A recent report from the BBC highlighted a recent discrimination case which highlights some interesting figures. We ( via our Landlords ) help a number of people that are claiming benefit. However the main hurdle is the restrictions put on insurance and mortgage policies.
The thousands of lettings agents and landlords around the country who reject housing benefit claimants could be flouting equality laws, due to a recent legal case. The widespread practice has led to “no-go zones” for those on lower incomes – especially in desirable residential areas.
But single mother Rosie Keogh won compensation for sex discrimination from a lettings agency that refused to consider her as a tenant because she was on state benefit. The cleaner and former paralegal successfully argued that blanket bans on benefit claimants indirectly discriminated against women, especially single women. This is because they are proportionately more likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men, according to official figures.
A survey of 1,137 private landlords for housing charity Shelter in 2017 found that 43% had an outright ban on letting to such claimants. A further 18% preferred not to let to them. And an investigation by the BBC last year found many landlords prefer to let to families with pets than those on benefits. Rosie was supported in her case by Shelter, whose legal officer Rose Arnall said: “By applying a blanket policy they are actually preventing good tenants from accessing the private rented sector. Women are more likely to be caring for children and therefore working part-time and are therefore more likely to top up their income by claiming housing benefit.” Because of the lack of available social housing, more than a fifth of those renting privately are relying on housing benefit either wholly or partly to cover their rent, according to 2017 figures.
Eighteen months after Rosie first began her fightback, lettings agent Nicholas George admitted indirect discrimination on the grounds of her sex, settling out of court with £2,000 compensation. She also had help from the Bar Pro Bono Unit with the case who found a barrister willing to help for free. Robert Brown gave advice and drew up the consent order which was witnessed by a judge at Birmingham County Court.
Although not setting a legally binding precedent, the case established that the practice could be considered indirect sexual discrimination. He added: “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.” But one landlord, Tom Black, said his landlord insurance prohibited him from taking tenants that are on housing benefits when their tenancy starts.
Another said: “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 (a.) mortgage terms and (b.) severe delays in the claimants HB claim, universal credit policy to pay claimants directly into their bank account.