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Can private landlords refuse to let to Housing Benefit claimants?

Published Tuesday, March 8, 2016

This House of Commons Library Briefing Paper discusses evidence to suggest that private landlords are reluctant to let to prospective tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit. The paper considers the reasons behind this reluctance and why refusals are unlikely to amount to direct discrimination.

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It is not unusual for private landlords to advertise properties to let stating that they will not accept applications from Housing Benefit claimants. This raises the question of whether such restrictions amount to unlawful discrimination. In fact private landlords are generally free to refuse to let to Housing Benefit claimants, just as they are free to refuse to let to applicants who are not in receipt of benefit but who have a poor credit history.

Historically, landlords were reluctant to let to HB claimants because of delays in processing HB applications, but since April 2008 a key factor influencing landlords has been the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance and the requirement that this, except in certain specified circumstances, is paid to claimants rather than landlords. Further restrictions on the level of LHA paid were introduced by the Coalition Government in April 2011 – these changes led various housing bodies, including representative bodies of private landlords, to argue that HB claimants are being priced out of the market.

In addition to HB restrictions, landlords' mortgages may restrict the letting of properties/rooms to HB claimants. There is also some evidence to indicate that it can be more difficult/expensive to obtain insurance where prospective tenants are HB claimants.


Commons Briefing papers SN07008

Author: Alex Adcock

Topics: Housing, Housing benefits, Private rented housing

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