The Equality Act 2010 (the Act) received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010 and the majority of the provisions will come into force in October 2010. The Act will bring together all existing legislation relating to discrimination, including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (which will be repealed).
Discrimination can be direct, indirect or a combination of the two. The Act prohibits discrimination where somebody is treated less favourably due to a 'protected characteristic' such as age, gender, race and religion.
The Act refers to a new provision relating to discrimination arising from a disability which was introduced as a result of Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Lewisham v Malcolm (2008). In this case Malcolm, who suffered from schizophrenia, tried to exercise his right to buy a flat from the Council. This was refused on the basis that Malcolm had illegally sublet his flat. Malcolm was then served with a notice to quite. He claimed that he had been unlawfully discriminated against due to his disability.
The court decided that the relevant test was whether Malcolm had been treated less favourably than a non-disabled tenant who had illegally sublet. The consequence of this decision was to make it more difficult for a disabled person to establish a case of disability-related discrimination.
Issues for Property Managers to Consider
The duty to make reasonable adjustments is a key issue for property managers. The Royal Bank of Scotland was recently ordered by the Court of Appeal to install a lift in its branch for disabled customers. This was despite the Bank having installed lifts into three other branches within the area. The cost of the lift was approximately L200,000 and the Bank was also ordered to pay L6,500 in damages to the disabled customer.
A property owner or occupier may be required to make a reasonable adjustment to his premises following a request from a disabled person in order to facilitate access to goods or services. Whether a requested adjustment is reasonable will depend on the circumstances.
If a tenant is required to make an adjustment, he may need to apply for consent from his landlord. The tenant will also want to ensure that any such adjustments are not rentalised.
Once the Act comes into force, a landlord may be required to make a reasonable adjustment to the common parts of a building. This is a new duty and only applies to buildings which contain residential areas. The duty also only applies if the disabled person is suffering a significant disadvantage through his use of the common parts.
If it is agreed that any reasonable adjustments are required then the landlord could insist that the disabled person pays for works (paragraph 7(3), Schedule 4 of the Act). This is an exception to the general provision contained at section 27(7) of the Act prohibiting a disabled person from being charged for reasonable adjustments.
For more information about Commercial property solicitor Trethowans and the services they provide, visit the Trethowans website at http://www.trethowans.com/
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The management and ownership of property forms a key aspect of business planning, whether a one off transaction or part of a wider development or investment programme.