Originally appeared on WHQ’s ‘What I’d Change about Housing and the Law’ feature, July 2018.
Everyone who has rented has seen this term casually added to adverts for flats and houses. To find a perfect house in a convenient location, only to be told your children and cats aren’t welcome. And you can definitely take a hike if you’re on housing benefit: 43% of landlords have an outright ban on DSS tenants and a further 18% prefer not to let to them.
Considering the significant number of people dependent on supplementing income with housing benefit, it’s absurd that landlords turn down this reliable income. Any arguments around the ‘damage’ pets or children cause pales in comparison to what a messy cohort of students might do.
This kind of discrimination against families and working-class people would be banned under the Equality Act, but it hasn’t been clear until recently as it doesn’t obviously fall under the protected characteristics: age, disability, gender, sex, race, religion. But a woman recently won a case* under the Equality Act, under sex discrimination because blanket bans on benefit claimants disproportionately affect single women (who are more likely to claim). She won £2,000 from the letting agent on the grounds of indirect discrimination.
The Welsh Government can surely make this clearer, perhaps by making it a term of the Rent Smart Wales licence not to discriminate on these grounds. Or just more landlords being taken to court should get the message across…
*Correction: the woman technically did not ‘win’ the case as it was an out of court settlement. However, this still sets a legal precedent: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42979242