A specialist property litigation firm is warning buy-to-let landlords not to discriminate against benefit claimants, following a recent landmark ruling that has far-reaching consequences for all buy-to-let landlords and letting agencies in England and Wales.
The practice of refusing to rent homes to those in receipt of housing benefit was ruled unlawful last month, and this should simply not be ignored by BTL landlords, according to Hägen Wolf, a property litigation specialist.
In a case that was heard at the York County Court in July, a 44-year-old disabled single mother of two challenged a letting agent for rejecting her application for a privately rented property on the basis of her being in receipt of housing benefit.
District Judge Victoria Elizabeth Mark ruled that the tenant had experienced indirect discrimination, with the letting agent found to have breached the Equality Act.
Matt Pugh, managing partner of Hägen Wolf, said: “While County Court decisions are not binding, it is likely that this case will be relied upon in similar cases in future and should there be an appeal to the High Court, the appeal decision would be binding.”
But despite this ruling, landlords have hit back at claims of ‘No DSS’ discrimination.
A survey of more than 800 landlords from across the UK, carried out by Landlord Today, has revealed that 57% of buy-to-let landlords do not ‘accept that refusing DSS tenants is discrimination’.
However, the practice of excluding potential tenants simply because they are on housing benefits will now have to be addressed by landlords and agents alike, according to Pugh.
He added: “The ruling means that letting agents and private landlords will have to review their advertising material and vetting policies to ensure that renters who rely on housing benefits are no longer automatically barred from renting from private landlords.
“There is, however, nothing to stop landlords pricing such tenants out of the market or relying on other non-discriminatory criteria.”