Charliie Franklyn, 28, who trained and lived in Banbury until last year before moving to Wellesbourne, says it is much worse for those who are low paid, disabled, on benefits or have a pet.
“I have faced what I believe is discrimination and I know many other people on low incomes and with disability who have faced the same when looking for rental property,” said Mx Franklyn.
“To try and find a house to rent at the moment is near impossible. If you do not earn £35,000 a year, have pets, are single and cannot give up thousands of pounds up front you are not even considered for a viewing.”
Mx Franklyn is carer of their partner, 26, who is classed as disabled for mental health reasons.
"We receive universal credit, plus personal independence payment for my partner’s mental health and I get the basic rate of carer’s allowance. We are both studying level 3 diplomas with the goal of returning to work this year.
"We have two dogs, a healthy steady credit rating and we have a guarantor. We are friendly, quiet, respectful people. We pay our rent on time. We are model tenants.
“We have been looking for a property to rent for the last two months and if we don’t find somewhere by the end of May we will be homeless.
"We have enquired about over 200 properties on RightMove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and we’ve gone straight to letting agents,” they said.
"When we enquire about the property the letting agent is upbeat, friendly and willing to help. Once we explain our circumstances and source of income, the tone of voice changes, the willingness to help disappears and suddenly the property is full with viewings or in the application stage, even if the property was added that day.
"We are told we wouldn’t pass ‘affordability’ and we are not put on any list because the property is suddenly fully booked with viewings. Any excuse to get us off the phone. They say they will contact us with other properties but they never do,” said Mx Franklyn.
Mx Franklyn said agents appear to ‘just make up the rules’.
“To make sure we don’t miss anything, we get notifications for new properties listed. We call straight away to be told that the property is already in the application stage. How? Are people applying before viewings? When we ask if we can do this, we are told we need to view the property. There does not seem to a be a straight process anymore and everything depends on the whim of the landlord that day.”
Mx Franklyn said adverts exclude sections of society.
“The ‘no DSS’ blanket bans still pop up on Open Rent even though a 2020 ruling confirmed this as a breach of the Equality Act 2010. Letting agents end calls when prospective tenants mention they are on benefits. Pets are turned down instantly without consideration. Even those who have children are turned down.”
One agent told Mx Franklyn the landlord of a £775 per month, one-bedroomed property would accept no one earning less than £35,000 a year; the tenant had to be in full-time, contracted work and past their probation period; they strictly excluded anyone in agency work. A couple or a single professional would be considered but not two adults sharing.
“We moved from our home in Banbury last year to our current property. We are only here on a short term let because we couldn’t find anything else and now we have to start all over again. Before Christmas we enquired about over 300 properties, went to over 20 viewings and still had to get a short term let otherwise we would have been homeless. Now we are back in the same boat, ringing letting agents all day everyday and getting nowhere,” said Mx Franklyn.
Mx Franklyn said agents were using an excuse that landlords would be expected to pay high insurance premiums to accept unemployed tenants but this was not so.
“We had been in our old home for three years; we were model tenants, paid rent on time, etc. Just before Christmas the landlord gave us a S21, reclaiming possession of the property. We had two months to find somewhere else over the Christmas period when hardly any properties were available. Our old home is now stood empty.
“The system is completely unattainable for anyone on low incomes. It is completely unjust and unregulated. Letting agents and landlords can demand anything they want and exclude anyone they want - and get away with it,” they said.
The charity Shelter says: “Some councils have lists of private landlords who rent to tenants claiming benefits. The council must usually give you help to find somewhere if you get a section 21 notice or are facing homelessness. This can include help to find an affordable private tenancy.
“You could get a discretionary housing payment from the council to help with a deposit, rent in advance or rent payments.
"No DSS policies and adverts are unlawful discrimination. To challenge this discrimination see template letters here.”
Shelter will try to offer extra help. To approach the charity check this web page https://england.shelter.org.uk/get_help
The homeless charity Crisis has a database with schemes that help people find and keep a private tenancy.
Maxine Fothergill, President of ARLA Propertymark, the body for property agents, said: “No reputable agent should engage in discrimination as it is unlawful. Letting agents act on the instructions of their landlords and some of the issues being faced by lower income households are symptomatic of the wider issue of a shortage of housing for rent across the board.
"The main issue we are seeing is one of affordability. Rents have risen yet the competition for homes is so fierce that a landlord will have a number of tenants to choose from and will make an assessment on who they think is the best choice for sustaining a tenancy.
"Local housing rates are not in line with market rents and Universal Credit is paid in arrears. This poses a huge problem for the private rented sector whose contracts ask for payments in advance.
"Benefit payments are set up to work alongside social housing but due to a complete lack of investment in supply, many renters are now competing in the private market. Anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly should lodge a formal complaint in writing with the agent and failing a resolution should complain to their local council as well as approach the redress scheme that agents are legally obliged to sign up to.”