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Lord Carter: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Government for tabling this amendment. My noble friend will remember that at an earlier stage of the Bill I said that I was keeping score of the number of recommendations of the Joint Committee that were turned down in the government response but which were later introduced into the Bill. This is another one.
Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for having responded so comprehensively to our concerns about the needs of disabled tenants who require adaptations to their homes. I warmly endorse her congratulations on the very expeditious work carried out by the officials and by parliamentary counsel. As she has made clear, this is an extremely complex issue.
I also add the thanks of the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy, who, unfortunately was unable to stay for this debate. She wanted me to add her thanks for the amendment and to add the hope that the committee set up to come up with a solution to the communal areas will also come to a similarly satisfactory conclusion. This was a key commitment from the Disability Rights Task Force which will do much to increase the independent living of disabled people. I extend my grateful thanks to the Minister for all her hard work on this issue.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I too welcome this group of amendments. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, has just mentioned independent living. As the House may know, I have been pressing very strongly for this new clause on independent living. These amendments go a long way towards helping independent living for disabled people. I particularly welcome the amendments, especially Amendment No. 16, because it would have been incredible that any landlord could unreasonably refuse alterations to premises for a disabled person. There is no argument for that. By any stretch of the imagination that would be quite incredible. These amendments correct that gross injustice. I regard them as some of the most important parts of the Bill. I congratulate the Government.
Lord Addington: My Lords, we shall forgive the little dispute when we were so close to agreeing and when we had to settle the matter with a Division. On this point, we thank the Government.
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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I want to add my thanks. It is practical to have more suitable accommodation because we have a growing elderly population, many of whom are disabled. As my noble friend has said, if severely disabled people are to survive in the community, we need more help in the community.
49G IMPROVEMENTS TO LET DWELLING HOUSES
(1) This section applies in relation to a lease of a dwelling house if
(a) the tenancy is not a protected tenancy, a statutory tenancy or a secure tenancy,
(b) the tenant or any other person who lawfully occupies or is intended lawfully to occupy the premises is a disabled person,
(c) the person mentioned in paragraph (b) occupies or is intended to occupy the premises as his only or principal home,
(d) the tenant is entitled under the lease to make improvements to the premises with the consent of the landlord, and
(e) the tenant applies to the landlord for his consent to make a relevant improvement.
(2) If the consent of the landlord is unreasonably withheld it must be taken to have been given.
(3) Where the tenant applies in writing for the consent
(a) if the landlord refuses to give consent, he must give the tenant a written statement of the reason why the consent was withheld;
(b) if the landlord neither gives nor refuses to give consent within a reasonable time, consent must be taken to have been withheld.
(4) If the landlord gives consent to the making of an improvement subject to a condition which is unreasonable, the consent must be taken to have been unreasonably withheld.
(5) In any question as to whether
(a) the consent of the landlord was unreasonably withheld, or
(b) a condition imposed by the landlord is unreasonable,
it is for the landlord to show that it was not.
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(6) If the tenant fails to comply with a reasonable condition imposed by the landlord on the making of a relevant improvement, the failure is to be treated as a breach by the tenant of an obligation of his tenancy.
(7) An improvement to premises is a relevant improvement if, having regard to the disability which the disabled person mentioned in subsection (1)(b) has, it is likely to facilitate his enjoyment of the premises.
(8) Subsections (2) to (6) apply to a lease only to the extent that provision of a like nature is not made by the lease.
(9) In this section
"improvement" means any alteration in or addition to premises and includes
(a) any addition to or alteration in landlord's fittings and fixtures,
(b) any addition or alteration connected with the provision of services to the premises,
(c) the erection of a wireless or television aerial, and
(d) the carrying out of external decoration;
"lease" includes a sub-lease or other tenancy, and "landlord" and "tenant" must be construed accordingly;
"protected tenancy" has the same meaning as in section 1 of the Rent Act 1977;
"statutory tenancy" must be construed in accordance with section 2 of that Act;
"secure tenancy" has the same meaning as in section 79 of the Housing Act 1985.
49H CONCILIATION OF DISPUTES
(1) The Disability Rights Commission may make arrangements with any other person for the provision of conciliation services by, or by persons appointed by, that person in relation to a dispute of any description concerning the question whether it is unreasonable for a landlord to withhold consent to the making of a relevant improvement to a dwelling house.
(2) Subsections (2) to (8) of section 28 apply for the purposes of this section as they apply for the purposes of that section and for that purpose a reference in that section to
(a) a dispute arising under Part 3 must be construed as a reference to a dispute mentioned in subsection (1) above;
(b) arrangements under that section must be construed as a reference to arrangements under this section.
(3) "Relevant improvement" has the same meaning as in section 49G."
(2) In section 53A of the 1995 Act (codes of practice), after subsection (1C) there is inserted
"(1D) The Commission may prepare and issue codes of practice giving practical guidance to landlords and tenants as to
(a) circumstances in which a tenant requires the consent of his landlord for making a relevant improvement to a dwelling house;
(b) circumstances in which it is unreasonable to withhold such consent;
(c) the application of the improvement provisions in relation to relevant improvements to dwelling houses.
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(1E) In subsection (1D) the improvement provisions are
(a) section 19(2) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927;
(b) sections 81 to 85 of the Housing Act 1980;
(c) sections 97 to 99 of the Housing Act 1985;
(d) section 49G above."
(3) In section 7 of the Disability Rights Commission Act 1999 (provision of assistance in relation to proceedings)
(a) in subsection (1), after paragraph (a) there is inserted
"(aa) proceedings of any description to the extent that the question whether it is unreasonable for a landlord to withhold consent to the making of a relevant improvement to a dwelling house falls to be considered in the proceedings;", and.
(b) after subsection (4) there is inserted
"(4A) A relevant improvement is an improvement (within the meaning of section 49G(9) of the 1995 Act) to premises which, having regard to the disability which a disabled person who lawfully occupies or is intended lawfully to occupy the premises has, is likely to facilitate his enjoyment of the premises.""
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