Disabled Housing Association tenants have launched a campaign which they hope will end the widespread discrimination of people with disabilities by their landlords and raise awareness of the Equality Act.
Disabled members of the Social Housing Action Campaign (SHAC) have come together to draw up a charter to which social landlords can adhere.
The charter was developed by members of SHAC’s disability visibility group, and the South Yorkshire Housing Association has already agreed to pilot it.
The group wants landlords to stop discriminating against tenants with disabilities, especially those who suffer from mental distress or who identify as neurodiverse.
They want to see landlords improve their compliance with housing policies, legal guidelines and equality laws.
Among their concerns are landlords delaying repairs and accusing tenants with autism and those with mental distress of antisocial behavior.
Among the commitments they must make, housing organizations that adhere to the Social landlord disability charter (PDF) must promise to treat tenants with disabilities with dignity and respect; involve them in decision-making processes; and ensure they make reasonable adjustments for them.
The charter states that housing associations must avoid “calculated neglect of repairs, disrespectful behavior, dragging complaints and weaponizing disability”.
The Visibilité Handicap group was created last year after a blog by Carl Davis*, in which he described how he and other tenants with autism and those with mental distress were often viewed as ‘difficult, awkward or anti-social “problem tenants by housing providers”.
He wrote how landlords believe that residents “simply asking questions or seeking clarification constitutes antisocial activity that provides them with an excuse to act against the resident concerned.”
Davis, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, had lived for almost 20 years on her housing association’s property before a reasonable adjustment request – asking her housing association not to make unannounced visits – n results in “persistent harassment and victimization”.
He told Disability News Service this week it was a “horrible situation to be in”.
He said: “It wasn’t a unique story for me. Other tenants are going through the same kind of thing.
“It’s really exhausting and it’s on top of all the other issues you face.
“There is a constant undercurrent of disability suspicion and hatred prevalent in parts of the housing sector, and this is not being addressed.”
Key to the charter is how housing associations deal with complaints and cases of alleged anti-social behavior.
Members of the Disability Visibility group believe that prejudice, misunderstanding and false allegations of anti-social behavior can often escalate into “brutal” intimidation of tenants with disabilities and even legal threats by housing associations.
This can often lead tenants with disabilities who have made legitimate complaints about maintenance and repairs into lengthy complaint processes and cases of anti-social behavior.
Davis said, “Antisocial behavior legislation was originally intended to protect the community and individuals, not authoritarian and discriminatory bureaucrats.”
He said the charter could provide crucial support to tenants with disabilities who lack the resources to bring claims under the Equality Act, but could also benefit landlords, who could avoid lengthy disputes with tenants and “benefit from greater awareness”.
He said: ‘They don’t listen to their residents, disabled or not. They must do more.
Davis said the recent ITV News surveys on the state of social housing showed how often tenants with disabilities were forced to live in substandard housing, with landlords failing to carry out urgent repairs.
He said: “People are being crushed by dilapidation and miscommunication, treated in a stigmatizing way. It’s really widespread. »
*This is not his real name
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