Child’s Play: Landlords have the ability to refuse to let to families with children

July 30, 2019

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Landlords can refuse to let to children, which some view as discriminatory.

What does this mean?

Some families have been denied housing based on this practice which they see as discriminatory and unfair to those with children. However, landlords maintain not all properties are suitable for youngsters. Also, they highlight their right to rule out those with children. In response to this, tenants argue deposits can be used as a mean to cover mess or damaged caused by children and that children are not synonymous with more damage anyway.

John Stewart, policy manager for the Residential Landlords Association, has said “not all private rented homes are suitable for children, for example Houses of Multiple Occupation or city centre blocks of flats that may have no nearby space for children to play.” He added that “landlords should always ensure that properties they rent to families with children are suitable and safe to meet the needs of such tenants.”

What's the big picture effect?

This is a crucial point of property law that some feel needs reform. Currently, the law does not force landlords to rent to those with children.

This is despite the fact that children make up a large part of the rental market. 1.7 million families live in rented properties out of 4.7 million total homes in the rental sector. It is unlikely that landlords would want to alienate such a large part of the renting population.

Further to this, there is the danger of indirect discrimination. Under the Equality Act 2010, people cannot be treated differently if it is related to who they are. For example, if landlords set rules that apply to everyone but indirectly make it harder for women to rent, this could be sex discrimination.

Earlier this year, hidden letting fees, like credit checks, were banned. This red tape, put up by letting agents and landlords, was successfully taken down. This triumph for regulation could forecast more reform to make this industry fairer. However, the lettings industry is adept at finding things to charge for and there are now fears of increased rent and new admin fees. This calls into question the efficacy of any potential reforms preventing landlords from refusing those with children.

Due to this, it is unclear as to whether any further large-scale reform will take place. For now, it looks like some families may be left out in the cold due to landlords’ wide powers of discretion over who they let to.

Report written by Elizabeth Marshall

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