A lettings agent has admitted to unintentional discrimination on the grounds of sexism, in legal proceedings that were later settled out of court.
Lettings agent, Nicholas George, acknowledged the implied prejudice against Rosie Keogh, a single mother, on the basis of gender. Ms Keogh received £2,000 in compensation from the agents, because her submitted application was declined as she is in receipt of benefit allowances.
Rosie attempted to rent a home in Birmingham and was declined once she revealed a portion of the rent would be covered by housing benefits.
Due to the recent court case, thousands of UK landlords and letting agents that dismiss housing benefit claimants may be disregarding equality law. She promptly complained on the basis that unmarried women are more likely to claim housing benefit than unmarried men.
The letting agent dismissed Ms Keogh’s initial complaint, but as a former paralegal, she knew that she could take her complaint to county court and establish sexual discrimination as the basis for the case under the Equality Act. She felt angry at such a prejudiced practice, and that she must do something to challenge the status quo. Often feeling like second-class citizens, benefit claimants are treated differently to full-time working tenants, and it is often single women, mothers and children who bear the brunt of this bias, as they must work part-time. Women are the most likely to care for children, and therefore will work part-time and be more likely to depend on housing benefit to subsidise their income.
The charity, Shelter, conducted a survey in 2017 which asked 1,137 private landlords about their policies on DSS. 18 per cent of landlords disclosed that they preferred not to rent to benefit claimants, while 43 per cent of landlords had a blanket ban on letting to benefit recipients. Shelter’s legal officer explained that by exercising a blanket policy, they will prevent good tenants from entering the private rental sector.
Chris Norris, the National Landlords Association (NLA) head of policy, explained that cases such as these highlight the worst experiences that a minority of tenants must contend with when attempting to secure a property in the private rental sector.
The amount of landlords agreeable to renting property to housing benefit claimants has dramatically fallen in the past few years, due to issues with the universal credit system and cuts to welfare. This has made it increasingly difficult for tenants receiving housing support to meet rental payments on time and rent a property long-term.
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