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Ask the Experts: Your questions answered

I don’t think my property is suitable for families, can I 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:  

You 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 you have a pond in the garden which it is not possible to make safe for families with young kids.

 

 

When can’t you restrict or reject applicants?

You can’t refuse to rent to an applicant 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 against you (civil or criminal). You also can’t positively discriminate – which means only accepting people of specific characteristics (ie. White people, or only men).  This means you will be discriminating against other people. What should you consider in light of renters with families? In answer to your question, whatever the reason for not allowing families to rent your property, you 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 your property or the restriction or rejection of any applicant could be considered as discriminatory based on the gender of the applicant.  

  • Marketing: Your marketing should be designed to target your ideal client – so use language which will direct them towards your property. Be careful not to use language which could discriminate – ie. Specifics such as gender, ethnicity etc.  What you can do is use your marketing to showcase the positive aspects of your property – ie.  Perfect family home.  You can also make a note of any reasons why the property is not suitable for families (in a positive way) – ie. The stunning garden features a large decorative pond.  Or – The vibrant neighbourhood is perfect for working professionals.  This way you will attract suitable applicants but won’t be discriminating against others.

 

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

 

You should be careful, however, as you could also unlawfully discriminate against someone without realising it or indirectly discriminate.  Ie. You require that a person must have been living in this country for over 5 years – this would discriminate against migrants.  You have rejected because you don’t believe they could afford the rent based on their job role – This could discriminate against people of a specific race or a specific religion who generally perform this job role. You cannot, and should not, unlawfully discriminate in any way, so you should be wary of being very specific about the reasons why you might not choose to offer the property to someone.  For example, “you’re pregnant so you will be on maternity leave and won’t be able to afford the rent”.

 

 

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 to avoid discriminatory practices.

 

  • Make sure you have fair practices – Treat everyone the same, fairly and make sure you have the right procedures in place. This includes making sure that you have the correct information to provide to prospective tenants regarding the documentation they require, and allowing time for them 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 marketing of your property, the Right to Rent checks needed, ensuring transparency with your rental properties and ensuring that you do not have any unlawful discriminatory practices in your 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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