Law Banning Benefit Tenants Remains Unclear for Landlords

Landlords and letting agents may still be able to turn away renters on benefits despite a single mum winning an out-of-court settlement after claiming an agent who did so breached equality legislation. 

Letting agent Nicholas George paid the mum, Rosie Keogh, a £2,000 settlement before judgment after she issued a claim backed by housing charity Shelter at the county court. 

She argued that he had breached equality laws by turning down her application to rent a home in King’s Heath, Birmingham, after discovering some of the rent would be paid by housing benefits. 

The papers before the court claimed landlords and letting agents refusing applications from benefit tenants indirectly discriminated against women as single women are proportionately more likely to claim housing benefits than single men, according to official figures. 

Reporting the case, the BBC pointed out that thousands of landlords and letting agents who operate a ‘no tenants on benefits’ policy could be flouting equality laws.

“While an interesting development, this is not a precedent,” said solicitor Giles Peaker, a partner in housing law firm Anthony Gold Solicitors. 

“While claims of indirect discrimination in such a blanket ban may be well founded and are clearly arguable, there remains the possibility of a defence under Section 19(2)(d) Equality Act 2010, that the practice is ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. Unless or until that defence is tested in court, the issue will remain unclear. 

“That said, this is a clear demonstration that something that a number of people have been discussing as a hypothetical possibility for some time is indeed a viable potential claim. And it is a reminder to landlords and agents that any simple ‘blanket letting policy’ actually needs to be considered carefully.”

Shelter asked 1,137 private landlords last year if they banned letting to benefit claimants. The response was 43% said yes, and another 18% preferred not to let to them

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