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Court case: Single mother v letting agent - refusal to let to benefit claimant

(54 Posts)
troubedownmill Sun 12-Mar-17 23:37:22

Not sure if this is in right section - please advise!

A single mother is taking a letting agent to court with a claim of indirect discrimination because they refused to let to her because she claimed housing benefit.

“Although the receipt of benefits is not one of the protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010, 2 the Act also protects against indirect discrimination. Indirect discrimination occurs where a policy, which is not discriminatory in itself, is likely to impact disproportionately on people who are protected under the 2010 Act.3 So; for example, if Housing Benefit claimants are predominantly female or from an ethnic minority group, a refusal to let to Housing Benefit claimants might amount to indirect discrimination against these groups with protected characteristics.” (quoted from “Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit claimants?” House of Commons Briefing Paper Number 7008, 1 November 2016)

Statistics obtained by her MP from the Department of Work and Pensions prove that single women constitute more than 50% of people that claim housing benefit. Her argument is therefor that Housing Benefit claimants are predominantly female and a refusal to let to Housing Benefit claimants amounts to indirect discrimination.

More significantly, females tend to have a more significant caring role than men. As of February 2016, 63% of HB claimants with children (including single men, single women and couples) are single women; 94% of single claimants with children are women. This caring responsibility means that single mums often have to take lower paid part time work and therefor are reliant on housing benefit to house their family. A key feature of the court claim is that refusing to let to HB claimants impacts disproportionately on a group who are reliant on HB.

There has been plenty of recent press coverage about how the private rented sector is increasingly turning its back on those reliant on HB.

Verging on the offensive are the ill informed comments that use words like "scum" and "lazy" to describe HB claimants. The comments fail to acknowledge that many benefit claimants are people who do have jobs, work hard and are top rate tenants. It would be interesting to see an analysis of what types of tenants prove to be problem tenants - I suggest that single mothers on HB would form a minority group compared to single men with no caring responsibilities and couples.

If this case is successful then not only will it benefit single women, it could also benefit other groups that are protected by the equality act, in particular disabled people, who, again, due to their circumstances often find themselves reliant on HB and therefor also victims of landlords "no benefit" practice

InTheMoodForLove Sun 12-Mar-17 23:40:11

thank you for posting this
I was one step close to do it myself and I wasn't even ever going to claim Housing Benefit. However I lost properties over and over to "traditional families". Infuriating.

Akire Sun 12-Mar-17 23:43:02

They did clip on BBC London news last week saying something like only 1% landlords would even look
At you on benefit. Great when plenty of social housing to go
Round. But now even if you work
You probable still need a benefit top up. People have to live somewhere.

MrTCakes Mon 13-Mar-17 07:44:49

Interesting, thank you.
I recently lost out on a rental property as I am a single mother and claim hb top up.

PlayingGrownUp Mon 13-Mar-17 07:49:19

I know a lot of mortgage companies don't allow you to let to people receiving DWP payments especially if it's a residential mortgage that has been let out. Certainly the one I work for won't allow it - not 100% sure why something to do with statistics.

Oldsu Mon 13-Mar-17 08:19:47

This is interesting as I always thought that LL's with a mortgage are often prohibited from renting to benefits claimants by their lenders and also that their insurance will be a lot higher - is this still not the case? if it is how can a LL be sued for discrimination when renting to benefit claimants if it is against the T&Cs of his mortgage or his insurance payments are higher.

Also how can a letting agency be accused of discrimination if the LL who pays their fees and is their customer wont let them rent to benefit claimants

Oldsu Mon 13-Mar-17 08:23:40

Crossed posts with playing and it should have read how can a LL be sued for discrimination when NOT renting to benefit claimants if its against the T&Cs of their mortgage

troubedownmill Mon 13-Mar-17 08:40:27

Playing & Oldsu - you have a point, and the House of Commons briefing paper notes "A landlord whose mortgage lender has imposed a condition not to let to Housing Benefit claimants may have grounds on which to argue a reasonable justification."

This creates a problem though for millions of people [there are approximately 4 million HB claimants in England and Wales]. The Government is failing to provide adequate social housing, instead relying on the private rented sector to make up the shortfall. If the Government wishes to continue with this model then it MUST properly enable people on housing benefit to access the private rented sector. While landlords, for what ever reason, are lawfully able to deny HB claimants housing then the rented housing sector (and the Government) are willfully failing those that need support - single mothers and the disabled.

The situation that exists now is wrong - even more so for the single mothers who work hard but are limited to lower paid part time work because of their caring responsibilities. They are being doubly penalised through no fault of their own This case is hopefully a step on the way to rectifying this.

SheRaaarghPrincessOfPower Mon 13-Mar-17 08:53:32

Thank you for posting this. The situation is ridiculous and it needs to change. My sister and her daughter were almost made homeless because of these rules, and was put in a situation where she had to refuse to move out of her current let because she had nowhere to go.

AndWhat Mon 13-Mar-17 08:55:34

I know a few single mothers on hb and the first bill they pay is always rent, it's keeping a roof over the families head, some of them work and get a top up others claim the full amount.
They all agree they would rather be without hot water or heat for a few days rather than risk losing their home.

Toomuchocolate Mon 13-Mar-17 08:58:17

I let a house and would love to let to benefit claimants; however, I can't as my insurance won't cover me. To change providers it will cost me more than double. I have a similar issue with children in the property, however I pay the increase as it's not as much.

