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Social Housing case update | Smailes & Poyner-Smailes v Clewer Court Residents Limited

The Claimants purchased the leasehold of a flat in a converted Victorian building. The lease that they signed contains an absolute prohibition on…

Weightmans represented the Claimants, Mr Smailes and Mrs Poyner-Smailes in this claim brought against their landlord, Clewer Court Residents Limited. The Claimants purchased the leasehold of a flat in a converted Victorian building. The lease that they signed contains an absolute prohibition on alterations to the property.

Mrs Poyner-Smailes suffers from various conditions affecting her health, one of these being Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which affects her mobility. Proposals for adaptations to the property to make it more suitable for Mrs Poyner-Smailes needs and to provide a safe and secure home for her to live in were made to the landlord. The proposed works included relocating the kitchen to the living room, relocating the living room to the bedroom, the creation of one internal doorway and the blocking up of another doorway.

Permission to make the adaptations was refused by the landlord despite other leaseholders, subject to the same restrictions on adaptations, having been granted permission.

As a consequence, the Claimants moved out of their home, found temporary accommodation elsewhere and pursued this claim against their landlord, which has been funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Shortly before this matter went to trial, the Defendant admitted that’s Mrs Poyner-Smailes has a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 and that, as a result, she was at a substantial disadvantage when occupying the leasehold flat at Clewer Court in its original state and that the adaptation that the Claimants proposed were both “reasonable and necessary” to lessen that disadvantage.The main issue at trial was therefore whether the Defendant was in breach of its duty under section 20(3) Equality Act 2010 to make “reasonable adjustments” in respect of Mrs Poyner-Smailes’ disability.

His Honour Judge Jarman Q.C hearing the case at Cardiff County Court ruled that the landlord should have agreed to let the Claimants carry out the works, which were reasonable in light of her disability. It was found that Mrs Poyner-Smailes had been put at a substantial disadvantage by not being granted permission for the proposed works and further by the Defendant attaching conditions, such as requesting that the Claimants pay for numerous reports on the proposed works which other leaseholders had not been required to obtain when they sought their permission. His Honour Judge Jarman Q.C also found that Mrs Poyner-Smailes was harassed by the landlord at a meeting which was held to consider the proposed alterations.

A remedy hearing is set for April 2019.

What does this mean for landlords?

The decision is likely to be relied upon by tenants and therefore it is important for landlords to have the Equality Act firmly in mind when dealing with requests for alterations and to consider proposals carefully.

Landlords must be mindful that disabled leaseholders should be allowed to make alterations to their homes providing that those alterations are “reasonable and necessary” even if there is a strict prohibition contained within the lease.

It is important to remember that each case is different and the application of what is considered “reasonable and necessary” will always vary depending upon the circumstances of the case.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about our legal update, please contact Sian Evans, Partner on 0151 242 6821, or; or Becki Smith, Trainee Solicitor on 0151 243 3393, or