The Deposit Diaries: Reasonable adjustment and equality in tenancy deposit disputes

Sandy Bastin

The Equality Act 2010 requires us to provide reasonable adjustments for disabled people, defined by the Act as those who have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on that person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

What is a reasonable adjustment?

A reasonable adjustment involves making a change to the way that we usually do things to ensure that we are fair to all our customers.  For example, this may involve providing information in a different format when dealing with tenancy deposit disputes.

For example, TDS is committed to providing an excellent service to all its customers.  We recognise however that some customers may need us to change the way in which we normally deliver our services to them.  We will consider what can be done to overcome any such disadvantage, and whether an adjustment can be made which is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.  This is called making a ‘reasonable adjustment’.

Our legal duty, as a service provider, requires us to make adjustments if the way that we deliver our services, the absence of an auxiliary aid, or any physical feature, places the disabled person at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ compared to someone who is not disabled.

We will not make assumptions about whether a person requires any adjustments or about what those adjustments should be.  We will discuss the requirements with the person concerned and seek to reach agreement in advance with the individual in question as to what may be reasonable in the circumstances, the reasonable adjustments that we are able to make and provide reasons when it may not be possible.

The types of reasonable adjustment we can offer

The Equality Act does not define what is ‘reasonable’, but guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests what the most relevant factors are.  We rely on this to help us in more difficult cases.

We consider each request for reasonable adjustments individually, but there are some common adjustments we offer as a matter of course and some other adjustments that we can make particular arrangements to provide. For example, we can:

  • provide documents or correspondence in a larger font size
  • provide documents on coloured paper or with a specific colour contrast which can often help people with conditions such as dyslexia
  • allow a person who has a learning disability or mental health problems more time than would usually be allowed to provide further information—except where there is a statutory deadline which we have no power to change
  • use email or the telephone in preference to hard copy letters where appropriate, which may assist those with a vision impairment
  • speak clearly to the people we deal with and offer additional time to cover the issues they need to discuss—this will help everyone understand our processes and procedures
  • use plain English appropriate to the person we are dealing with and avoiding jargon
  • provide assistance and guidance on the use of our website translation tool
  • use Language Line to assist customers whose first language is not English
  • use Text Relay for deaf persons

In most cases, we will be able to agree and deliver the required reasonable adjustments with minimal delay.  In some cases, however, we may need to consider in more detail our approach and how best to overcome the difficulty a disabled person may be experiencing.  For example, where the adjustment requested may be difficult to provide or where it may interfere with our statutory or regulatory obligations.

How TO request a reasonable adjustment?

Simply contact Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) by telephone or in writing.  We also let customers know that we can provide reasonable adjustments in other formats, for example:

  • by including a paragraph in written communications;
  • by asking whether an adjustment might be required over the telephone;
  • by including a note on our website and our published documents indicating that we can provide the document in an alternative format on request;

TDS records and monitors the reasonable adjustments that have been requested and made. This allows us to review the services we provide and helps us identify whether there are any wider steps that we can take to improve our services.

Further detail can be found in the TDS Reasonable Adjustment Policy.

Discover more useful guides, policies and case studies in the TDS Information Lounge.

Sandy Bastin is head of dispute resolution at TDS.

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