With a large supply of working professionals, it doesn't make financial sense to let to benefit claimants.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Mon 13-Mar-17 09:06:03

My guess is that a Letting Agent shouldn't be discriminating against HB claimants. They will have people on their books who won't have mortgages on the properties they are renting.

Perhaps mortgage companies should also be stopped from putting restrictions in place too.

With regards to insurance I think that's something that people who rent properties out should just suck up if it discriminates. I would think paying a higher premium comes under "reasonable adjustment". Would you accept HB if rules were changed so HB covered the increase in cost?

bloodyteenagers Mon 13-Mar-17 09:13:43

So what happens in private if -
People move in both working and paying rent. Hours reduce for whatever reason resulting in a drop of income. So people now claim hb. Because of how hb is now claimed you don't have to let the agent/ll know.
The few rental agreements I have seen haven't mentioned you need to tell us about hb.
But surely it's a breech?
Even if the tenant told the ll/agent are they really going to try and go through a lengthy and expensive eviction process when the tenant are paying the rent and no other complaints?

troubedownmill Mon 13-Mar-17 09:21:05

I'm afraid I have absolutely no sympathy for your argument. And in my opinion illustrates the willfully corrupt and immoral nature of the vast majority of the private rented sector. Yes, they are strong words (the polite side of me says I should feel apologetic for such words to a stranger, the moral side of me says otherwise)

I'm not sure it is morally acceptable, when providing a service, to pick the safer cheaper option (or should that be the option that makes the most profit for the landlord) when doing so disadvantages those that are in greater need of support from society.

In particular I believe that society is willfully wrong if society (as an entity and as the individuals that make it) does not do its upmost to support those with children - they are our future, fail them and you fail the country. The country should invest in parenting. And as part of this one simple thing it could do is prevent landlords from being able to refuse to let to parents on housing benefit.

Equally your attitude willfully harms the disabled, who, through no fault of their own, are reliant on housing and other benefits. They too face a struggle to find accommodation because of the corrupt private rented sector.

So absolutely no sympathy for your maximizing your profit at the expense of those that need help

troubedownmill Mon 13-Mar-17 09:27:36

Apologies bloodyteeagers and milkTwoSugarsThanks - my post was aimed at Toomuchchocolate. I started typing it but you replied before I had a chance - and there is no edit capability

RebootYourEngine Mon 13-Mar-17 09:42:12

Should it be letting agents, landlords or insurers that should be in court? Or maybe all of them. With less and less social housing where are people who need HB supposed to go.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Mon 13-Mar-17 09:43:22

troub - I realised (after re-reading grin) as you were agreeing with me, just much more eloquently!

I wonder what the legal position would be if someone was working full time but became disabled?

Taylor22 Mon 13-Mar-17 09:43:50

Troubledownmill I think you're grossly exaggerating how much profit ll make on rented properties.
By changing insurance many wouldn't just see a loss in profit. They'd be in the red.
Why should a ll suffer financially? Why does there have to be an us and them argument? The issue here isn't with the ll.
the issue should be with the Mortagage providers and insurance companies.

troubedownmill Mon 13-Mar-17 09:44:23

@toomuchchocalate - ok, so maybe i DO owe you a bit of an apology.

When I go back and read your post I note that you do pay for more expensive insurance so you can let to people with children.

However your sentence "With a large supply of working professionals, it doesn't make financial sense to let to benefit claimants." is the attitude of the PRS that this case needs to eliminate, and so you got me on my soap box, and your posting is not clear as to whether you let to HB claimants who have children or you just pay extra for insurance that allows you to rent to professionals with children (hence my "maybe i DO")

I also feel the word "professionals" belittles those that have full time jobs, work hard and conscientiously, but find them selves in lower paid work and so need benefit top ups to meet their living costs.

Faithless12 Mon 13-Mar-17 09:53:48

Toomuchchocolate, some of those working professionals may be eligible for housing benefit. You're statement shows you haven't read the first post on this topic, to suggest someone is not a professional based on being eligible for housing benefit is ridiculous. I know of a couple of teachers, and other professionals who are single mothers so are eligible for housing benefit. On the whole they are working part time as the drop in income is less than they would spend on childcare.

NotStoppedAllDay Mon 13-Mar-17 09:54:05

We are set to become landlords soon ourselves. After restoring/decorating a house I'm not sure I'd want it modified in anyway. Or even animals in it. And of course tenants would need to be employed.... why is that so wrong to have requirements in your own property?

There will be loopholes for landlords.... if 6 people apply for a property then of course you will choose the best fit.

MilkTwoSugarsThanks Mon 13-Mar-17 10:00:58

why is that so wrong to have requirements in your own property?

Because your requirements unfairly and disproportionately disadvantage women.

NotStoppedAllDay Mon 13-Mar-17 10:02:26

Why do they? No animals and a job is required?

angeldelightedme Mon 13-Mar-17 10:03:55

She will lose.
I am a LL and neither my lender or insurance company will allow letting to HB ers.

NotStoppedAllDay Mon 13-Mar-17 10:04:51

Landlords will just look at the applicants and work out the ones they want. All that will happen is that they cant state 'no hb'

They can't be forced to let to people who claim it. As I said, they will take the best fit and favour their own choice. If anything I think this will put even more landlords off renting to benefit claimants

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