This email applies to England and Wales
The Equalities Act 2010 has 9 protected characteristics which are:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
There is nowhere in the guidance that protects people receiving housing benefit, it is not a protected characteristic. However, if a single mum on benefits applied for a property and was refused due to claiming housing benefit, the applicant could then argue sex discrimination on the basis that statistically there are a lot more single mums looking after children and therefore claiming benefits. Whilst the rule does not to help benefit claimants is not mentioning the gender of the claimant, it has a disproportionate negative affect on one gender group, so can be “implied” discrimination.
In June 2014 the Competition & Marketing Authority supplied Guidance for lettings professionals on consumer protection law released.
There is a chapter in the guidance ‘(5) Marketing property: advertising and providing information to tenants’. This helps the landlord or agent comply with the consumer law when marketing a property and providing information to potential tenants.
In letting a property the following information was required to be advertised.
- Charges and costs with renting the property
- Property characteristics, such as location, number and size of rooms, the type of energy supplier and heating, sufficient information amount the council tax, for example the amount payable or band.
- The condition of the property including any significant features that are likely to put a person off entering into a tenancy (such as defects, serious damp or potentially unsafe gas or electrical wiring.
- When the property will be available
- The terms of the tenancy agreement, and in particular any restrictions on the use of the property (such as whether smoking or pets are permitted), or any other unusual or onerous terms
- Any requirement to use a particular third party trader (such as an energy or communications supplier). (Ed. not this guide predates the Tenant Fees Act legislation which would make this unlawful in England or in Wales).
- Any restrictions on the type of tenant (such as housing benefit claimants), or circumstances in which a guarantor may be required (for example if required for student tenants, or tenants earning below a certain income level).
Letting agents were informed by landlords where a particular property could not be let to a tenant receipt of benefits, as their mortgage provider has added a clause to their buy to let mortgage stating this. Naturally the letting agent would then advertise the property stating “No smoking, no pets, no DSS” or maybe “Working professionals only”.
In March 2019, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced plans to end any discrimination to potential tenants in receipt of housing benefit and made clear these adverts should end.
On 4 October 2019, Competition & Marketing Authority updated the guidance adding in the footer on page 49 – The CMA included this example to account for circumstances where a property cannot be let by a landlord to those on housing benefit, i.e., when a term of a contract specifies this, as this would constitute material information for would–be tenants. Where such restrictions do exist they need to be brought to attention of prospective tenants. The inclusion of housing benefit claimants as an example does not justify or excuse letting agents or property portals having blanket bans against those on housing benefit.
The CMA suggest that going forward mortgage companies should not specifying in new buy to let contracts that the landlord cannot accept tenants who are receiving housing benefit.
Please see the link for the guidance https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/835089/Guidance_for_lettings_professionals_on_consumer_protection_law.pdf