Is it discrimination to refuse to let a property to someone in receipt of benefits?
The answer is, it depends. In our view, a blanket discrimination without an investigation into the particular circumstances of the applicant is unfair and probably discriminatory. There are many, many good tenants who, due to unfortunate circumstances or even just the shocking mismatch between local salaries and rents, have to rely on some form of benefit to make ends meet.
On the other hand, as agents, we contract with our client to find a tenant who can afford the rent. In the old days, housing benefits covered the average rent and could be paid direct to the landlord/agent. These days, not so much. HB does not meet average rents, it is paid direct to the tenant (unless there are good reasons for it not to be) and we’ve all heard of the nightmare delays of Universal Credit (the new all-in-one benefit system).
What to do? In our view, if the tenants have good references, can provide a deposit and rent in advance, have good reasons for needing some benefits and have a good guarantor or guarantors then there is no reason to turn them away. When salaries are relatively low, and rents are relatively high, a high proportion of applicants with families are on some sort of benefit – but it doesn’t make them automatically bad tenants. Assuming they are is discrimination.