However it is only unlawful dicrimination which is forbidden. Some types of discrimination are acceptable, indeed advisable.
According to the gov.uk website here (and they should know), it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone for any of the following reasons:
These are called ‘protected characteristics’ – and buying and renting property is one area where the law protects you from discrimination.
So if you are a landlord you cannot refuse to rent a property to someone simply because:
If you do, you will be breaking the law.
However, this does not mean that if someone who is disabled, gay, etc applies to rent your property you have GOT to rent to them.
Discrimination does not necessarily mean unlawful discrimination. So, for example, it is perfectly acceptable, and indeed in most cases advisable, for a landlord to discriminate against someone who clearly cannot afford the rent for the property. In that context ‘discrimination’ is another way of saying ‘choose’.
Here are some situations where ‘discrimination’ (or not choosing someone) may be a good idea:
In fact, you can ‘discriminate’ against anyone, for whatever you like, so long as it is not in respect of one of the ‘protected characteristics’.
So it is perfectly legal (if perhaps not very nice) to ‘discriminate’ against people because:
By ‘benefit’ I mean a tenant who is in receipt of any kind of state support such as housing benefit, or Universal Credit.
The situation is interesting here. Being on benefit is not in itself a protected characteristic. And landlords often justify discriminating against people on benefit because they think they will not be able to pay rent or will be unreliable. Or even because they do not want to deal with the Council.
However, there have now been several cases on this and it is now clear that a blanket prohibition on tenants on benefit will be unlawful. The most recent decision is this case, Tyler v. Carr, where a Judge in the York County Court held that it was illegal to refuse to consider a disabled applicant simply because he was in receipt of benefit.
If you want to find out more about this decision our case report has an interview with the barrister.
So in view of this, do not have a blanket ban on benefit claimants as this could lay you open to a claim for compensation.
However, this does not mean, when letting a property that you cannot choose someone with a job over someone on benefit if you consider that they would be a better tenant or more likely to be able to pay the rent.
If someone is aggrieved about being refused a property and suspects that this is down to unlawful discrimination by the landlord – there are always going to be problems proving this – unless the landlord admits it.
So for example
Landlords need to be careful therefore about telling tenants what their reasons for refusal are.
You also need to be careful about selecting people for reasons unconnected with their ability to pay for or look after the property – as you may be discriminating unlawfully without realising it.
Note by the way that positive discrimination is allowed, if people with a protected characteristic:
In short, it’s all about your reason for refusal to rent. If your reason is connected to a protected characteristic – you are in the wrong.
Apart from this, you can choose who you want to live in your property.
I have not discussed ‘right to rent’ checks in this article but note that landlords are all bound by the Code of Practice issued by the Government on avoiding unlawful discrimination when conducting right to rent checks in the Private Residential Sector.
When it comes down to it, you need to make your decision on who to rent to based on whether you think they will be a good tennat or not. If your decision is reasonable and is not based on something connected to any protected characteristics, you should be all right.