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Landlords and lettings agents who refuse to rent to housing benefit claimants to avoid rent arrears could be breaking equality laws, a property expert is warning.
The call follows the case of a single mother who won £2000 compensation from a letting agent who refused to let her a property because part of her rent would be paid by benefits, after arguing that blanket bans on tenants on housing benefits disproportionately affected women.
A survey by housing charity Shelter last year claimed that almost half of private landlords will not rent to tenants receiving housing benefit, while a BBC study suggested that only 2% of properties on one major portal would accept such renters.
Figures from the Department of Work and Pensions show that 60% of housing benefits claimants are women, and 95% of single parent housing benefit claimants are female.
Ajay Jagota is the Managing Director of deposit free renting firm Dlighted.
The company uses deposit replacement insurance to allow landlords and letting agents to let properties with zero deposit, while providing £600,000 of protection against property damage, unpaid rent and legal fees.
The firm’s Trusted Tenant technology also gives landlords and letting agents much greater insight into their tenant’s background than standard tenant vetting, which cannot include things like rental history or insurance claims record.
Ajay has previously described some landlords’ decisions to ban benefits tenants as “beyond bonkers”.
Ajay had this advice for landlords and letting agents:
“We like to tell ourselves as an industry that the bad old days of ‘no dogs, no blacks, no Irish’ are behind us, but sadly it seems a significant number of rents are still being discriminated against in 2018 – and it doesn’t have to be that way.
“By the looks of things fewer and fewer landlords and letting agents are willing to rent to tenants on housing benefit tenants, most probably as a result of welfare reforms making them anxious about possible rent arrears. And they’re absolutely right that the old-fashioned tenancy deposit provide negligible protection against rent arrears and zero protection against legal costs – especially compared to the £600,000 of cover provided by deposit-free renting using deposit replacement insurance.
“Standard tenant vetting also tells you very little about prospective tenants – just whether or not they’ve ever had a CCJ against them or ever been declared bankrupt. As a result, landlords and letting agents might decided not to rent to a tenant with a lifetime track record of reliable renting because standard tenant vetting won’t let them see that.
“It’s not just awful that women appear to be being discriminated against, it’s that the industry’s reasons for doing so are actually costing it money”.
85% of tenants surveyed said that the option to rent deposit free for the reason they chose their property or letting agent.
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