The Equality Act 2010 (‘The Act’) was implemented to prevent discrimination in the work place and in the wider society, specifically in relation to age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, race, gender reassignment, pregnancy, marriage and civil partnerships (the protected characteristics).
The Act streamlined existing discrimination legation and extended its scope, to such an extent that commercial property owners (and property owners in general) have duties imposed on them by its provisions. It is therefore essential that owners of commercial premises are aware of their duties, in order to avoid the potential penalties for non-compliance.
Below is a summary of the main implications of the Act on commercial property owners, with advice on how to comply with such obligations:
1. Fair terms when disposing or letting out property
When letting or selling out property a Landlord (you) must ensure that the terms offered to the tenant / buyer are not discriminatory, i.e. that they are not less favourable to a person because of a protected characteristic.
When providing consent to a tenant who wishes to transfer or sublet their lease, any refusal of consent or any conditions imposed on the giving of consent must be objective and must not discriminate due to a protected characteristic. An example would be refusing to consent to an assignment due to a person’s gender.
2. Treating your tenant fairly
When managing your property, you must not discriminate against the tenant for reasons that fall within a protected characteristic. An example would be prohibiting a tenant’s visitors because of their sexual orientation.
3. Adjusting your property: auxiliary aids
If requested by, or on behalf of a disabled person, a let commercial property must be adjusted to facilitate its use by disabled persons, if failure to adjust would place those persons at a significant disadvantage.
Under this provision, whilst a landlord is not obligated to physically alter the premises, they could be required to provide auxiliary aids, such as a handrail, or to change the way things are done at their property, i.e. installing a hearing hoop for tenants that are hard of hearing.
You should, therefore, consider this when negotiating terms as the alteration provisions will need to reflect the greater flexibility that a disabled tenant may require.
4. Altering your property: physical adjustments.
If you or your tenant are a supplier of goods or services, not only are you obligated to make reasonable adjustments, you are also obliged to physically alter the property to permit disabled access.
This duty is anticipatory and is owed to disabled people generally. As such, a provider of goods or services (or a provider exercising a public function) must ensure their property complies with the Act.
If letting/selling a premises you may wish to include in your sale/letting agreement a provision that such works will be carried out before the sale or letting takes place, or, a deduction in price will be made to take into account the works needed to comply with this duty.
With all this in mind, you, as landlord should:
• Ensure any disposition of the property is done so fairly and objectively
• Ensure any consent given is based on objective grounds and not in relation to a protected characteristic
• Ensure any let commercial property would not place a disabled person at a significant disadvantage when using the property
• Think about providing flexible covenants when entering an agreement with a disabled tenant
• Consider, when letting a premises to a provider of goods or services, if any work needs to be done to the property to enable disabled access.
If you fail to consider the Act, you may face:
• A claim against you for discrimination and a declaration of discrimination being made
• Monetary penalties
• An Injunction Order to enforce adjustment / alteration of property
For more information and advise, please contact Tanuja Sellahewa, an experienced Commercial Property Associate Solicitor at [email protected] / 01483 215 033.