Ask the Experts:  I have a young child, can landlords restrict or reject applicants based on family status?  

This is a great question and one which causes some issues both sides of the equation – but we’re here to dispel any myths around it and to provide you with some answers too.

First:  

Landlords are legally allowed to reject or restrict applicants based on whether they have children – that’s because some properties are simply not suitable for families!  The property may be a flat which is close to student housing, or because they have a pond in the garden which it is not possible to make safe for families with young kids.

That being said, there are reasons why they can’t restrict or reject your application.

When can’t Landlords restrict or reject applicants?

Landlords can’t refuse to rent to you for the following reasons:

  • Age
  • Sexual Orientation, Gender, being or becoming a transgender person
  • Married or in civil partnership
  • Pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Disability including Mental Health concerns
  • Religion, Religious beliefs, or lack thereof
  • Nationality, Race, Citizenship, Ethnicity or Colour

These are “protected characteristics” and mean that discrimination against people who hold these characteristics is illegal and could result in action (civil or criminal).

They also can’t positively discriminate – which means only accepting people of specific characteristics (ie. White people, or only men).  This means they would be discriminating against other people.

What should Landlords consider in light of renters with families?

In answer to your question, whatever the reason for not allowing families to rent their property, they should be aware of sex discrimination laws and laws protecting people who are pregnant or on maternity leave.  For example, sex discrimination laws are relevant to property rentals if the advertising of the property or the restriction or rejection of your application could be considered as discriminatory based on the gender of the applicant.

 

  • Marketing:  Their marketing should be designed to target their ideal client but not to using language which could discriminate – ie. Specifics such as gender, ethnicity etc.  Look out for marketing which showcases the positive aspects of your property – ie.  Perfect family home – for ideal properties for you.  The marketing might also note reasons why the property is not suitable for families (usually in a positive way) – ie. The stunning garden features a large decorative pond.  Or – The vibrant neighbourhood is perfect for working professionals.  This way they will attract suitable applicants but won’t be discriminating against others.

 

  • On Application:  Landlords can choose to reject applicants, for other reasons such as –
    • If they don’t believe you can look after the property correctly
    • They don’t think you can afford the rent
    • Bad credit or county court judgements
    • Poor references
    • They have the “gut feeling” that it is not a good fit.

However, these reasons may not be suitable as they could also unlawfully discriminate against you without realising it or even indirectly discriminate.  Ie. They require that a person must have been living in this country for over 5 years – this would discriminate against migrants.  They have rejected because they don’t believe you could afford the rent based on your job role – This could discriminate against people of a specific race or a specific religion who generally perform this job role.

They cannot unlawfully discriminate against you in any way, so you should be aware of being given specific reasons for why you might be rejected.  For example, “you’re pregnant so you will be on maternity leave and won’t be able to afford the rent” – this would be discriminating against pregnant women.

So, what can you do?

  • Check out the Code of Practice – You can read the Government’s code of practice for landlords here: This goes through how they should be avoiding discriminatory practices and provides some more information for renters.

 

  • Make sure the landlord has fair practices – Landlords should treat everyone the same, fairly and have the right procedures in place. This includes making sure that they have the correct information to provide to prospective tenants regarding the documentation they require, and allowing time for you to source this as well.

 

  • Get some help – This probably all sounds rather confusing, so we recommend getting some expert help! Our team can help you navigate the renting of your property, the Right to Rent checks needed, ensuring landlords have transparency with their rental properties and ensuring that they do not have any unlawful discriminatory practices in their rental procedures.  Get in touch with one of our experts today to discuss any concerns you may have – we can help here.

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