The Property Ombudsman has ruled that a letting agency’s ban on renting to a family with children was discriminatory against women and contravenes its code of practice.
The ruling - which, unusually, does not name any letting agency concerned - comes after NHS Nurse Lexi Levens challenged a number of agents after she and her four children had been forced to register as homeless.
That came following receipt of a Section 21 eviction notice: she and her husband passed affordability checks but say they were not able to find landlords or letting agents who would rent to them.
The campaigning charity Shelter took up the case to The Property Ombudsman which has ruled that ‘no children’ bans breach equality rules set out in its code of practice because women are disproportionately affected.
Levens says in a statement released via Shelter: “My situation was nothing short of distressing and humiliating. I’m so thrilled by the outcome of the challenge, this has never been about money for me, but about putting a stop to families like mine being treated unfairly.”
The director of policy at TPO, Peter Habert, comments: “Whilst rental properties are investments for landlords, they are homes for tenants. To be excluded from a significant portion of the homes available simply because you have children cannot be considered as treating consumers equally.
“Prospective tenants should only expect to see these restrictions in property adverts and listings if the property is unsuitable, for example it doesn’t have enough space.”
He warns that agents who receive an instruction from a landlord to not let to families should ask the client to provide evidence of why a ban is appropriate and for this to be given to prospective tenants.
Rose Arnall, a solicitor at Shelter, adds: "No one should be barred from finding a safe and stable home simply because they have children. Whether you can secure a home must not be based on a landlord or letting agent's baseless prejudices about the 'type' of tenant you might be. This is a great step forward in addressing the power imbalance which sees tenants hitting unfair barriers and being forced to jump through ridiculous hoops."