Are some landlords, insurers, lenders and agents discriminating against women and the disabled?

Shelter is in the news today as it is bringing a test case as to whether a blanket ban on tenants who are on benefits is discrimination.

landlord

The traditional view of a landlord is far from the truth in the vast majority of cases.

The case made on BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ program this morning was that as most people receiving housing benefit are women so, it is sexual discrimination. Shelter also claim that anyone on disability benefit is (logically) disabled and, thus, such a policy of automatic exclusion constitutes disability discrimination.

It has the makings of an interesting case and one which will potentially affect millions of tenants, landlords, agents, insurers and lenders etc.

At PDQ, we have always advised our clients that most people on benefits are good, decent people who will look after a property and consider each case on its merits, whether they are on benefits or not. The choice remains with our landlord clients.

As the law stands at present it is the landlords personal choice as to who they let a home to however, some major insurers limit a landlords choice by stating they will not provide landlord insurance if they let to a person on benefits. We have had a number of cases where a landlord has wanted to let to a tenant on benefits but has been unable to do as the insurance forbids it.

OPINION

Our job as agents is to look after the interests of and on (lawful) instructions from our landlord clients. We also have an obligation to act within the laws of the land and I believe this case may show that agents, landlords, insurers or lenders who have blanket bans on some sectors of society could be acting in a discriminatory manner.

My view as an agent is that private landlords must have the right to let to the most suitable person based on their suitability for the property and appropriate references, including financial ability to pay the rent (with or without additional financial assistance). I have experienced excellent tenants who were (and are) on benefits and I have experience of awful tenants who were personally very affluent.

A good agent will properly assess the tenant and make a judgement on the tenants’ at the viewing and in the office/ over the phone. Asking about benefits is a factor in that process but should be seen as a normal part of the affordability test.

Landlords deserve to have their property looked after and the rent paid on time. Tenants deserve fair treatment, fair rent and a safe and comfortable home. They also have the responsibility to look after the property and to pay the rent on time.

One final, if not directly related, thought. Tenants, like homeowners cannot always afford where they want to live and it is not the responsibility of the private sector to resolve the shortage of public housing.

Chris Wood

Director – PDQ Estates Ltd

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