The Relevant Adjustments to Common Parts (Disabled Persons) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 came into effect on 24th February 2020 as a direct result of the Equality Act 2010. The idea behind the Regulations is to make it easier to propose alterations to the common areas of a property to assist a disabled person in their day to day living. This may include fitting a handrail (or an additional handrail) or adding a ramp to the main entrance of a property for wheelchair access. The Regulations make it easier to do so, thus promote equality.
The disabled person can propose adjustments to the common areas provided he or she has an interest in the property. Simply put, the disabled person must either own the property or be a tenant, and the property must be his or her main residence.
Previously, the common law position required the consent of all proprietors before any adjustments could be made to common areas, with the cost being borne equally. Under the new Regulations, a simple majority of one is needed and responsibility for payment rests solely with the disabled person proposing the adjustments unless agreement on this can be reached with the other owners. He or she is also liable for returning the property to its original condition. In most cases, however, local authority grant funding will be available for necessary alterations.
For example, a disabled person living on the ground floor of a tenement can apply to extend the width of the entrance or install a ramp for wheelchair access. The application, made in a prescribed form, must detail the proposed adjustment together with a maintenance plan, if necessary. Owners have one month to respond and failure to do will be regarded as withholding consent. Proprietors have the option to consent, consent with conditions such as the quality and appearance of the work to be done, or withhold consent, however consent must not be unreasonably withheld. Health and safety issues, maintenance costs and an impact on property value are valid reasons for dissent.
Parties who are unhappy with the majority decision have the right to appeal to the Sheriff Court for a review. On appeal, the Sheriff can authorise the proposed adjustments, either with or without conditions or reject the proposed adjustment.
The Regulations provide a clear and concise framework which will hopefully make it easier for disabled owners and tenants alike to propose alterations to common areas to assist in their day to day living. It remains to be seen whether the Regulations achieve that aim in practice.