Monday, January 08, 2007

Landlord success in disability discrimination case

There is an interesting report in the Times on a case, Williams v Richmond Court (Swansea) Ltd (heard on 14 December 2006), on disability discrimination. The landlord was appealing against the Judge's finding against him at first instance that he discriminated against 81 year old tenant Mrs Williams who had requested he install a stair lift, as she found it difficult to use the stairs.

The Court of Appeal found that the landlords did not discriminate, as the reason they had refused to install the stair lift was not because Mrs Williams was disabled. The reasons given by them for refusing consent included, (i) that the other tenants had voted against the proposal; (ii) aesthetics; (iii) the cost of repair; (iv) inconvenience to the residents as a whole; and (v) the Disability Rights Commission code of practice made it clear that it was not under any duty to make reasonable adjustments to the premises.

The Court of Appeal said that Judges have to carry out a two-stage exercise. First, it was necessary to identify the relevant act or omission on the part of the appellant, and second, it was necessary to look to comparators to see if they were or would have been treated differently.

Here, none of the reasons given by the landlord for refusing consent related to Mrs Williams’ disability. The underlying complaint was that the they had failed to put her in a better position than that to which she was entitled by her underlease, namely by failing to take positive action and providing consent to the installation of the stair-lift.

Landlords will no doubt feel fairly pleased at this judgment. I am sorry I am unable to provide a BAILLI link but the case does not appear to have been reported there yet.

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