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Disabled Facilities Grants: A Guide for Landlords

Published on February 29, 2024 by Sarah Mac

Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) are grants provided by local authorities in England, Northern Ireland and Wales to help disabled persons meet the cost of adapting a property to suit their needs.

Not everyone is aware that these grants exist, and it is useful for landlords to be aware of how they work and the eligibility criteria, so that they can make use of them to fund the adaptation of rental property to meet the needs of disabled tenants.

The National Residential Landlords Association (NRLA) has recently compiled a factfinder to help landlords navigate Disabled Facilities Grants. The guide is designed to provide landlords with practical support and help in enhancing their understanding of DFGs.

1.2 million private rented sector households include someone with a disability or long term illness

According to the NRLA, recent research reveals that over 1.2 million households in the private rented sector now accommodate someone with a disability or long term illness.

Disabled renters’ needs can differ quite considerably. This can mean that adaptations to properties can vary from minor alterations such as the addition of grab rails, to more widespread changes such as the installation of permanent access ramps and the widening of doorways to accommodate wheelchairs.

Many of these adaptations can be funded by Disabled Facilities Grants to help landlords, tenants and homeowners meet the costs involved.

Awareness of the grants, however, is low. Figures suggest that the allocation of grants to the private rented sector falls behind other tenures.

Bearing in mind that NRLA research shows that landlords are becoming more and more willing to adapt their properties after learning about the grant, it seems surprising that more isn’t being done to educate them in its availability.

Who is eligible for Disabled Facilities Grants?

The following are eligible for a DSG:

  • Owner occupiers
  • Private tenants
  • Landlords with disabled tenants
  • Local authority tenants
  • Housing association tenants

A person is considered disabled if:

  • They have substantial sight, hearing or speech impairment
  • They have a mental disorder or impairment of any kind
  • They are physically substantially disabled by illness or injury, with an impairment that has been present since birth or otherwise

To qualify, the tenant must intend to live in the property during the grant period (usually five years), although this may be shorter, for example if the tenant is terminally ill.

The council will have to be satisfied that the work being carried out is:

  • Necessary and appropriate to the needs of the disabled person
  • Reasonable and possible in terms of the age and condition of the property

To check that the works are necessary and appropriate, the local housing authority will usually refer the tenant to the social care department for an assessment by an occupational therapist or trained assessor.

The therapist or assessor will usually visit the property and tenant to assess what changes are required to the property. They are required to provide a decision within six months from the date of your formal application.

Sometimes the council will provide a payment date for the grant, but this should not be more than 12 months from the date of application.

What can a DFG be used for?

A DFG can be used to:

  • Widen doorways
  • Install ramps or grab rails
  • Improve access to rooms, for example via a stair lift
  • Enable safe use of bathroom facilities, for example via a walk-in bath or level access shower
  • Enabling safe use of food preparation and cooking facilities
  • Improve access to the garden and/or make the garden safe
  • Accommodate a downstairs bedroom
  • Provide a suitable heating system
  • Adapt heating or lighting controls so they are easier to use

Unlike homeowners and tenants, landlords applying for DFGs are able to get the grants without their income and savings being taken into account. However, the council may ask for the property to be let to another disabled tenant should the current tenant move within five years of the DFG being issued.

How much is a DFG worth?

In England, the grant is worth up to £30,000, although some councils may give more. It is important that adaptation works do not commence before the grant is approved.

Payments are either made in instalments as the work progresses, or in full once the work is complete.

The council may pay the contractor directly, or provide a cheque to be passed onto them.

Only once you and the council are happy with the finished work, or when you pass the invoice or receipt to the council from the contractor, will the grant be paid out.

If you as a landlord elect to carry out the work yourself, the council will only normally accept invoices for materials or services you have purchased. In other words, they will not cover any costs for your own labour time.

How to apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant?

You should apply for the DFG through your local council.

If you are unsuccessful, you are within your rights to appeal the decision with the council. If you appeal and you are still not satisfied, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.

What duties do landlords have to disabled tenants?

Landlords must make reasonable adjustments when requested to enable a disabled person to use their property.

In terms of tenants making their own adjustments, the majority of leases and tenancy agreements restrict tenants’’ rights to improve or alter residential premises. In this respect, the Equality Act 2010 provides for a procedure to enable disabled tenants of premises occupied as their only or main residence to seek the landlord’s consent to make a ‘relevant improvement’.

A relevant improvement is one which, having regard to the disabled tenant or occupier’s disability, it is likely to allow that person’s enjoyment of the premises.

These provisions do not apply to Rent Act tenancies and secure tenancies, as they largely replicate existing provisions. Furthermore, they do not apply in respect of other tenancies if the tenancy agreement already sets out rules as to how to obtain the landlord’s consent.

Adapting a property to meet the needs of a disabled tenant provides landlords with the advantage of being able to target a niche audience, as there are few properties available in this category. There is also the benefit of longer term tenants, due to the difficulty in finding suitable accommodation.

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