Landlords warned that benefit discrimination could breach equality law
Landlords who refuse to let property to people claiming housing benefit could be in breach of equality laws, according to a new study.
Research by the National Housing Federation has found that one in five letting agents, some acting on landlord instructions, were potentially breaking the law by advertising properties as not available to benefit claimants.
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: “It’s likely that many more letting agents are discriminating too, but our research today shines a light on those who are willing to do so in a really brazen manner online.”
A survey for housing charity Shelter also found that 43% of private landlords had an outright ban on letting to claimants with a further 18% unwilling to disclose their practices.
Such actions could be unlawful under the 2010 Equality Act because many claimants are women or disabled people. In a case earlier this year, a single mother from Birmingham, Rosie Keogh, was refused a property to let because part of her rent would have been paid in benefits.
Ms Keogh argued successfully that such blanket bans equate to sex discrimination, as claimants are statistically more likely to be women. She said: “It made me feel like a second-class citizen. You are being treated differently – and it’s women and women with children who are bearing the brunt of this because they need to work part-time.”
Speaking to the BBC website after the case, Chris Norris, from the National Landlords Association, said: “The number of landlords willing to rent to housing benefit tenants has fallen dramatically over the last few years because cuts to welfare and problems with the universal credit system are making it more and more difficult for anyone in receipt of housing support to pay their rent on time and sustain long-term tenancies.”
Meanwhile, for some landlords, insurance and mortgage terms prohibit letting to people receiving housing benefits at the start of their tenancy. According to one landlord: “As a council-accredited landlord who trains others to become accredited, I can safely say that the “no DSS” is not down to landlord preference or discrimination… it’s entirely down to mortgage terms and severe delays in the housing benefit claims.”
Read more about this story on the Landlord Today website.
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