Q: The husband of one of our leaseholders needs wheelchair access to their ground floor flat. The Council have told the leaseholder that they can’t help as the flat is privately owned and that it is the Management Company’s responsibility. Whilst I accept that we would have to give our approval for any alterations to the front steps leading up to the block, could you please let me know who should bear the cost of such a project?
FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies:
Thank you for your email about granting permission for wheel chair access to your block.
This is a very common question that I have written about in various newsletter articles in recent years as the previous Government suggest including this as part of the Equality Act due in part to concerns by ourselves and others Section 35 of the Act covering this issue relating to common parts was never introduced.
When deciding whether to grant permission for alterations to the building to facilitate wheel -chair access you will also need to consider whether this alteration will have a negative impact on other users to the building, will it cause a trip hazard or be useable by blind people etc.
Once you have established that you can grant permission you will then need to consider who pays both for the Initial cost and ongoing cost, insurance liability etc…
Many local authorities used to offer grants for these type of improvements with the intention of keeping people their homes longer. I would certainly suggest they apply to your Council to see if they still offer ‘Disabled Facilities Grants’ these are usually means tested if they are still offered at all!
If you believe the ramp would assist all users and the lease allows for such improvements (many don’t) , leases often allow for maintenance only and not improvements.
Your Directors may then decide that this is a reasonable service charge expense if however the lease doesn’t allow for such an improvement you will need to consider the implications of the wheelchair user paying for this,. Will they cover the ongoing maintenance costs and public liability insurance or will your insurers cover this as it’s installed to the common parts?
I am not a lawyer and not had the benefit of renewing your lease so I would suggest if you need more detailed legal advice to assist your decision making about whether to allow permission can I suggest you contact our admin office who will be able to refer your query to one of our legal advisors with your lease to provide a more informed view?
I hope this initial advice helps.
[Submitted May 2016]