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Renting to tenants with children | What are the rules in England?

Who lives in the private rented sector?


The private rented sector provides a home to a wide variety of people including students, young professionals, older people, families with children, and those who have experienced homelessness. A recent survey from the TDS Charitable Foundation carried out with over 2000 tenants, shows around 38% of private renters in England and Wales have dependent children. This shows that many landlords are happy to rent to families.


What are the rules on renting to tenants with children?


There are currently no laws which require landlords to rent to families with children. However, under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law to discriminate against tenants based on gender identity, disability, religion or belief, race, material status, sexual orientation or pregnancy status.


Although having children is not a protected characteristic, ‘No Kids’ rental policies could be seen as indirect discrimination because they disproportionately affect women.


The Property Ombudsman, which helps to resolve disputes between tenants and letting agents, recently ruled that blanket bans on letting properties to families with children indirectly discriminates against women and breached their Code of Practice. Letting agents who are members of the Property Ombudsman cannot include blanket bans in a property listing – or follow a landlord’s orders to – without reasonable evidence or justification.


Applications to rent should be looked at on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the property is suitable for prospective tenants. If a landlord makes a rule that applies to everyone, but which inadvertently makes it more difficult for women to find a rental property, this could be indirect discrimination and they could be taken to court.


How are the rules going to change?


The Renters (Reform) Bill outlines the Government’s plans for reforming the private rented sector in England. It included several commitments not included in the Bill. One commitment is to make it illegal for landlords and agents to have blanket bans on renting to tenants with children.


The Government is concerned that families with children find it more difficult to access private rented properties. In the TDS Charitable Foundation research, 13% of tenants who moved in the past six months said they found it difficult to find a rental property because landlords/letting agents did not want to rent to families with children. However, 52% said the main challenge they faced was finding an affordable property. The Renters (Reform) Bill is still making its way through Parliament and has not yet become law.


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