Student landlords in the UK are discriminating against would-be student tenants on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, and religious beliefs, a StudentTenant.com investigation has revealed.
A survey of students living in rental accommodation saw 38% of respondents feeling as if they had been subjected to some form of discrimination by a student landlord.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for private landlords to refuse to provide a service based on gender, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. What is reasonable varies from case to case, and may not apply if the landlord lives in the same property, but a landlord who discriminates against a person could be breaking the law.
One in five respondents cited that they had been subjected to discrimination due to their gender. This was both by their landlord prior to booking a student property, and throughout the duration of their tenancy agreement.
One respondent to discussed his experience of gender discrimination by student landlords:
“Many landlords refused to have me let a room because of my gender, and a few times when I was in groups with girls looking for a place, we'd get nothing because we'd constantly be turned down because of my gender.”
He was not the only student who felt as if they were on the receiving end of gender discrimination. Almost 21% also believed they had discriminated based on their gender.
The survey also found that the majority of respondents who felt they had been subjected to gender discrimination were male. It seems that many UK landlords believe that a male tenant is likely to be much messier, louder, and cause damage to the property than a female tenant.
Another respondent commented on his experience of gender discrimination:
“As a male, finding a place to live is far more difficult than I could have ever imagined. Countless landlords refusing to even consider having a male live on their land is ridiculous. Purely due to a stereotype that boys are messy and loud and girls are quiet and clean.”
Danielle Cullen, Managing Director of StudentTenant.com, comments; “During my time at StudentTenant.com I have been continuously surprised at the outlandish requests from landlords, and outright discrimination students face when looking for a house. It’s very disappointing to see how many students have had a difficult time due to their sexuality, race or religious beliefs. Stereotypes must not dictate how a student tenant is expected to act, or whether they’re going to be a good or bad tenant for a landlord.
Landlords shouldn’t have the power to turn away tenants based on their sex. From our experiences there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that a male tenant would be messier, louder or a worse tenant than a female one. Each group must be taken on their merits - some are clean and respectable, some just aren't - being male or female does not heighten this.”
One in four respondents cited that they had been treated less favourably due to their race.
One female student from the Middle-East commented:
“[The] Landlord refused to speak to female members of the household, made offensive remarks about my appearance and refused to call me by my correct name all year.”
Another respondent discovered that his rent was due to be increased by nearly three-times the advertised price, once the landlord found out he was an international student from the Middle-East:
“I booked with a guy on SpareRoom. The fare was £450 per month and when he knew where I am from, he increased the charge to £1,200.”
It seems that racial discrimination is not only contained within the student lettings market, with one female Asian student mentioning that her car was “vandalised by neighbours” for “no other reason than because of my race and religion”. The anonymous respondent mentioned that the discrimination got so bad, that she was forced to get in touch with her landlord, university and the police to end her “very traumatic experience.’”
Danielle comments, “I think a lot of the problem here is a landlord’s awareness of actually what they can and can’t do. The attitude we face is very much ‘it’s my house, I can let it to who I want’ and it’s very sad to see the trouble and anguish some of these students are facing.
That’s not to say that all landlords are the same, many are very accommodating and kind, but these types of issues need to be identified, and understood as wrong.”
8% of students felt that they have been subjected to religious discrimination from student landlords.
22% of students felt they had been refused to book a student property by a landlord due to their sex, race or religion.
Danielle continues, “The best way for the student lettings market to end discrimination towards tenants is to raise further awareness about the regulations, and change attitudes. One way to do this is to encourage more landlords to actually meet the tenants themselves. It will provide the opportunity to remove any pre-conceived ideas of how the tenant is based on their background, and will give the landlord a good idea of what their tenant is like as a person.
Many landlords simply give the entire responsibility of letting their property to a letting agent, without any input into who tenants it. We actually encourage all landlords to do their own viewings, even on properties we manage, for exactly the reasons stated above. It’s very easy to blame damages or non-payment of rent on personality or background traits when it gets to the end of the tenancy, if you have never actually met the tenants. It’s a vicious circle as this just plants unreasonable ideals into landlords heads, and can be very easily prevented.
If a landlord is building a positive relationship with the tenant right from the viewing process, there is likely to be a much better level of communication, and the ability to solve any issues much earlier. This will help to stamp out these unwarranted attacks based on something completely irrelevant. ”