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Landlords warned over blanket ban on applications from people on benefits

Lettings agents and landlords have been warned that they may be breaking the law if they refuse on a blanket basis to consider potential tenants simply because they are on benefits.

Birmingham resident Rosie Keogh is reported to have secured compensation from a lettings agency that refused to consider her as a tenant because she was on benefits.

The case was settled without any legal ruling but law firm Capsticks said its conclusion was a clear warning as to what would be likely to happen were a case taken to court.

Ms Keogh, a former paralegal, argued that blanket bans on benefit claimants indirectly discriminated against women as they are proportionately more likely to be claiming housing benefit than men, the BBC has reported.

She unsuccessfully sought to rent a property in Birmingham in May 2016 but was refused when the lettings agent found she would pay some of the rent through housing benefit.

A 2016 survey by housing charity Shelter found 63% of landlords would prefer not to let to households claiming housing benefit, of which 42% had an outright ban and the other 21% let to claimants only rarely.

Jonathan Hulley, joint head of the housing team and partner at Capsticks, told Local Government Lawyer: “There was no ruling in this case but a £2,000 payment was agreed for the tenant.

“Landlords can expect to have to make sure they do not discriminate against tenants on housing benefit. It means making sure the letting agents who find tenants for them are urgently made aware of this case, so that in no circumstances do they refuse someone because they are on benefits.

“If they do, even though this was not a judgment, they are likely to find themselves on the wrong end of a ruling.”