Disabled home-seekers claim property industry is in "dark ages"

Unhelpful estate agents and websites are trapping young disabled people at home, says a new report

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The Independent Online

The property industry is completely oblivious to the needs of young disabled people and is preventing them living independently, relocating for work or moving in with partners and spouses, claims the 'Locked Out' report from the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

Authors of the report detailed examples of agents with little understanding of what constitutes an accessible property, failing to list relevant features such as step-free access on their websites, and even attempting to take wheelchair-users to view properties up flights of steps.

The report reveals:

* 85% do not feel confident that access advice given by estate agents, local authorities and other housing providers is accurate

* seven out of ten say they find it difficult to identify accommodation that is accessible to them because estates agents have poor knowledge of adapted properties in their area

* four out of ten young disabled people have been told by an estate agent or letting agent that a building is accessible to their needs, only to arrive for a viewing and discover it is not

* eight out of ten of those who live with parents say that if they moved away, they would not be confident that they would easily be able to find a property that would be suitable for them

Bobby Ancil, Project Manager of the campaign, said: "It seems that the UK property industry is truly in the dark ages when it comes to catering for disabled home-seekers. Our investigation exposed estate and lettings agents as well as property websites who appeared completely oblivious to this market. The public sector is faring little better. Local authorities are being given hundreds of millions of pounds each year towards grants to adapt existing homes, while they fail to set quotas to ensure demand for accessible properties is eased by new developments.

"It is the 21st century, and just as their non-disabled peers do, young disabled people hunt for suitable rental accommodation to move out of the family home, while studying, when setting up their careers or when moving in with friends or partners. The need to develop financial security and get on the property ladder is no different. We need the private sector to understand accessible homes and how to market them and for the public sector to allocate fairly and increase stock, if the situation is to improve."

The report recommends that property websites should be searchable for disabled features, staff require additional training to understand disabled clients' needs, and that local authorities and building developers must ensure that all new housing will be built to the Lifetime Homes Standard and 10% will be build to wheelchair standard design.