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Lettings agent Nicholas George recently admitted indirect discrimination on the grounds of sex, settling out of court with single mother Rosie Keogh. She was paid £2,000 compensation, because her application was refused on the grounds of being in receipt of benefits.
The action was reported today on the BBC news website (Click here to read the full story) stating: “The thousands of lettings agents and landlords around the country who reject housing benefit claimants could be flouting equality laws, due a recent legal case.”
Rosie tried to rent a property in Birmingham and was turned down after revealing some of the rent would be paid by housing benefit. She immediately made a complaint on the grounds that single women are proportionately more likely to be claiming housing benefit than single men.
The agents dismissed Rosie’s complaint, which as a former paralegal she took to county court establishing the principle of sexual discrimination under the Equality Act. Rosie told the BBC: “I felt something had to be done to challenge it. I was motivated by anger at such inequitable practice.
“It made me feel like a second-class citizen. You are being treated differently and it’s women and women with children who are bearing the brunt of this because they need to work part time.”
A Shelter survey last year of 1137 private landlords found 18% preferred not to let to benefits claimants and 43% had a blanket ban.
Shelter’s legal officer commented:”By applying a blanket policy they are actually preventing good tenants from accessing the private rented sector.
“Women are more likely to be caring for children and therefore working part-time and are therefore more likely to top up their income by claiming housing benefit.”
The NLA head of policy, Chris Norris, responded to the case saying: “Cases like this highlight the very worst of what a minority of renters have to put up with when looking to secure a home in the private rented sector.”
“The number of landlords willing to rent to housing benefit tenants has fallen dramatically over the last few years, because cuts to welfare and problems with the universal credit system are making it more and more difficult for anyone in receipt of housing support to pay their rent on time and sustain long-term tenancies.”
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