    Is it ethical to create a disabled home (room/flat/house) in order to charge a premium rent as a return for the extra investment?

    ​Or putting it another way - is it ethical to charge the disabled more because there is a shortage of suitable accommodation?

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    For me, it would be unethical to charge more for a disabled person than you would for anyone else, whether there is a shortage of suitable accommodation or not. The difficulty is if in making that accommodation suitable for a disabled person you had to absorb a lot of additional cost to make it suitable if it was not supported by grants etc. With the financial pressure on landlords from S24 etc a landlord might not have the money to be able to do it.

    On the other hand, if it is a newbuild property then I think many areas insist on applying the lifetime homes standard whereby the ground floor needs to be designed with disabled users in mind (wider doorways, ramp access, wet rooms, suitable for grab rails, able to accommodate stair lifts etc). We viewed a construction site the other day where they had implemented life time homes and there are quite a few little details that go into it…handles on windows for instance are low down rather than in the middle as normal. In that scenario build costs may be slightly higher but not horrendously so. And lifetime homes is a prudent future proofing strategy with an ageing population and more and more people requiring in home modifications for their living.

    Best,

    Guy

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    Guy Brown
    Blue Infinity Property Group
    M 07791-661491 | T 0118 3360366 | E guy@blueinfinityproperty.com<script data-cfhash='f9e31' type="text/javascript">/* http://www.blueinfinityproperty.com

    * New build residential developments and flat conversions in the Home Counties
    * High end HMOs in Reading and Bracknell