Can I specify what sort of tenant I'm looking for?

Question

Am I allowed to specify what sort of tenant I am looking for in my advert? I don’t want to risk offending anyone, or land myself in hot water!

Answer

Yes and no.

Your rental property is likely to be your biggest asset, and understandably you are going to want to make sure that you are happy with the person who you put in control of it.

However, it is also imperative that you are aware of what you can and can’t say, and what could be considered prejudicial.

Are there any regulations governing this?

The Equality Act 2010 is the legislation in place to prevent people from suffering prejudices due to ‘protected characteristics’. these are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marital status
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Currently, it is not a criminal offence to ban someone from renting a property that you own, however discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics is against civil law, so if a tenant considers that they have not been let a property on the grounds of the Equality Act 2010, a landlord could be challenged in a civil court.

In this instance, landlord may have to change the way their work in the future, and potentially pay hefty legal costs and compensation to the aggrieved tenant. In 2013 the average discrimination award was £16,000.

Am I allowed to specify details such as pets, students or whether I want to take tenants receiving housing benefits?

Yes, as none of these elements fall under the ‘protected characteristics’ set out in the Equality Act.

I have existing tenants in my property – and I need to find someone who’ll fit in with them. Is there anything I can do in those circumstances?

In certain circumstances, the Equality Act has exceptions. For example, a property which can occupy (in addition to your prospective new tenant) two other separate households, or six individual tenants or lodgers, is considered a ‘Small Premises’ in the eyes of the Act.

If your Small Premises is exclusively occupied solely by tenants of one gender, for example, you are within your rights to only let the empty room to another tenant of the same gender. Any prospective tenants of a different gender would not be able to proceed with a sexual discrimination case in this instance.

I’m nervous about writing an advert – can I accidentally get myself in trouble?

The advertising portals, such as Rightmove and Zoopla take these concerns very seriously, and whilst understanding your right as a landlord to let your property to whomever you wish, will not support blatant discrimination in advertising. However, as long as you avoid mentioning the ‘protected characteristics’ you should remain on the right side of the law.



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