Discrimination against tenants on benefits is not unlawful, that’s according to new information published in a House of Commons briefing report: “Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit Claimants?”
It is not unlawful discrimination for a landlord or letting agent to refuse to let to a prospective tenant who is on benefit, that’s the main conclusion.
It would seem that receipt of benefits is not one of the protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
The new paper placed in the House of Commons library is specifically aimed at the issue of letting to benefit claimants, something that has produced some controversy in recent years between landlords at the homelessness charities.
The report lists a number of reasons why landlords do not let to claimants and claims they associate housing benefit tenants with rent arrears, anti-social behaviour and damage to property.
One major concern of landlords, which is addressed in the paper, is that Housing Benefit, also known as Local Housing Allowance, is paid to claimants, not landlords.
When the local authority makes the payments to tenant claimants, they are trusted by the system to pass the money to their landlords, rather than spend it on other things. However, that trust is not always born out inn practices and is not something many landlords are prepared to rely on.
Very often the rents set by the Local Housing Allowance (a figure arrived at for various types of accommodation in all areas of the country by the Valuation office (VO)) are not sufficient to meet market rents for that locality. Therefore the tenant has to top-up the rent from their own pocket, again something some landlords are not prepared to place their trust in.
More recently, the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC), where six separated benefits are rolled into one and paid as one, again directly to the tenant, leads to anxiety on the part of many landlords over regular payments.
It is also the case that landlords renting to Housing Benefit tenants can come up against objections from the mortgages lenders and insurers.
According to the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) that reported on the publication, the new paper gives no definitive information on the extent to which claimants are turned away as private tenants, but quotes a 2016 survey for Crisis. This study found that 55% of landlords were unwilling to let to tenants on benefits.
House of Commons Library BRIEFING PAPER Number 7008, 8 March 2016
“Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit claimants?” – download pdf here
Refusing Benefit Tenants not Unlawful https://t.co/P3bT1Y2bkS
— LandlordZONE (@LandlordZONE) June 9, 2016