Landlords 'breaking equality laws' if they refuse to let to benefit claimants

by Gary Whittaker

Landlords and letting agencies could be breaking equality law if they refuse to let properties to benefit claimants, especially single mothers.

Single mum Rosie Keogh recently won a case against an agent in Birmingham, who had refused to allow her to go on letting a home she had already been living in for 11 years. 

She took up the matter with the county court, with the result being an eventual out-of-court settlement leading to her being awarded £2,000. 

Ms Keogh told the BBC: "I felt something had to be done to challenge it. I was motivated by anger at such inequitable practice. 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."

She was backed in her action by housing charity Shelter, whose legal officer Rose Arnall observed that women with part-time jobs are more likely to top-up income using housing benefit.

The case follows a BBC investigation last year, which found that out of a sample of 11,800 landlords, fewer than 300 accepted anyone claiming benefits.  

With 60 per cent of housing benefit claimants and 95 per cent of single parents being female, this practice was always vulnerable to legal challenge.

Although the case may provide some important lessons for landlords and agents and establish a principle in case law that could be particularly significant for existing tenants, it certainly does not mean that all landlords or agents are hostile to those on benefits.

For instance, a survey carried out by Simple Landlords Insurance shortly before Christmas found that when it comes to tenants who are claiming universal credit, 43 per cent of landlords would be willing to support tenants, compared with only 27 per cent who would seek to evict them. 

In contrast with the BBC survey, only 16 per cent of the landlords in the Simple Landlords Insurance poll said the introduction of universal credit would change their approach to renting properties to claimants.

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26-February-18General Lettings News