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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit claimants?

The House of Commons has published a briefing paper “Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit claimants?”. The paper discusses private landlords’ reluctance to let to Housing Benefit claimants and considers whether this is a form of discrimination.

Some of the suggested reasons why landlords may be reluctant to rent to Housing Benefit claimants include;

  • delays in receiving payment,
  • the perceived risk of Housing Benefit claimants being more likely to accrue rent arrears, and
  • mortgage/insurance restrictions.

While there is no information on the extent to which landlords are refusing to let to Housing Benefit claimants, there is evidence to suggest this is an ongoing and increasing issue.

Is is direct discrimination?

Refusing to let to those in receipt of Housing Benefit is unlikely to amount to direct discrimination as income and employment status are not protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, however, it may be a form of indirect discrimination. Indirect discrimination is when a practice, policy, or rule which apply to everyone has the effect that people with a certain protected characteristic are put at a disadvantage when compared with those who do not share it.

For example, if Housing Benefit claimants are predominantly female or from an ethnic minority group, a refusal to let to Housing Benefit claimants might amount to indirect discrimination against these groups with protected characteristics. In February 2018 the BBC reported that a woman, who was denied a home in Birmingham after the lettings agent found out she was receiving Housing Benefit, received compensation after making a claim against the letting agent. The claim was for indirect sex discrimination on the basis that women were more likely to work part-time and claim Housing Benefit, and as such a blanket ban on benefit, recipients would have a disproportionate effect on women. The matter was settled before it reached court and therefore it does not form a precedent.

Tenants in NI who want to rent privately

Tenants in Northern Ireland on Housing Benefit/Universal Credit who are looking to rent privately should contact Smartmove who have a database of landlords who are happy to accept tenants in receipt of benefits. The officers at Smartmove can also help tenants make a claim for housing benefit and Discretionary Housing Payments.

Housing Rights Helpline

If you or a client need advice on entering the private rented sector when on housing benefit or universal credit, call us on 028 90245640. 

 

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Benefits, Legislation, Homelessness