Landlords are no longer able to discriminate against tenants who are in receipt of Benefits. This is going to be a huge relief for many, people have found this the greatest barrier when trying to find alternative accommodation for themselves in the private sector. I am aware that some Estate Agents can and may insist that the proposed tenant have a guarantor and some have even insisted that the guarantor must be a homeowner. The reason for this change is as a result of a recent case heard in court, when a tenant challenged a landlord for refusing to rent to her.
The case was heard at York County Court on 1 July 2020, District Judge Victoria Mark ruled the practice was against the Equality Act 2010. The Judge is quoted as saying:
“Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability,”
It is the first time a case of this type looking at the discrimination of tenants receiving housing benefit/housing element of Universal credit has been heard by a court in the UK.
The case is about a single mother who in November 2018 was refused by the Letting Agents the opportunity to view a property in York because the letting agent had a stated that they would not accept any tenants receiving housing benefit.
As a result, she became homeless and she had no alternative but to move into a hostel with her children. She approached Shelter the housing charity for assistance she applied to court and make a claim asking for a declaration on the lawfulness of the policy but also asking for damages.
Backed by Charity Shelter, she subsequently lodged a claim calling for a declaration on the lawfulness of the policy and for damages. Since the case was lodged the agent has now stopped using this policy and ended its practice and admitted that the policy was not justified.
In the ruling, District Judge Mark also ordered the letting agent to pay £3,500 of damages to the claimant and pay the legal costs.
This now means that Estate Agents and landlords could face fines of approximately £5,000 per advert based on the three payouts made in cases so far.
A lot of landlords are unaware of this so if you are looking for a property it is important that you point this out to any landlord when you are looking for a property to rent who refuses to rent to you if you are in receipt of benefits
Shelter have a template letter on their website that you may use and send to a landlord/Estate Agent who is not complying with the now declaration see link below: