Disabled tenant banned from buying his council flat because it’s adapted for his needs

A tenant has been banned from buying his council flat after it was adapted for his disability.

Antony Carter lives with cerebral palsy and had the bathroom in his council flat converted into a wet room.

But the dad-of-two from Lewisham, London, has claimed that his council is now refusing to let him buy the studio because it was adapted.

Antony alleged Lewisham Council never mentioned this when he signed the lease back in 2012.

He said: “[Lewisham Homes] didn’t say or tell me anything,” the 34-year-old told MyLondon.

“They didn’t mention anything to my mum either – she was helping me at the time.

“Some of the neighbours have bought their properties because they haven’t been adapted, I don’t have that right because it’s been adapted. I can’t buy my flat.”

Antony said the situation has left him feeling “stuck” and he now has extremely limited options to get onto the property ladder.

The law relating to the issue states: “The right to buy does not arise if the [home] has features which are substantially different from those of ordinary [homes] and are designed to make it suitable for occupation by physically disabled persons.”

Antony was advised by the council to look into using HomeSwapper, an online housing service where social tenants can swap their home with other tenants.

But using HomeSwapper would only leave him in the same predicament he is in now.

Antony explained: “With the HomeSwapper website I have to swap with somebody that has a disability. A lot of the properties on the HomeSwapper website are for people who don’t have disabilities.

“Lewisham Homes has to authorise who I swap with so therefore they are not going to just allow me to swap with anyone. So that means I’m really stuck with where I’m at.”

In addition to that, he does not want to resort to private renting due to the extortionate costs as he wants to buy a property.

Antony said: “I have been given additional barriers to stop me benefitting like others. I’m not getting the same respect, rights and opportunities as everyone else.

“That’s the law and that’s it. But when I speak to people about it, a lot of people are unaware of these things. I think it’s important to make people aware of it. If people aren’t aware of it, they can’t make the right decisions.

“All disabled people in adapted council flats will be in the same position as me. Disabled people are being discriminated [against] and aren’t being given equal right-to-buy opportunities as abled people. This is huge prejudice and discrimination.

“As a disabled man this is just another way my opportunities have been severely limited and it feels infuriating because I already have numerous hurdles.”

A spokesperson from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “It is important houses for the elderly and disabled are preserved. For that reason, certain accommodation can be exempt from Right to Buy. Councils decide whether a property is exempt, in line with the criteria set out in the Right to Buy legislation.”

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “With over 10,000 families on our housing waiting list, we want to increase the supply of social housing in Lewisham, rather than sell existing homes. We would not look to sell off council homes into the private sector, other than where we are legally obliged to under the Right to Buy scheme.

“While we understand the frustrations raised by Mr Carter, the Right to Buy scheme and the exceptions to it are governed by national legislation and made clear to tenants on the Lewisham Homes website.

“Mr Carter’s property has been determined to fall under the exceptions set out in this legislation and therefore does not qualify for the Right to Buy scheme. Decisions around changing the current legislation ultimately rest with the Government, rather than the council.

“We remain committed to supporting disabled residents with their housing needs by adapting council-owned properties where needed and ensuring there is a good supply of accessible housing in the borough.”