Numerous rental advertisements forbid having kids or pets

Sara, who has had a hard time finding a place to live

According to a BBC analysis, thousands of rental home advertisements posted by private landlords and letting agents state that children or pets are not permitted.

Although there are no laws that specifically prohibit this, MPs in England are considering adding more protections for renters.

It has been established that broad restrictions on children violate existing equality laws by indirectly discriminating against women.

A single mother of three who looked at many of the properties expressed shock to the BBC that they were child-free.

Sara from Sussex said, "I suppose they think they're going to have wild parties or that they're messy, but my kids aren't like that.".

A government deposit cap in England, according to the estate agent trade group Propertymark, has made landlords more cautious about damage, particularly when it comes to animals.

The National Residential Landlords Association acknowledged that many tenants valued their pets and that any child-related restrictions were the result of "the actions of a minority of rogue landlords.".

Using software developed by BBC News, private rental listings were compiled over a four-day period in May from the real estate websites OpenRent and Zoopla, and then ads for shared rooms were eliminated.

We learned:.

  • About 1,800 out of a sample of just under 8,000 OpenRent advertisements (or 24 percent) indicated a preference that families were not permitted to rent the homes.
  • Less than 1% of the Zoopla listings we looked at explicitly stated that children were not wanted, but over 300 listings did.
  • Compared to 6% on Zoopla, about 73% of sampled OpenRent listings stated that pets were not permitted.

Zoopla listings are posted by real estate agents and only occasionally mention whether children and pets are permitted, whereas OpenRent, an online agent, gives landlords the option to check a preferences box to indicate whether these factors are acceptable.

Because potential tenants were only informed they were not welcome after enquiring about a property, housing charity Shelter claimed it was unclear how widespread the problem really was.

Sara, a single parent with three children ranging in age from 15 to 23, said it surprised her how many of the properties she was considering in the East Sussex town of Lewes specifically stated that no children, including teenagers, were permitted.

The 15-year-old Jake has been couch surfing with the 53-year-old, which has left him feeling "very unsettled.".

She admitted, "I've been made very clear that having teenage sons isn't the ideal.

She claimed that receiving housing assistance made real estate agents and landlords hesitant to rent to her.

Although the government has pledged to introduce legislation on the subject in England "at the earliest opportunity," the proposed changes to the law for renters do not include any policy on children living in private rental housing.

In a statement, the Scottish government stated that it had held consultations on a new strategy that included establishing a housing regulator for the private rental market.

Almost 200 agents, or 2% of the Zoopla advertisements we examined, specifically stated that kids were not permitted.

Since women are more likely to live with their children, the Property Ombudsman, which assists with resolving rental disputes, stated in March that blanket bans on renting to families violated its code of practice.

"Having an outright blanket ban on renting to families is already illegal under the Equality Act because this is a type of indirect discrimination," said Rose Arnall, a solicitor with Shelter who represented the tenant in the case.

According to Shelter, blanket prohibitions against tenants with children in Wales and Scotland likely violate the Equality Act.

A landlord should think about whether refusing to let children stay would hold up in court, according to Caroline Brosnan, a senior attorney at Russell Cooke.

While it would be reasonable to prevent children from residing in a home like a bedsit in housing with multiple occupants, she said it would be much harder to defend a ban in a semi-detached house.

According to Shelter, tenants in England have the right to dispute a letting agent's assertion that children are not allowed in private rental properties.

This occurs when a rental agent declines to find you a suitable and affordable home simply because you have kids.

You must demonstrate that you can afford the rent and confirm that the property is the right size before filing a complaint.

It is possible to file a complaint with the Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress Scheme if it is unsuccessful.

  • Here is a guide from Shelter in England.

According to Shelter, blanket prohibitions against tenants with children in Wales and Scotland likely violate the Equality Act, while various equality laws may be applicable in Northern Ireland.

Residents of Northern Ireland who believe they have been denied a lease due to their dependents may file a complaint with the assistance of the nonprofit organization Housing Rights.

In the Zoopla listings we looked at, about one in six letting agents were advertising rentals that specifically prohibited pets.

Tenants would have the legal right to request to keep a pet in their home under the Renters (Reform) Bill, which is currently being considered by Parliament, and the landlord would be unable to unreasonably deny their request.

Sarah Plant, an animal lover, claimed that although she struggled in the UK, she had no issues renting with her two cats when she lived in France.

Sarah's cat Smidge
The owner of Smidge claims that having cats has made it more challenging to find a home.

She claimed that she predicted she would "never hear back, it's an instant no" when she told letting agents about her cats.

She eventually located a location, but it required some work.

According to OpenRent's founder, Adam Hyslop, letting landlords display their preferences allowed tenants to prioritize their searches.

"The landlord has sole discretion over whom to rent to. Additionally, we don't stop tenants from asking questions about any property, the man added.

Over 95% of rental listings on Zoopla, according to a spokesperson for the company, "make no reference to homes being unsuitable for pets or children.".

"We haven't been able to find any concrete proof that agents are using blanket bans when posting rental listings to Zoopla, which would be against the rules. ".

Zoopla's code of conduct and the law must be followed by any agent who lists a property there, and the website advises agents to use "inclusive language and avoid marketing homes as unsuitable for a certain type of renter," according to the statement.

The BBC's findings, according to Propertymark, demonstrate the significance of experienced real estate brokers because "blanket bans on advertising materials through a letting agent are demonstrably lower when compared with advertisements by private landlords.".

Over 120,000 rental listings from Zoopla and 11,000 from OpenRent, which were advertised between May 26 and 29, were gathered by BBC News using software. Then, we took away homes that were advertised as retirement properties and house shares from both samples.

In order to include or exclude families with children and pets, OpenRent's website design was used in our analysis of its advertisements.

The founder of OpenRent, Adam Hyslop, claimed that the BBC's method of examining a static snapshot of listings "is not likely to be accurate" because more well-liked real estate listings spend less time on the website.

We removed any cross-posted OpenRent posts before analyzing Zoopla advertisements because OpenRent is an agent where listings can be posted to Zoopla. Then, in order to filter listings, we used lists of widely used phrases like "no pets" and "no children.".

Jo Mathys and Maryam Ahmed contributed more reporting.

If you are willing to speak with a BBC journalist, kindly provide a phone number. The following methods of communication are also available:.

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